Guitar virtuoso learned from experience

September 21, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -Having to sleep outside on the ground beneath a tanker truck in Mexico was worth the guitar lessons, explained William Feasley, the featured artist at the Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra's season opener Saturday, Sept. 27.

Guitar virtuoso and head of Shepherd University's guitar department, Feasley, 52, of Takoma Park, Md., will lead the orchestra through Joaqun Rodrigo's famed "Concierto de Aranjuez." The program also will include selections by Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart and "Danzn No. 2," by Arturo Mrquez. The orchestra will close its season with a second concert in March 2009, said Mark McCoy, maestro of the orchestra and chair of Shepherd's music department.

Feasley said his training in music is broad, coming from the Peabody Conservatory, under the direction of the late Aaron Shearer, longtime director of its guitar program who passed away in April.

Feasley also learned from life experience.

He said his fascination with guitar began when he was a kid growing up in Washington state, listening to his father's friend, a "mountain man from Colorado," play folk guitar.


Feasley started lessons at age 9.

"I just thought it was cool to be a guitar player," Feasley said. "I never could sing."

When he was 11, he had a chance to learn about flamenco from the country that birthed it. His family lived in Spain for a year while his father, a visual artist and college professor, was on sabbatical. He recalled going to flamenco bars and staying out until 3 a.m.

"The whole Spain thing - that was really intoxicating," Feasley said.

Back in the states, Feasley continued to play guitar. When he was 19, he decided to move to Mexico to study under Argentine guitar player Manuel Lpez Ramos. He lived there for three years.

"It was tough," Feasley said. "I was young, living in Mexico City. I didn't know anyone. I didn't have any money."

Feasley said a boxer named Goncho Guzman agreed to put him up for a few days while he was taking lessons. The arrangement: Feasley slept outside on the ground under a tanker truck. Eventually, Feasley would room with the man's mother-in-law, who lived in the mountains and made a living selling pulque, liquor made from the same stuff as tequilla.

"Which was good for me" Feasley said, with a laugh.

Feasley said that up until he visited Mexico, he had lived most of his life in rural Washington, playing in a band with his brother and performing in "horrible" bars along the Snake River.

After Mexico, Feasley moved to Canada where he played guitar at a movie house and made $150 a night. He eventually moved to San Fransisco, where he caught his first break.

He met a guy from the San Fransisco Ballet, and in 1980, debuted with the ballet, performing "Concierto de Aranjuez" - the same song he's playing Saturday in Shepherdstown.

Since then, Feasley has performed at the Ohrid Spoleto Festival in Macedonia and St. Martin in the Fields in London. Tours have taken him to Spain, Greece, Australia and Iceland.

At the moment, Feasley has been nursing his interest in the theorbo, a large lute with an extended neck. The instrument was used for accompaniment in 17th and early 18th-century music. Feasley said he plans to do some recordings on the theorbo.

He also plans to record an original, contemporary guitar concerto.

"Something that sounds American, without the kitsch," Feasley said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Guitarist William Feasley will be the featured artist at the Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra opening concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27

WHERE: Frank Arts Center Theater, at Shepherd University. The campus is located off W.Va. 480 in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

COST: Tickets cost $20

MORE: For tickets and other information, go to or call 304-876-5765.

The Herald-Mail Articles