Lars Rosvoll sits with the neck of his classical guitar held high. He gets into character like an actor just about to take the stage, and loosens his body like a runner before a meet—and then the music begins. A delicate thread of sounds radiates into the audience like a lullaby as his fingers dance lightly on the frets, connecting gracefully with his other hand's fingers on each nylon string. The audience is hypnotized.
Rosvoll, 29, is a doctoral student at the UA, one of many talented musicians studying classical guitar under Professor Tom Patterson. Rosvoll is among 11 students that will be competing and performing at this week's Second International Tucson Guitar Festival.
The UA School of Music and the Tucson Guitar Society are showing off world-renowned talent during this weeklong event, which includes concerts from professional artists and students from places including New Zealand, Chile, Poland, Norway and Brazil.
"This year will be pretty dynamic. Four of the people in this group (competing in the finals) have won the grand prize for classical guitar (for the UA) before," said Patterson. "The skill level of this event is going to be crazy."
Patterson's pull in the classical-guitar community has drawn in students from a broad range of backgrounds and training—including Rosvoll.
"I met one of (Patterson's) students at a guitar competition in Madrid," said Rosvoll, who has been practicing classical guitar for 15 years. "I knew of his reputation and decided to come study in Tucson."
Patterson and the school's reputation and sway has also afforded Tucson access to some of the world's best classical guitarists—performing at a fraction of the cost that they would normally charge for concert tickets.
One highlight of the festival is a concert by Lukasz Kuropaczewski, a native of Poland who has recorded five successful records and has collaborated with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Los Angeles Symphony.
The festival will also feature two highly anticipated performances by the critically acclaimed Assad Brothers, Sérgio and Odair, from Brazil. The Assads have collaborated with classical artists Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and have won two Latin Grammy Awards.
According to Patterson, the Assad Brothers made their debut in Tucson circa 1986, and have been back six or seven times since then.
"It's pretty wild," said Patterson about the Tucson appearance of the Assads. "They like it here. We have one of the best groups of guitar students in the world, and for them, it's a lot of fun to work with people on that level. They love the audiences here, because we routinely sell out our concerts. This is a guitar place."
Patterson said that in the guitar world, it "doesn't get any better" than the Assads.
"In my opinion, without doubt, they are the greatest guitar duo in history. ... For the last 30 years or so, they have been the thing in guitar, and have appeared as the headliners for all of the big classical guitar festivals for the past 25 years."
Most of the festival's events will be held at the UA's Holsclaw Hall, which Patterson describes as the "nicest hall in the world for guitar." He explains that the acoustics in the building offer the perfect amount of sustain for guitar notes, both for listening and for playing. "Every seat has a really nice view, and at every seat, you can hear well."
The event will also include a number of other events, including a recital and workshop by Matthew Palmer, and master classes ($10 at the door for auditors) hosted by the Assads.