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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

Playing guitar for a living: professional insights for music students

Published: 26 November 2012
John Etheridge and John Williams

Music students at the University of Southampton got the chance to quiz two of the world’s best-known guitarists at an informal question and answer session on campus at Turner Sims. Classical player John Williams and jazz musician John Etheridge were in the city for a sell-out concert that evening. The event was organised by lecturer Dr Thomas Seltz, a guitar enthusiast and composer.

The guitarists were asked about their interest in music from Mali and Senegal and explained how African rhythms and techniques interested them both. “We have an image of Africa as a troubled continent but this music is very uplifting; very therapeutic if you get the groove right,” said John Etheridge.

Students were also interested in earlier musical influences. John Williams talked about how his career had been affected by Andres Segovia and Julian Bream; John Etheridge spoke about Django Reinhardt, different styles of jazz and blues and the importance of keeping on practising “... until the guitar becomes your friend”. John Williams went on to speculate why comparatively few pieces for classical guitar in the orchestral repertoire have been written and revealed “... for me, the most attentive audiences for complex classical music are in Japan.”

After the Q&A, students said they were delighted to get the opportunity to meet the professionals. First year student Joshua Pike plays both classical and rock/jazz guitar: “It was incredibly interesting to hear what they had to say, we got such insights into what it’s like to perform at their level. As I play both styles, I could understand their varying approaches to music.” Fellow first year Kayleigh Ramchand said: “Although I’m a singer, not a guitarist, it’s always good to get different perspectives from professional musicians. I was particularly interested to hear what they had to say about world music.”

Head of Music, Professor Andrew Pinnock says: “Turner Sims is an internationally recognised concert hall, and we work in close partnership with it. Music students have special access to Turner Sims concerts. We arrange workshops and Q&A sessions like this one as often as possible, so that students and visiting artists can interact."

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