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THE CLASSICAL GUITAR IN UTAH

By David Norton and Tom Williams

The story of the classical guitar in Utah begins over a century ago and at the top: on January 29 1904, Cornelius Daniel Schettler, a man born and raised here in Salt Lake City, became the very first classical guitarist to EVER perform in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall. Schettler was a true pioneer, his parents were LDS converts who came to Zion from Wales (mother) and Germany (father), and he made a good career for himself as a touring musician from about 1898 to 1912. He gave many guitar performances in the USA, from California to Boston, and returned to Germany after his LDS mission calling there, to tour and perform for about a year. After coming home to Salt Lake City and starting a family, he took up the cello and was a member of the Utah Symphony for many years before passing away in 1930.

There was not much classical guitar activity in Utah during the years of the Depression and World War II. The post-war era saw a national resurgence in the classical guitar, and Utah was part of it as well. Beginning in the 1960's, the classical guitar world in the Wasatch Front centered around several private instructors: Lamar Eskelson, a Chicago music school graduate who taught at his home in Salt Lake City and later at his Academy of Guitar and Voice; Ernest Partridge, a non-music faculty member at Weber State University in Ogden; and Ralph Sheffield, who was followed by Loren Pomeroy, on the faculty at Brigham Young University. Sheffield had studied with Andrés Segovia in California, while Pomeroy studied with Oscar Ghiglia in Paris and Florence.

The center of classical guitar activity in Salt Lake Valley was the Intermountain Guitar Society, which met monthly in the upper recital room of Daynes Music Company. Eskelson, Partridge and Deseret News business editor Bob Woody, each succeeded one another as presidents of the IGS. Notable concerts during the early 1970's were those of Carlos Montoya, Oscar Ghiglia and a young Christopher Parkening. The focus of the IGS remained essentially inward-looking, being very much a social circle of intimate music-loving friends.

In the early 1980's, Bountiful resident and classical guitar devotee Dixie Calder brought a much-needed new energy to the IGS. During the period of Ms. Calder’s leadership, the Society's name was changed to the Utah Classical Guitar Society, and it became registered as a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. The focus of the UCGS was shifted from home-based soirées for local teachers and aficionados, to bringing world-class musicians to perform for wider audiences in the Beehive State. Since the mid-1980s, the UCGS has consistently offered several concerts and master classes each season featuring internationally recognized performers on the classical guitar. Now nearing its fourth decade, has changed its name to Utah Classical Guitar (UCG) and continues this tradition with our current season.