Richard Parker, a retired Chico State philosophy professor, remembers a 1963 performance where he heard the music of flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya. “I was floored!” he recalled. Previously, he’d heard recordings of flamenco guitar, and “I was quite taken with it.” He was an undergrad at the University of Arkansas and had already taught himself how to play folk music on a “cheap little guitar.” After learning how to play flamenco, in 2001 he teamed up with Monica Taboada, a Mexico native who had been performing flamenco dance to canned music at the farmers’ market. “In those days, my Spanish was no better than when I graduated from high school, and she was still learning English. We had a little bit of trouble communicating.” But soon the two got their flamenco groove on, and now they’re widely known for their performances in Butte County and beyond. They’re still finalizing their 2011 schedule, Parker advised, but look out for the duo at local restaurants and events.
What was your music background before picking up the guitar in college?
I took dance lessons starting at age 4, and then I took piano lessons from a student of a student of [Franz] Liszt for a couple of years. I also played clarinet in the school bands.
Who was your first flamenco teacher?
At the University of Washington in Seattle, I met and took lessons from David Tamarin, who showed me what a terribly complex art flamenco is. We became fast friends, life-long friends. He got me on the right track, and then I’ve studied mainly on my own since.
Who do you study with now?
I’ve studied with several guitarists over the past decade, but since 2005 I’ve studied with Jesus Agarrado, a Gypsy guy in Jerez de la Frontera. I take lessons from him when I go to Spain, and he lets me videotape him.
What are some adventures you and Monica have had with flamenco?
I made a dance studio in my living room—we put plywood down on the floor, and we gave flamenco lessons for several years. In 2001, we performed at the Paradise Performing Arts Center, and we’ve performed three times at Keeping Dance Alive! That was a thrill, playing in front of a thousand people! We’ve performed at Butte Creek Country Club, Bell Memorial Union, Canyon Oaks, Red Tavern, and for Chico State classes and private parties.
How did it go the last time you performed for a Chico State class?
It was a morning class, and the first thing I told the kids was that it was a little bizarre to be playing flamenco so early in the day. There’s a whole different clock in Spain—people don’t even get the night started until 10 o’clock.