VCU music series returns for 22nd season

Maya Earls
Spectrum Editor

World-famous guitarists and banjo players, including several VCU alumni, will provide summer entertainment to Richmond for the 22nd season of the Guitar and Other Strings Series at VCU.

Directed by VCU area coordinator of guitar John Patykula, the series is a weekend of concerts from masters of a variety of stringed instruments. 

The series begins on July 11 at 7:30 p.m. with Banjo Masters, featuring Tony Trischka, John Bullard and Adam Larrabee. Bullard attended VCU, and in 2005 he became the first classical banjoist to graduate from the VCU School of Music with a bachelor’s degree in music performance.

On July 18 at 7:30 p.m., Quatro na Bossa will perform Brazilian bossa nova and samba music. Laura Singh, vocalist for the band said their music is guaranteed to have some audience members dancing.

Stephen Bennett will perform July 25 at 7:30 p.m. and lead a guitar workshop July 26 at 10 a.m. The series traditionally ends July 27 at 4 p.m. with a performance from the VCU Community Guitar Ensemble which is directed by Patykula.

“This will be our 28th year (together),” Patykula said. “I have one member in the ensemble who has been in the whole 28 years.”

Patykula said the whole series began with a faculty grant from VCU. Originally titled the “VCU Guitar Symposium,” Patykula changed the name at the suggestion of a member in the Community Guitar Ensemble, to better reflect the variety of instruments used in each concert.

“I’ve had fiddle, banjo, harp and piano,” Patykula said. “Piano has strings, and there was a piano in a jazz group.”

Patykula tries to schedule a variety of artists, and past concerts have included Celtic, bluegrass and flamenco music. Public radio station, WVCE FM, is the media sponsor of the event, and Patykula said they are one of the reasons the series has been able to continue for such a long period of time.

Patykula said the series has outlived some of the performing artists, such as Charlie Byrd, John Jackson and Mike Seeger.

“Over the years we’ve had some great ones (perform),” Patykula said. “Now, it’s been in existence for so long that you start to see some who are no longer with us.”

Singh said July marks the 10th year of Quatro na Bossa performing for the series. By performing Brazilian music, Singh said her group always gets the chance to expose people to something they may have not heard before. Singh said unlike some concert events in Richmond, the series highlights local artists.

“I think it’s really special when someone takes the time and energy to invest in a local group,” Singh said.

Over the years, Patykula said the crowd has grown steadily. He also said the concert series helps bring people to VCU who would normally not attend a concert during the school year.

“Some of the people I see during the summer — they’re regular attendees,” Patykula said. “They come every summer to at least one of the concerts.”

All of the concerts will take place in the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall in the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts on 922 Park Avenue. General admission for Banjo Masters, Quatro na Bossa and Stephen Bennett is $15 and tickets are available online through The Stephen Bennett guitar workshop is $35 at the door, and the VCU Community Guitar Ensemble performance is free.

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