College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

Clemson Guitar Festival draws music lovers and alumni to the upstate for a weekend of concerts March 11-12

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A first in campus history, the Brooks Center and the Department of Performing Arts present the Clemson Guitar Festival, featuring performances by renowned guitarists from across disciplines

For David Stevenson, the Clemson Guitar Festival is a dream nearly 28 years in the making. When he accepted the role as the first guitar instructor at Clemson University in 1994, he commuted weekly from Asheville, North Carolina, to provide two hours of lessons to four guitar students. Today, after building the program for nearly three decades, Stevenson shepherds more than 100 guitar students every semester through private instruction and ensemble sessions.

“The festival is long overdue,” shares Stevenson. “We are thrilled to produce an event that focuses only on guitar — a first in Brooks Center history — and there is something in it for everybody,” he explains. “From rock to classical, from finger-style to bluegrass, it is an amazing array of talent.” The festival kicks off on Friday, March 11 at 4 p.m. with a free outdoor concert by The Grateful Brothers Quartet, a band that pays tribute to The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers. The weekend continues with concerts from legendary artists, inventive composers, renowned educators and rising stars from a variety of genres. See below for the full line-up and click here to purchase tickets.

While the festival creates an opportunity for the community to enjoy top-tier talent, it also serves as a reunion for dozens of Clemson students whose college experiences were enriched by their time in the guitar program. Alumni plan to travel from as far as Seattle and Milwaukee, eager to participate in the Guitar Ensemble Alumni Concert on Saturday, March 12 at 4 p.m., where repertoire will range from Mozart to Pink Floyd. “I am so excited to attend, to give back and create new memories,” said Stephen Cross ’05. “I had very little experience reading music for guitar when I came to Clemson,” he recalls. “David was an outstanding teacher and mentor. I didn’t realize how unique and transformative the experience was until it was over.”

The alumni concert will feature several arrangements by Kacey Coley ’14, who will make the trip from San Francisco for the homecoming. “The Guitar Ensemble was a creative outlet between my technical college courses,” Coley shares. “David also helped me improve my arrangements. Since graduation, my music has been able to travel the world and help other guitar ensembles.”

Stevenson is proud of the success his past students have achieved in life and work. “Among the alumni attending the festival will be an eye surgeon, a computer engineer from the George Lucas animation studio, a Pentagon military analyst, an engineer who visits sites of natural disasters, a professor of biosystems engineering, a major-league baseball analyst and a biologist doing cancer research,” reports Stevenson. Indeed, while most of the alumni have pursued non-music careers, they express gratitude for the skills they gained from David Stevenson and the guitar program. “David’s classical guitar instruction teaches patience, humility and expression, while balancing technique and methodology—all lessons I have used in my academic, professional and personal life,” remarks Jason Gregorie’04, who plans to attend the festival with his children.

David Stevenson, center, instructor of guitar at Clemson University, leads a rehearsal for the upcoming Guitar Ensemble Alumni Concert on Saturday, March 12 at 4 p.m. Alumni plan to travel from as far as Seattle and Milwaukee to attend the festival.

Investing in the lives of Clemson students is a passion that David Stevenson shared with his father, Jack, who was the director of the Honors College during the 1980s. Shortly before his retirement in 1992, Jack Stevenson endowed a modest gift to the University. A few years later, when David was selected as the first guitar instructor in the Department of Performing Arts, Jack directed those funds toward the guitar program. Over the past three decades, the Stevenson Family Endowment for Guitar Studies has grown significantly and helped create meaningful experiences for thousands of Clemson students.

“The endowment has allowed us to purchase instruments, award scholarships, build a library of music and invite important artists to campus,” said Stevenson. Of course, the endowment has also helped make possible the first Clemson Guitar Festival. At the Friday evening concert, Stevenson will honor his parents Jack and Phyllis Stevenson with an original piece of music. Commissioned for the festival, the world premiere of Folk Suite by Anthony Bernarducci will also recognize two other influential figures in the program’s history, Steve Goggans and Bonnie Barnett, who helped shape Stevenson’s artistry from a young age.

In many ways, the Clemson Guitar Festival serves as a culmination of Stevenson’s work, as Spring 2022 will mark his final semester at Clemson University. “As I prepare to step away after 28 years of teaching, the festival reminds me that we continue to make an impact on our students in ways that do not always grab headlines,” explained Stevenson. “We are deeply touching their lives as they move into the world to do great and important things. They are better because of their time with us at the Brooks Center.”


Clemson Guitar Festival: Schedule of Events

Friday, March 11 – Saturday, March 12

TICKETS ON SALE NOW

THE GRATEFUL BROTHERS QUARTET
Friday, March 11 at 4 p.m.

Brooks Center Courtyard
FREE – No ticket required

The festival kicks off with a FREE outdoor concert on Friday evening. The Grateful Brothers is a tribute band that combines the catalogs of The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers. Bring a lawn chair or blanket if desired.


CLEMSON GUITAR FESTIVAL IN CONCERT
Friday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Brooks Theatre
Adults $30 / Students $15 / FREE with CUID

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

  • Christopher Berg, award-winning classical guitarist, author and educator
  • Hiroya Tsukamoto, finger-style guitarist using electronic looping and vocals
  • Folk Suite, World Premiere by Anthony Bernarducci; Commissioned piece to honor individuals who impacted the Clemson guitar program


PUBLIC LECTURE & PERFORMANCE
Saturday, March 12 at 2 p.m.

Brooks Center Room 117
FREE – no ticket required

Guitarist, arranger and educator Andy Jurik presents “Third Stream Music: Guitar at the Intersection of Pop, Jazz and Classical.” 


GUITAR ENSEMBLE ALUMNI CONCERT
Saturday, March 12 at 4 p.m.

Brooks Center Room 117
FREE – no ticket required

Guitar students past and present perform a wide range of music from Mozart to Pink Floyd, featuring arrangements by group members.


GUITAR FESTIVAL IN CONCERT
Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Brooks Theatre
Adults $30 / Students $15 / FREE with CUID

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

  • Alex de Grassi, renowned finger-style player-composer and arranger
  • Andrew York, legendary classical guitarist with Grammy Award-winning albums
  • Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, fastest-rising star of the bluegrass, folk and Americana scene

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