About Guido Sanchez-Portuguez
Dr. Guido Sanchez-Portuguez began his musical studies at the University of Costa Rica’s School of Music where he graduated with honors in 2001 under the guidance of Mario Solera. In 1997, 1998 and 1999, he earned the “Student of Honor” scholarship at the University of Costa Rica and traveled to France and Spain to attend the Stage de Guitares D’Alsace and the Festival Internacional de Guitarra de Córdoba. In 2000, he was a finalist at the Concurso y Festival Internacional de Guitarra de La Habana, Cuba–one of the most prestigious guitar competitions in the world. He obtained the Jury’s Mention of Honor at the 2001 First Composition Competition for Guitar for his piece, Rondó de Vidrio (available on Trazos). Additionally, he won first prize the following year for his guitar orchestra piece, Arenal. From 1995 to 2003, he was the first guitar of the Guitar Orchestra of Costa Rica, with which he has recorded five CDs and toured around the World, and in 2003, he won First Prize at the National Guitar Competition in San José, Costa Rica. He is also a co-owner of the “Escuela Superior de Guitarra” in Costa Rica for which he has worked as both teacher and director.
In 2004, Dr. Sanchez-Portuguez began his Master’s at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music with the distinguished professor and internationally acclaimed guitarist Ernesto Bitetti. He continued on to the prestigious Doctoral Program at the Jacobs School of Music, graduating in May 2012 as Doctor of Music in Guitar with minors in Music Theory and Composition where he studied with composers Luis Diego Herra, Sven-David Sandstrom, Per Martensson, Gabriela Ortiz, and Don Freund. In 2008 he won the prize for Best Performance of the Compulsory Work at the Joann Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.
He has participated in masterclasses with numerous figures including Leo Brouwer, Costas Cotsiolis, Pepe Romero, Eduardo Fernández, Nuccio D’Angelo, Javier Hinojosa, Jorge Luis Zamora, Jorge Cardoso, Mario Ulloa, Juan Falú, Francisco Ortiz, Eduardo Martín, Baltazar Benítez and Jesús Ortega.
From 2009-2014, Dr. Sanchez-Portuguez was a lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University where he taught courses in Latin American music history and techniques for arranging in Latin styles. He was also the Resident Arranger and Musical Director of the Latin American Popular Music Ensemble. With this ensemble, he recently recorded Paisaje Urbano, a CD featuring his ability as a performer and arranger as well as director and producer.
In 2012, Dr. Sanchez-Portuguez directed and produced a CD with the Grammy-winner singer Sylvia McNair in which he is also featured as performer and arranger. In 2014 and 2015 he served as the Director of Guitar Studies at Franklin College in Indiana, where he also taught World Music. In 2015, he started teaching classical guitar lessons and online music appreciation classes at Parkland College. And in that same year he created his own private classical and fingerstyle guitar studio at The Upper Bout.
Dr. Sanchez-Portuguez has been invited to participate in numerous festivals around the world including the Boardwalk Music Festival in Virginia, the Festival de Guitares D’Alsace in France, the Festival Internacional de Guitarra in San José, Costa Rica, the Mid-America Guitar Ensemble Festival, the Festival de Guitarra de Guanacaste in Liberia, Costa Rica, Guitar Days in Buffalo, NY, the Festival Permanente de Música de Suchitoto in El Salvador and the Indiana Guitar Festival. He has also performed and given masterclasses and lecture-recitals at several universities including Marshall University, Universidad de Costa Rica, Tulane University, University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Indianapolis and Indiana University Purdue in Indianapolis.
Dr. Sanchez-Portuguez is currently the guitar professor at the University of Illinois School of Music. He continues to compose, as well as perform both locally and internationally.
Teaching of music
Music, as well as all forms of art, should be regarded as important in and of itself: it is important because it serves as a means of communication, entertainment, education, relaxation, meditation, as well as a means of expression, creation, and improvisation. For my students, I impress that the study of music is a proud pursuit, a goal to achieve, instead of simply a tool for the brain to better understand math problems or even just as a hobby. Some view the study of music as complementary to other disciplines like mathematics or languages. It is my opinion that this point of view, which usually comes from non-musicians, is detrimental to the perception of music as a serious discipline. To dispel this notion, I strive to promote music to my students as an undertaking deserving of the same attention and appreciation as math or science. In doing so, I interject my own passion and enthusiasm for the subject into my lessons, push my students out of their comfort zone and provide them with challenges; when they struggle, I encourage them to make consistent effort, promising support and encouragement along the way. By instilling this sense of purpose in students, even if it is only for the population in my courses, I know that more people will place a higher value on the pursuit of music–and a world where music and art is valued is a much more sensitive place to live.
Opportunities for students
Including opportunities to develop creativity in which students are allowed to take part in musical ensembles, improvise and compose are vital to student success. Music is not solely a theoretical subject; theory is just a part of a larger whole. I want to familiarize students with all the elements of theory and history by engaging in related music-making activities such as improvisation of musical forms and experimenting with rhythms, polyphony, melodic transformation, etc.–like a laboratory in which music is studied and created.
I include history and theory for students in accordance to their appropriate level of education, but I address these two elements in an active and participatory way, in which the student experiences them by himself, and not only by reading books and memorizing dates and terms. For example, I devised a lecture-recital for the Latin American Popular Music Ensemble, which I directed. The concert was interjected with historical and musicological interventions. I decided to do this because of the chronological nature of the concert, which addressed the rise and evolution of the Afro-Cuban clave through the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The concert was designed to provide the audience with a complete picture: they could hear and see the music being performed at the same time as it was being contextualized historically. The use of a lecturer aided by multimedia materials was a complete success and proved to be a very effective tool to engage the audience in theoretical and historical education while connecting it directly to the music.
As in any other discipline, music education must be in led by highly-trained, highly-specialized instructors; however, in my personal experience, I find that sometimes the intervention of amateur musicians is also advantageous because they share a connection with beginning students: their simple and “street-like” approach in the understanding of musical concepts and instrumental techniques. For a beginner, this interaction with non-professional musicians could be positive not only in the early stages of instruction but later as well.
Finally, I believe in incorporating diversity in music education. The joy of understanding music in all its splendor comes not only through the works of classical composers but also through the richness and variety of classical, popular and “ethnic” music. A multicultural approach to music promotes understanding of different cultures, their customs, and their beliefs.
A Life-long learner and educator
Growing as a music educator means engaging myself in the profession–good teachers are life-long learners. I started learning the guitar in the summer of 1989 and started teaching how to play it some three years after that. Now, I have been a part of the classical music world for over 20 years. In all this time, I have been and will continue to constantly evaluate my performances both on stage and in the classroom. I believe in taking the time to reflect and revise my materials, my arrangements, my approach…and so on. Although this continuous cycle of reflection and revision has yielded great results in my growth as a musician, I have never relied solely on myself for improvement. I continue to expose myself to diverse music and collaborate with other experienced professionals, and perform with musicians that are better than myself. I will always be a student, and I will always be looking for teachers to teach me.
BM, University of Costa Rica; MM and DM, Indiana University