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Changes big and small mark new season of Friends of the Guitar Hour Concert Series

When the fourth season of the Friends of the Guitar Hour Concert Series kicks off on Friday, there will be a couple of changes, one audiences will notice and one that’s not so obvious.

The not-so-obvious change is that the Friends of the Guitar Hour is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Classical guitarist and “Guitar Hour” radio host Leon Atkinson, who organizes the series, said it was an expensive and time consuming process, but one he felt was necessary given that the first couple years of the series at least some of the funds came out of his own pocket.

“The first year it was $1,800 out of my pocket and I’m not a rich man,” he said.

The concert series also lost some funding when the head of a foundation that was supporting the series died, effectively closing the foundation.

“We need all the support we can get,” Atkinson said.

The more obvious change is the length of the series, now three concerts instead of four.

This change came as a result of a conversation Atkinson had with guitarist and longtime friend David Tannenbaum, who performed at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center as part of the concert series in May.

Tannenbaum told Atkinson he was working himself to death and suggested he slow down, taking on three concerts instead of four.

At first Atkinson scoffed at the idea, assuring Tannenbaum he could handle organizing four concerts, but he eventually saw things like Tannenbaum did.

“He said ‘When you get more help to help you, do four. You’re pushing yourself too hard,’ ” Atkinson said.

The series kicks off with Mak Grgic and Adam del Monte performing at the Holy Names Music Center on Friday.

Atkinson met Grgic about 10 years ago and hosted him as part of the concert series in May of last year.

Grgic expressed interest in a repeat performance this summer, but Atkinson was initially reluctant to have him back just one year later.

But Grgic now also performs and records as a duo with del Monte, so after checking del Monte’s schedule, Atkinson invited them to perform.

Audiences are in for a special treat, as Grgic and del Monte will also perform solo during this concert.

“I was saying ‘It’s great you’re playing together but you should still play solo things too,’ ” Atkinson said. “They’re both so amazing at solo guitars. No matter how good you are playing as a duo, you can’t completely let yourself go in the same way.”

Atkinson makes sure to feature a local guitarist each season, and this year, that spot is filled by Larry Almeida, who will perform at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center in Post Falls on Jan. 11.

Atkinson met Almeida when the latter was studying at the San Francisco Conservatory under Tannenbaum. Almeida later relocated to Coeur d’Alene.

“It always bothers me when people come in and bring people from outside and overlook the local people that are keeping the whole thing going,” Atkinson said.

Hitting another aspect of Atkinson’s mission statement, to highlight female guitarists, Chaconne Klaverenga will take the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center stage on April 12.

“I was looking for a female performer and her name came up from three different sources,” Atkinson said. “ ‘Oh you have to hear this woman play. She’s really amazing.’ ”

Klaverenga has entered, and won, international competitions since she was 14. Last year, she graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music with her master’s in music degree in classical guitar performance.

“Chaconne is phenomenal,” Atkinson said. “I really like her playing a lot. I feel honored to have the mix up I do.”


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