Classics for the masses 

Whistler Arts Council’s annual performance series features visit from classically trained guitarist

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Who: Daniel Bolshoy
When: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 8 p.m.
Where: Whistler Public Library
Tickets: Adults $17, WAC members/students/seniors/kids $15

Daniel Bolshoy's head is bowed in concentration as his fingers fly over the frets of the guitar, teasing and coaxing the notes from the nylon strings. A visual blur, the sound is anything but.

Born in Moscow and raised in Israel from age three to 17, Bolshoy didn't come to Canada until his final year of high school. It was around this time that he developed a passion for the guitar.

"I started piano, which I didn't really like, but it was my earliest musical training. Then when I was in high school I started noticing the girls more and seeing that the girls like the boys who played guitar, so that's what I wanted to do," he said with a laugh, "I didn't realize how much practicing I needed to do, so that didn't leave a lot of time for the main plan, unfortunately."

He eventually went on to study music at the University of Toronto before heading to the United States where he completed a Master's degree at Denver University, taught in Arizona, and finally completed a doctorate degree in Indiana. Today, he lives in Montreal, where he returned to his scholarly roots, but this time as the teacher of classical guitar at Concordia University. While most of his students are accomplished guitarists some are at different levels.

"The people that come from a variety of backgrounds," Bolshoy explained. "Some know a lot of classical, and some are just discovering classical music."

All in all, Bolshoy has spent 18 years studying classical guitar, 12 or 13 of which were spent completing formal training and education.

The hard work has paid off.

Now, classical guitar has taken Bolshoy around the globe, including every province and territory in Canada.

"I've been to the Northwest Territories very, very extensively because I've done a lot of outreach concerts," he added. "I've got to say that going to these northern communities is something I'll never forget, seeing how people live in so many different places in the world."

Internationally, he's traveled to China, the Middle East, Europe, and throughout the United States. And next year he plans to return to Russia for the first time since early childhood. Whatever the destination, Bolshoy's music seems to be embraced universally.

"It is different, and very often people are kind of intimidated by the word 'classical'," he explained, "But people who come to my concerts always are amazed at how much they like the music from the first time, because its very easy to relate to the guitar. It's a very beautiful, intimate instrument, and the music is very much influenced by world music and folk music from all over the world."

And his approach is fun and informal - he talks between the pieces, creating a laidback atmosphere in his performances.

"It's cool to see someone playing guitar all over the place," he added, "fingers running all over the guitar."

Right now, his weapon of choice (a.k.a. guitar) is a nylon string, handmade acoustic guitar from Germany.

"Last time I played in Whistler, I played on a B.C.-made guitar," he recalled.
This time around, he doesn't expect to get to spend a lot time in Whistler, but is looking forward to seeing how the town has transformed in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"It's exciting, it's great! It's the closest I'll ever get to participating in the Olympics I guess, unless they have an Olympic guitar playing event or something."


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