“Ambassador of classical guitar” to bring music to performing arts series

Berta Rojas

The Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts (HBPA) series wraps up the 2017-18 season with a special collaboration among HBPA, the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra and Kansas Paraguay Partners.

The result is a special guest for the April 8 concert: Latin Grammy® Award-nominated guitarist Berta Rojas, who ranks among today’s foremost classical guitarists.

Thomas W. Douglas conducts the concert, at 4 p.m. in Memorial Hall on the Bethel College campus.

Rojas has been praised as “guitarist extraordinaire” by the Washington Post. Classical Guitar magazine called her an “ambassador of the classical guitar.”

She has been nominated three times for Latin Grammy® Awards; for Día y Medio, with Paquito D’Rivera (Best Instrumental Album, 2012); for Salsa Roja (Best Classical Album, 2014); and most recently for Historia del Tango (Best Tango Album, 2015), with the Argentine chamber orchestra Camerata Bariloche.

Rojas’ latest recording, Felicidade (2017), pays tribute to Brazilian music, with guest artists including Gilberto Gil, Toquinho and Ivan Lins.

In her performing and recording, Rojas embraces new works by composers in diverse genres – a journey echoed in recordings such as Cielo Abierto (2006) and Terruño (2009), as well as Alma y Corazón (2007), with Carlos Barbosa-Lima, and the celebrated Intimate Barrios (2008), featuring works by the great Paraguayan composer and guitarist Agustín Barrios.

In 2011, Rojas and D’Rivera initiated the four-year tour “In the Footsteps of Mangoré,” which followed the travels of Barrios, pioneer of the classical guitar in the Americas. The duo performed in 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries, finishing at the national theater in San Salvador, El Salvador, where the celebrated composer is buried.

Rojas is firmly committed to promoting the music of her country, Paraguay, as well as Latin American music more widely, and to supporting the careers of young, upcoming guitarists.

With this aim, she created the first online classical guitar competition, the Barrios World Wide Web Competition, in 2009, and was artistic director of the Ibero-American Guitar Festival at the Smithsonian Institution. She also co-founded the Beatty Music Scholarship Competition for Classical Guitar, which offers winners the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

After initial studies in Paraguay with Felipe Sosa and Violeta de Mestral, Rojas studied in Uruguay under Abel Carlevaro, Eduardo Fernández and Mario Payseé, and at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore under Manuel Barrueco, Ray Chester and Julian Gray. She recently joined the faculty of the Berklee College of Music (Boston, Mass.) as an associate professor.

She has performed across the globe at venues from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center to London’s South Bank Centre, the National Concert Hall in Dublin (with the Irish Radio and Television Orchestra) and Flagey Studio 4 in Brussels (with the Brussels Philharmonic).

Rojas has been ranked among the “most influential women in the Hispanic world,” named a Fellow of the Americas by the Kennedy Center for her artistic excellence, and honored by her country with the title Illustrious Ambassador of Musical Art.

Rojas will give a guitar master class at Hesston College in the Sauder Choral Room in Keim Center, April 6 from 4 to 6 p.m.

She then joins the NMKSO on April 8 for two pieces by Paraguayan composers – “Renacer” by Oscar Cardozo Ocampo and “La Balada del Indio” by Ismael Ledesma, with Rojas’ own arrangement.

She will also be featured in “Concerto de Arunjuez” by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo.

The program includes, in addition, music from Carmen by Georges Bizet and “Danzon No. 2” by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez.

Maestro Douglas is in his seventh season with NMKSO. He is also music director for Music Theatre of Wichita. He is on the faculty at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music and is artistic director and conductor of the Bach Choir, both in Pittsburgh.

There will be a reception following the concert, hosted by Newton Presbyterian Manor, Asbury Park, Bluestem Communities, Comfort Care Homes and Kansas Christian Home.

Tickets for the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra with Berta Rojas, April 8 at 4 p.m., are available at hesstonbethel.org, by calling 620-327-8105, or by visiting the Hesston College Bookstore in Erb Hall or Bethel College’s Thresher Shop in Schultz Student Center during regular business hours. Prices ranges from $15 to $20, with some discounts available.

The Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts series is a collaborative effort of Hesston College and Bethel College, presenting five performances by world-renowned or regionally acclaimed artists each year.

HBPA is funded in part by the cities of Hesston and North Newton, Excel Industries and Hustler Turf Equipment, KMUW-Wichita FM 89, the National Endowment for the Arts, and area patrons. Additional funding for this concert comes from Bunting Magnetics of Newton.