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Concert to celebrate life of renowned guitarist/composer Roland Dyens
Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Concert to celebrate life of renowned guitarist/composer Roland Dyens

Roland Dyens

A concert honoring Roland Dyens, a world-class guitarist, composer and teacher ̶  and generous friend of Fredonia’s Guitar program ̶   will be held on Thursday, March 23, 8 p.m., in Rosch Recital Hall.

Mr. Dyens’ unexpected passing in late 2016 shocked the classical guitar community that had regarded him as one of its most creative, inspiring and vivacious free spirits.

Performances of Dyens compositions will be given by SUNY Distinguished Professor James Piorkowski and guitar professor Evan Drummond, along with current music students and Stephen Brew, a 2010 Fredonia graduate now teaching at Stonehill College near Boston, Mass.

Dyens had strong ties to Fredonia, visiting the campus on several occasions and writing a composition specifically for the Fredonia Guitar Quartet. Dyens gave a recital and master class in 2011 and was an integral part of the 2009 Art of the Guitar series, hosting a composition seminar and master class and giving a classical guitar concert. Now a doctoral candidate at Indiana University, Mr. Brew was a member of the Fredonia Guitar Quartet and performed at a Dyens master class in 2009.

Instructional time that Dyens gave at Fredonia was special, said Mr. Piorkowski, head of the guitar program. “Roland would listen respectively to a student’s work ̶ and we included original student compositions ̶ and respond with unveiled honesty, but with appropriate expertise.”

A session devoted to student compositions is particularly memorable for Piorkowski. Right after hearing the last work, a piece for guitar by Jay Mobley, Dyens raised the student’s hand and said, emphatically, “This guy is a composer!” Not a “student composer” or “up-and-coming composer,” Piorkowski recalled. “It was a justifiable validation.”

Moreover, Dyens would point out a student’s sloppiness in detail, or, when duly impressed on one occasion, even invite a student to study with him at the Paris Conservatory of Music, Piorkowski said. Brew, then a junior, was that student.

During a master class, Brew played a Dyens arrangement of Jean “Toots” Thieleman’s “Bluesette,” a tricky piece from Dyens’ landmark “Night and Day” album. “At first I was nervous, but Roland had a very unpretentious and relaxed disposition, which helped put me at ease. He was extremely generous with his time and wisdom, and seemed to genuinely care about helping all of the participants improve,” Brew recalled.

Conversely, Piorkowski deemed as priceless Dyens’ ability to disarm a student with humor.

“It can be nerve-wracking to play publicly in front of such a renowned musician, but Roland would be playful and sometimes downright silly, to show that we are all human beings, trying to make music and have fun. Sometimes he would use props, like a noise-making toy pig, when a mistake was made, or he would wear gag glasses with crazy-looking lenses,” Piorkowski said.

“He once told me — in all seriousness — that after he died, he wanted to be remembered more for being funny, than for being a good musician.”

Piorkowski said Dyens was also touched by the sincerity of Fredonia students, especially when they were interpreting his compositions and arrangements.

“After he heard our students play his composition “Ville d'Avril,” Roland was so happy with the performance that he wrote “Filmaginaires” as a gift to the Fredonia Guitar Quartet. He became a generous friend to our guitar program.” The composition was performed by the Fredonia Guitar Quartet, under Piorkowski’s direction, on its Spring 2012 tour in France and Germany. It will also be performed at the tribute concert, which will be live-streamed.

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