Warren Haskell keeps classical guitar vital in Chico
Chico, CA 95928
Warren Haskell’s monthly Classical Guitar Project concert series—like every successful creative endeavor—started out with an idea.
Haskell’s was to provide “a venue for local players and students who were studying the guitar, and a place for people to come hear classical guitar, which is a more intimate type of music, in a more intimate space—not in a restaurant where people are talking and other things are going on,” as the 55-year-old local classical guitarist put it in a recent interview. “I wanted a focus on the music.”
Held at 1078 Gallery for the past two years, Haskell’s Guitar Project features both local and out-of-area classical performers, and will celebrate its fourth anniversary this summer.
The Guitar Project has come a long way since its humble beginnings at Café Coda in the summer of 2007. (“It worked really well there,” said Haskell appreciatively of the Café Coda days, “but we started getting a really good-sized crowd, and we needed to have more ‘open space.’”)
On Jan. 22, the Project goes back to its roots by presenting the solo, duet and ensemble work of Haskell and local classical guitarists Tobin Roye and John Mahoney, who performed together at the very first Guitar Project concert at Café Coda. Local guitar virtuoso Charlie Robinson is also on the bill.
Haskell, as many know, is one of a relative handful of accomplished classical guitarists in Chico, and arguably the most widely known. The soft-spoken, gentlemanly husband and father of three moved here in 1991 from Southern California after completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical guitar performance at USC. He taught guitar at Chico State for 12 years, and continues to teach privately. He has performed around town countless times.
Haskell has a knack for putting together an entertaining, inspiring evening of classical guitar music. He’s invited local guitar whizzes Chris Wenger, Chris Wolfe and Jeremy Hudson to play. He brought Bay Area classical-guitar phenom Ben Barron and Gyan Riley, son of American composer Terry Riley, to perform in the early days of the series. Seven-string guitarist Matthew Grasso—Davis, Calif.’s “high priest” of the seven-string guitar, as he’s been called—has performed on the Guitar Project stage. Grammy-winning guitarist Andrew York—with whom Haskell went through the master’s program at USC—visited in April 2010.
“He loved it and he said he wants to come up again,” said Haskell of York, who still resides in Southern California.
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet guitarist Scott Tennant—“one of the top ten guitarists in the world today,” Haskell said—is also set to make an appearance in the not-too-distant future. Haskell knows him from USC as well.
The word is spreading about Haskell’s project; he has people calling him these days wanting to play. Recently, Oregon Shakespeare Festival guitarist and lutenist David Rogers contacted Haskell. Rogers is scheduled for May 2011.
Haskell is also excited about his recent partnership with Paradise guitarist Richard Goyette, owner of the new Goyette Guitar Center. Haskell is featured on the Goyette website (www.goyetteguitarcenter.com) in demonstration videos for the guitars sold at the Skyway store—guitars “as good as guitars you get for seven or eight thousand dollars, but he’s selling them for $1,200.” Goyette imports the high-quality, inexpensive Chinese-luthier-made guitars, said Haskell, and sells them for a fraction of what he actually could get.
“He’s extremely ethical and not out to make a killing,” said Haskell. “He wants to make it affordable for students.”
Goyette and Haskell—who lament the current lack of music education in schools—will soon be visiting area schools to demonstrate and talk about the benefits of playing classical guitar.
Look for the Guitar Project to make its way up the hill to Goyette at some point as well.
“I want to have performances there, too,” he said. “It’ll tie in with the Guitar Project, I’m sure, over time.”