Area residents were treated to a powerfully moving performance without lyrics or vocals on Friday evening.
Acoustic vibrations echoed in the ears of guests at the Infinity Arts Cafe as James Piorkowski and the SUNY Fredonia Guitar Quartet picked and strummed the strings of instruments crafted by Jim Holler, Jamestown’s 20-year luthier and owner of Trinity Guitars.
THE GUITAR MAKER
According to Holler, the event was a collaboration between Trinity Guitars, Infinity Visual and Performing Arts and SUNY Fredonia, but it was also a celebration. A dozen acoustic guitars created by Holler throughout the course of his career were on display during the event, and five of them were played.
“It’s the culmination of the celebration of the 20-year anniversary of me building my first guitar,” Holler said. “It’s really cool to bring these professional musicians and accomplished students into Infinity to show them a side of the guitar that they might not be familiar with – classical guitars.”
The evening began with a solo guitar recital of six original compositions by Piorkowski. The distinguished professor performed “Eucharisteo,” “Eviania,” “An Etude’s Etude,” “Hear My Train,” “Uraca” and “Rolando” on Holler’s No. 99 guitar.
The event was particularly spectacular because it brought together composer, player and guitar maker for a singular collaboration, Piorkowski said.
“The maker of the guitars is here, the makers of the music are here and the interpreters of the music – all three essential components in one room,” Piorkowski said. “I’ve been an early champion of Holler’s instruments, and what I like about them is the clarity, projection and that they are satisfying to play.”
Following Piorkowski, the SUNY Fredonia Guitar Quartet, featuring Matthew Downey, Devon Kelly, Matthew Mazanek and Alexander Rockwell, took the stage to perform nine pieces. For the performance, Downey utilized Holler’s No. 29 guitar, Kelly utilized the No. 96 guitar, Mazanek utilized the No. 70 guitar and Rockwell utilized the No. 97 guitar.
According to Downey, a master’s performance student at SUNY Fredonia, he really likes going to Fredonia because it has given him the tools necessary to not only teach students, but also to better himself as an individual.
“I know that through music I’ve been able to better myself, and I get to work with great people and teachers,” Downey said. “Having James Piorkowski at the school is really great because he instills hope and inspiration in you. At that point it’s not really about perfection anymore – it’s about potential for success. I think that James Piorkowski and Jim Holler have given me the tools necessary in order to benefit my future – I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Although it was difficult for Mazanek to decide which of the tunes he performed was his favorite, he had to admit that he was partial to fellow SUNY Fredonia student Dan Knorr’s composition entitled “Little Quartet.”
“Dan based it off concepts of rhythmic organization – it’s super interesting,” Mazanek said. “All of the little motifs you hear are organized at different speeds, and they reoccur throughout the piece. It felt awesome performing it because it was the first world premiere I’ve ever given – nobody’s ever heard it before. So, it was definitely an honor.”
Kelly, who had never been to Jamestown other than to visit Holler’s guitar shop located at 800 W. Third St. in Jamestown, had a ton of fun at Infinity, he said.
“This was something truly special,” Kelly said. “Holler makes world famous guitars that the greatest performers in the world play, and he’s like selling them out of the back of his house – it’s so cool. I’m really fortunate to have one.”
Rockwell may not own a Holler guitar, but now he definitely knows that he wants to, he said.
“I never thought a guitar could sound so good,” Rockwell said. “I went to pick up the guitar last Saturday, and I didn’t know what guitar he’d let me borrow for this event. He shows me this guitar that used to belong to Roland Dyens, and I’m like, ‘What? You’re going to trust me with this guitar?’ As soon as I got it back to my dorm to play it I wanted to flee the country with the guitar – I might be coming to him the future looking to purchase.”
Two of the nine tunes performed by the quartet were original compositions written by SUNY Fredonia students Dan Knorr and Matthew Pellegrino, who were present to introduce their work. The performance was the world premiere of the compositions. According to Knorr, he’s a firm believer in writing music for music’s sake.
“There’s no extra musical meaning,” Knorr said. “It’s purely about the musical elements and the way they interact with each other. So, the drama comes from the music itself, and it’s up for interpretation.”
Pellegrino’s motivation for crafting his composition, entitled “Break,” was based on his observation of how both nature and technology exhibit a similar characteristic of breaking down over time.
“Unlike my friend Dan, I can’t write music that’s about nothing in particular – I keep my music very personal to myself,” Pellegrino said. “I thought a lot about this printer that we have to use at the school, and how it skips and breaks all the time. But, I also thought about the way that in nature things can break through a slow and natural process. But, also you can find breaks between people.”
Shane Hawkins, executive director for Infinity Visual and Performing Arts, was quite honored to be able to bring together so many talented individuals under the same roof, she said.
“It’s phenomenal for our kids to be able to see a classical guitarist performing, meet the composers of the songs and to hear the Fredonia students perform,” Hawkins said. “It’s exactly what we do here on a smaller scale – so it’s really neat to see that it’s happening in college too.”
Infinity Visual and Performing Arts is located at 115 E. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information, call 664-0991 or visit www.infinityperformingarts.org.