The University of Cincinnati (UC) College Conservatory of Music's (CCM) classical guitar program celebrated its 50th anniversary gala Saturday at Patricia Corbett Theater in honor of its founder, Clare Callahan.
The commemorative concert featured over 50 current students and alumni of the program. It included songs played by all the assembled musicians at once in a combined orchestra, as well as in smaller groupings ranging in size between one and four guitarists.
Musicians performed well-known classical guitar pieces, such as “Fandango” by Santiago de Murcia and “Primavera Porteña” by Astor Piazzolla. They also played original works composed by UC alumni, such as "Song of the Bearcats" by Wenbin Lyu and "Through a Radiant Light" by Christopher Teves. The gala was narrated and conducted by current Adjunct Instructor Christopher Wilke, who also composed a piece for the program titled "Double Shot."
"It was a great experience," said Murray Holland, who graduated from the classical guitar master's program in 1993. "A lot of people I haven't seen in over ten years. But it's interesting that when we all come together, we just all pick up where we left off. It's like we never parted."
Evan Fiehrer, who graduated from the classical guitar baccalaureate program in 2013, echoed similar sentiments. "It's the ultimate nostalgia for sure," he said. "I was talking to one of the other participants in the guitar orchestra, and I think the last time I was on Patricia Corbett stage was ten years ago for the 40th anniversary. So, it kind of hits you like a ton of bricks. You know, you're right back there in school, and it comes right back to you. So, it was fun. A lot of fun."
Alumni who interviewed with The News Record also greatly admired Callahan, who could not be present for the event due to health-related issues. Callahan retired in 2020 and taught for 48 years as the head classical guitar instructor at CCM.
"As I said on stage tonight, if I had to pick one of five favorite people who had the most influence on my life, Clare is in that group." said Richard Goering, who graduated from the classical guitar baccalaureate program in 1978. "She gave me the training. I got here from her, gave me the opportunity to do what I've done all my life, which is make music. And that's a gift that can't be repaid."
Sheri Stanley, who graduated from the classical guitar baccalaureate program in 1984, agreed. "I think if I had to describe [her teaching style in] one word, I would say it's her energy," she said. "You would have a lesson with her, and you would be raised to a level [where] you would walk out of there on cloud nine. She could pull things from you, from her guitars, that they didn't know was even there. And I experienced that time and time and time again. She's just incredible."
Perhaps Callahan's most famous booster is the actress Meryl Streep, who once credited Callahan in 2012 on a televised nationwide primetime CBS special as "the most important teacher" in her life and someone who "made [her] thrilled to be a performer and… excited to go to school every day."
Wilke also announced the launch of the Clare M. Callahan Classical Guitar Scholarship and Impact Fund in her honor during the concert. It aims to "provide scholarship for students studying and practicing classical guitar at CCM and will provide discretionary support the Classical Guitar Program at CCM."