Will’s Way – Will McNicol in Chengdu

Will in Chengdu Global centre Will escalates

It was a happy coincidence that I bumped into Will McNicol in Chengdu when I was on my way to my Mum’s 96th birthday.

I was met at the airport by Will, Xu Bao and Joshua Jiao and rushed to a restaurant in an emergency food dash.

Will had been touring China with his own super charged yet gentle brand of acoustic music which he played on a new crossover guitar made by Martinez. This is a nylon strung instrument with a longer neck (the neck meets the body at the 14th fret) and a slightly shallower body. Will had just played in Chengdu the night before, following on from ten or more concerts throughout China, ably assisted by Josh.

After a wonderful lunch which culminated in the smashing of a wine glass while I was on a swing (don’t ask) we were joined by Alex Wang, CEO of Martinez. The following, slightly inebriated interview(s) discussing the future of the guitar in China, connections, Will’s music, life, the universe etc followed without further breakages .

A clip from Will’s latest recording
Dragonflies, Frogs and Bumblebees

Will was voted Acoustic Guitarist of the Year by Guitarist Magazine in 2011.
Here is his piece “The Wakeup”.

Lunch with Alex, Josh, Gerald, Will, Xu Bao

Xu’s Shops

What job do you do after graduating in classical guitar?

When I first visited Chengdu two years ago, I was surprised that the professor at the conservatory, Xu Bao also ran a music shop.
I learned that this was a place his more advanced students could teach and it was a general meeting place for the increasing number of students he had.
There were also guitars for sale.
On this present visit, he had just opened a new shop, a hundred yards down from the previous one, but I also discovered that there were another two shops in other areas of Chengdu.
They all sold relatively expensive guitars from Altamira, Martinez and Milestone.
Overall, there were around 300 students and each shop was managed and part owned by one of Xu Bao’s students.
Intrigued, I wanted to find out why there was such a demand for guitar studios, their function in the life of students who have finished their studies and how Xu Bao manages to sell higher quality and more expensive guitars to his students.
The studio/shops themselves were also an interesting design, incorporating lots of open space and making use of all the space that was available.
In the following interview, I was ably assisted by one of Xu Bao’s former students, Wenjun Qi, who is now studying with Bill Kanengiser in Los Angeles.

Interview with Professor Xu Bao with Chinese subtitles

Alberto and Xu Bao practising
Alberto and Xu Bao practise tomato throwing

Many thanks to Alberto Cuellar, whom I met in Shanghai – a Flamenco guitarist and cool guy who also runs a website in Chinese dedicated to the guitar. This is slightly strange, my interview in English, translated into Chinese answered in Chinese, but with Chinese subtitles!

http://www.jitamen.com/interview-xubao/

Iserlohn 2014 – photo impressions

Iserlohn 2014

Some photos of the festival – thanks to all who took part to make it a special place for making wonderful music and friends.

 

Chengdu – a new centre of guitar activity in China?

If you haven’t come across him yet, Kuang Junhong is a 13 year old genius who plays the guitar with wonderful musicality. His teacher Xu Bao invited me over to Chengdu (in Sichuan Province) last month and I had the pleasure of teaching Junhong and many others of his talented pupils (as well as eating some fine Sichuan food – mostly mouth-numbingly spicy). There will be a few other young guitarists from this part of China you will eventually hear about. Continue reading