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Guitarist brings Ivy League sound to campus

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By Victor Duran
Yale University virtuoso Benjamin Verdery guides the audience through his compositions at Henry W. Coil School of the Arts on March 9. VICTOR DURAN | Viewpoints

The high ceilings and suspended clouds of Henry W. Coil, Sr. & Alice Edna Coil School for the Arts showcased eclectic classical guitarist Benjamin Verdery.

Such an accomplished musician and instructor has a root to initially pursuing a field so expressive yet competitive as music.

Chair of the guitar department at Yale School of Music, as well as artistic director of the biannual Yale Guitar Extravaganza, Verdery’s illusive intensity was translated through this special Friday night in the concert hall.

“I was a child of the ’60s … so when pop music hit and you were caught by the bug, you couldn’t resist,” Verdery said. “I heard a Beatles record and I felt this convulsion, it just took me.”


The performance was organized in two parts divided by an intermission. The first half consisted of various pieces from J.S. Bach, Seymour Bernstein and Ingram Marshall.

   “I loved the first half of the concert a lot, which was music by J.S. Bach, and composers that wrote music inspired by Bach, which he easily serenaded and melted me personally,” RCC guitarist Eleazar Llerenas said in a statement.

The second half consisted of originals such as “Now and Never” and “Eleven Etudes” as well as “Portbou,” which was written for Verdery by his former student and founding member of The National, Bryce Dessner.

His solo classical guitar was given an experimental twist with a loop station and delay effect for the piece titled “Soepa, In Three Movements” composed by Ingram Marshall.

His complimentary leads were orchestrated by the slow fade in of a looped blend of chords clustered with dissonant strums. With the piece divided into three movements, the motif spanned the first and last movements, while the middle movement faded in a Baroque style theme with embellishments drifting in and out.

Verdery thought performing in the concert hall was “stupendous.”

“The sound person was incredible, said Verdery. “The acoustics are amazing, as good as any place …  a huge positive review.”

An instructor at the Yale School of Music since 1985, Verdery is also the artistic director for 92nd St. Y’s “Art of the Guitar” series and holds an annual international masterclass in Maui, Hawaii.

The goal for his students is to keep the joy in playing music.

“It’s largely that and finding your own voice, asking them ‘what do you want to say?’ and allowing them to experiment,” said Verdery. “It takes a while, finding the right repertoire and finding their voice.”

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