Arlington Middle-Schooler Forges Own Path With Guitar

by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer                    

(Sunday, April 15, 2007 8:15 PM EDT)

Think of a 13-year-old guitarist, and an aspiring rock musician might come to mind, but Swanson Middle School seventh-grader William Henry Wagner has taken a different path with his guitar playing.

Wagner is a dedicated classical guitarist, and has been involved in numerous classical guitar activities, including a recent performance in Los Angeles at the Marymount Loyola University Third Annual Guitar Fest.

Wagner traveled to California with his private teacher, Risa Carlson, and other guitarists from the Levine School of Music to play in the youth artists showcase concert at the festival.

The festival also featured a performance by Carlson in her guitar duo, Duo Erato, as well as concerts and master classes with classical guitar greats, Brian Head, Rolen Dyens and Michael Nicolella.

“What I want is for kids to be inspired,” Carlson said. “I want them to continue to find something in music to keep them motivated.”

But it doesn't seem Wagner has any trouble staying motivated, sometimes practicing up to three-and-a-half hours a day. He started learning classical guitar when he was eight, and has been in love with it since.

“With William Henry, it was very striking because he was so enthusiastic when he started,” Carlson said. “At every lesson he was thrilled to play. It was hard to get him to put his guitar away!”

Wagner has one private lesson a week with Carlson at the Levine School of Music's Arlington campus at Westover Baptist Church. He also rehearses with a “guitar orchestra” each week.

Part of Wagner's inspiration to study classical guitar was his father, who used to play for his young son. Now, one of his greatest musical inspirations is his favorite guitarist, Pepe Romero. Performing for an audience also is a great motivator for Wagner.

“I like performing best,” Wagner said. “When I perform, I'm playing for other people, and I like that. And after, there's applause. I always have a huge smile after I perform.”

Although Wagner has given thought to plugging in and going electric, for now, he's going to stick with acoustic and continue in the world of classical music.

“I really like the way it sounds,” he said. “I've usually got classical music playing twenty four/seven.”

William Henry Wagner, Autumn Jackson, Risa Carlson, Grace McNally, and Aliyeh Mousavi pose for a photo just after their performance on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

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