Kithara Duo (Olga Amelkina-Vera and Fernand Vera) was formed in 2002, when they were graduate students at the University of North Texas.
Kithara Duo (Olga Amelkina-Vera and Fernand Vera) was formed in 2002, when they were graduate students at the University of North Texas. Since then, they have performed nationally as well as in Europe and South America. Kithara Duo’s critically acclaimed debut CD, Beings, was released by Soundset Recordings in 2011. The duo is home to an international award-winning composer (Olga), and their first album is a world premiere recording of her music for guitar duo. In addition to Olga’s original compositions, Fernand and Olga regularly contribute to guitar duo repertoire through arrangements and transcriptions of music by such composers as Albeniz, Ferrabosco, Soler, and Vivaldi. Their second CD, Lingua Franca (2015), features their new arrangements of music from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Kithara Duo are faculty at Collin College in Plano, Texas, where Fernand directs the award-winning Guitar Studies program, and Olga teaches in the guitar, theory, history, and composition areas. They organize the Collin College Guitar Festival, held each spring semester, and Collin College Guitar Competition, held each fall. For the most up-to-date information, please follow www.facebook.com/kitharaduo.
Olga Amelkina-Vera grew up in Belarus and moved to the United States in 1997. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree Summa Cum Laude from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Guitar Performance from the University of North Texas with a related field in Music History. Olga was a prizewinner in the Eastfield Collegiate Guitar competition and a finalist in the University of Texas at Dallas International Guitar Competition. An active performer and award-winning composer, she has received commissions for solo guitar and guitar ensemble music, as well as for compositions for guitar with other instruments and voice. In 2013, Olga won first prize in the Japan Guitar Ensemble Composition Competition for her guitar quartet Cattywampus Rompus, and played a solo recital and gave an interview to Gendai Guitar during her trip to Tokyo. She was the first prize winner of the Austin Classical Guitar Society Composition Competition in 2009 and 2012 for her guitar quartets Ninochka and Nebulae. Her compositions are published by Productions d’Oz, including two works selected for The Frank Koonce Series. In 2010, Olga became a founding member of Presti, the first professional all-women guitar ensemble in the United States, active until 2014. As a member of Presti, Olga recorded a CD which featured several of her original compositions and arrangements. She maintains a busy performing, recording, and masterclass schedule with Kithara Duo.
Olga strives to expand the guitar repertoire through arrangements and new compositions. Her interest in early music has led her to study and arrange, for guitar, the lyra viol music of seventeenth-century England. Olga’s scholarly articles have been published in Soundboard. Her other interests include fine arts, literature, and foreign languages. She is finishing her Master’s degree in Composition at Southern Methodist University, where she is also an adjunct faculty member in the music history and theory departments. She is faculty at Collin College in Plano, TX, where she teaches guitar, composition, music theory, and music history.
Born in Houston, TX to a French mother and an Ecuadorian father, Fernand Vera is an active performer, event organizer, educator, author, and arranger. He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and Masters of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of North Texas.
Since 2012, Fernand has directed the thriving Guitar Studies program at Collin College in Plano, TX. He is the Artistic Director of the annual Collin College Guitar Festival, held each spring semester. He is also the creator and director of the annual Collin College Guitar Competition, the only event of its kind specifically for Texas community college students, held every fall semester. For more information, please visit our Collin College Guitar Studies website: http://www.collin.edu/music/guitar/.
As an educator and author, Fernand has written several guitar method books: The Beginning Guitar Method, Vol. 1, now in its fifth edition (co-written with Olga Amelkina-Vera), The Beginning Guitar Method, Vol. 2 for continuing guitar students, and Guitar Fitness: Technical Studies for the Advancing Guitarist. These publications are used as guitar studies curriculum at Collin College for class guitar and applied lessons.
Fernand’s students have won prizes in solo and ensemble competitions, most recently at the 2013 Hill Country International Guitar Ensemble Competition and the 2014 University of Texas at Brownsville Guitar Ensemble Competition.
He continuously contributes to the guitar ensemble repertoire through his numerous arrangements and transcriptions. Always eager to learn new skills, Fernand was the recording engineer and sound editor for Kithara Duo’s critically acclaimed debut CD, Beings (Soundset Recordings, 2011) and the group’s recent release, Lingua Franca (2015).
Reviews of the Duo
Their work is outstanding. They have a beautiful sound, a wide range of tone, a subtle and broad control of dynamics, perfect ensemble, and a subtle and expressive phrasing. This is some of the finest guitar duo work I’ve heard since the Assads, and I look forward to hearing more from this pair.
American Record Guide
A delightfully diverse program of music…shared with an admirably seamless level of musicality and technique. The real discovery of the evening were three original compositions by Olga Amelkina-Vera who gently stretched the expectations sharing her delightful musical imagination.
The duo impressed with touching musicality, elegant presentation, and seamless coordination.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The program was an excellent combination of lively and melodious pieces, played with wonderful coordination and sensitivity by the duo.
Guitar Foundation of America 2015 Convention Blog
[the duo] wove a dreamy spell in Astor Piazzolla’s Lo Que Vendrá.
Dallas Morning News
Classical Guitar Blog
Reviews of Olga’s compositions
On The Heaven’s Hundred:
Brilliantly weaving together the sounds of Cossack rural and religious tradition with those of anger, civil disturbance, people’s desperation and the destruction of innocence, this Chaconne-sized piece releases encroaching patterns of chaos which proceed to overwhelm its own underlying structures.
This is a grim metaphor for the plight of the Ukraine.
I also think that what we heard here is the birth of a new major work, important in its way as Picasso’s Guernica.
The Royal Gazette
Several works by Olga Amelkina-Vera fill out the disc, and they are a pleasure to hear…Her writing is often pleasantly exotic, perhaps inspired by her Belarussian heritage. Other duos would do well to take note.
The real discovery of the evening were three original compositions by Olga Amelkina-Vera, who gently stretched the expectations sharing her delightful musical imagination.
Of two recent compositions by Amelkina-Vera, subtle effects defined the three character pieces in “Beings:” the low, menacing huff of the mysterious Minotaur; the harp-like strums of incandescent Sylphs; the hypnotic patterns unraveling across Salamander.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram