Picking the classics: Bolt marries sounds of classical guitar to audience ears

Ben Bolt

Ben Bolt

Ben Bolt, classical guitarist, will be in concert at 8 p.m. Friday at the Clayton Center for the Arts, Lambert Recital Hall. Bolt can mesmerize audiences with his mastery of the guitar and provides a great program for anyone who loves music. Tickets are $8 on the website, www.claytonartscenter.com, or at the box office.

From Bolt’s website, here is a little about the talented musician.

Armed with a plywood classical guitar from his brother, a Spanish/English dictionary stowed away in his back pocket, and a dream, Ben Bolt set sail for Spain when he was just 17. His goal was to study with the “Father of Classical Guitar,” Andrés Segovia.

The year was 1971 and it would take this boy nearly three years to turn his vision into reality as he worked hard and proved himself with his first teacher in Spain, José Luis Rodrigo.

On his 18th birthday, while registering for the draft at the United States Embassy in Madrid, Spain, his destiny magically appeared.

Sitting just two meters away, waiting to sign his visa papers to enter America for his celebrated annual tour, was maestro Andrés Segovia. After Bolt introduced himself, Segovia helped this young man by setting up lessons with one of his assistants, José Tomas.

Finally, in the summer of 1973, out of his own pocket, Segovia bequeathed a full scholarship for 19-year-old Bolt to continue his music studies in Spain under the master’s instruction.

In the Spring of 1974, impressed with Bolt’s enthusiasm, Abel Carlevaro invited Bolt to study with him under full scholarship at the yearly Master Classes held in Porto Allegre, Brazil.

It was then that Bolt decided to make Montevideo, Uruguay his new home and completed his music studies under the direction of maestro Guido Santorsola at the Escuela Normal de Musica.

Bolt first received national attention in “Spotlight”, an article written by Mike Varney, a columnist for Guitar Player magazine. His arrangement of Bach’s Bourrée in E minor was the first classical guitar transcription to appear in Guitar for the Practicing Musician, bringing classical guitar to the attention of heavy metal guitarists worldwide.

Soon after, Columbia Music published “Valses Poéticos” by Enrique Granados, Bolt signed contracts with Cherry Lane Music in New York. This gave way to more success with the publication of his version of “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams and “39 Progressive Guitar Solos Volumes 1 & 2,” which have been in print for over two decades.

Mel Bay Music Publishers Inc., the foremost publisher of guitar instructions in the world, credits Bolt with being the first guitarist ever to introduce the classical guitar to the masses using notation, tablature, and the recording format, in the same package. Bolt has inked three bestsellers for his achievements with Mel Bay.

Bolt has published works with recordings of Tárrega, Sor, Carcassi, Mozart, Paganini, J.S. Bach, Carulli and Giuliani, which can be seen and heard by guitarists worldwide who frequently perform the arrangements on sites such as YouTube.

Bolt, whose first public performance on national television was broadcast from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has performed to full house audiences throughout the North, Central, and South Americas. He was recently invited by “International Guitar Star” Ana Vidovi? to perform with her in duo.

Bolt is recognized as the first and only guitarist inducted into Delta Omicron as a National Patron; a title he shares with Walt Disney, Luciano Pavarotti, and Shinichi Suzuki. He won first place in the, “Concurso Internacional Aemus” by unanimous decision held in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1975.

A year later, The San Francisco Conservatory of Music invited Ben Bolt to assist maestro Carlevaro in his debut of North America. Medaled with the St. Andrews Cross, Bolt is a knight of the Ducal Order of the “Cross of Burgundy,” and Abel Carlevaro awarded him the coveted medal, “Premio al Mérito” at the National Library of Montevideo.

For the past 25-plus years, Bolt has served as an adjunct professor of guitar at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City.

Ironically, his most notable students are not classical artists at all, but have become members in popular, mainstream rock bands. Brian Bell, lead guitarist of “Weezer” and Brian Vohdin, though now a drummer for “Ten Years,” both studied under Bolt’s instruction.

While Bolt loves teaching, he still performs frequently, often playing a mix of classical pieces he arranged himself and original classical-style works that composers have written for him.

At a recent Nashville program, Bolt’s program of performance included familiar pieces that he has arranged for his style, such as “Scarborough Fair,” “This is my Father's World,” “O Master, Let me walk with Thee,” “Clair de Lune” and “O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus.” He also presented a Segovia arrangement of “Asturias.”

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