Review: classical guitar concert at UH Maui College


by Tyler Millard

The University of Hawaii Maui College hosted a classical guitar concert — as part of the 16th Annual Benjamin Verdery Maui Guitar Class. This event had three of the finest classical guitarists perform for our community: Ian O’Sullivan, Aaron Cardenas, and Christopher Mallett. The concert was held in the ‘Ike Le‘a Lecture Theatre in room 144 on UHMC campus, on Friday July 10, 2015 at 3:00 pm.

When I was only nine years of age, I attended a wedding of a family member. There was a distant relative who was playing the classical guitar. I remember this very well because I was so intrigued by the music he was creating. After that day, I dreamt of playing the classical guitar. A few years later, I picked up my brother’s guitar and taught myself to play. I still play though I have never had a lesson. I must say, I understand the patience and discipline it takes to master such an instrument. For me, this is why I love to hear the classical guitar.

I felt this concert would be a great opportunity for my two little girls to appreciate live music in a public setting. Although the two angels are only three and five years of age, they are the most respectful and well-mannered children I know. This was a memorable and exciting event for me and them. As we entered the almost full lecture theatre (which took me by surprise), we quietly made our way to a side row of seats and went on to enjoy some of the best classical guitar music I had ever heard.


First, Ian O’Sullivan performed for us. Ian is a Hawaii native from the north shore of O‘ahu. He began playing the ukulele as a young child, later while at UH Manoa he was introduced to the classical guitar and attended Mr. Verdery’s class on Maui. This new talent brought Ian to the prestigious guitar program at Yale. His performance was amazing; I enjoyed his technique and style. He played three songs that he wrote himself: Pua Hone, Guava Jam and my favorite Pu’u o Mahuka. Ian also performed two others Born and Raised by Bailey Matsuda and Makena by Jeff Peterson. I could feel as though Ian enjoyed playing songs with a fast tempo that was not very pulsating, I noticed he used a lot of harmonics in his songs. The song Pu’u o Mahuka was about the Texas long horn farmers who introduced the classical guitar to Hawaii on Waimea Bay. It was not a happy song (I believe because of the bad history) and was played in a major key.

Aaron Cardenas

Second, Aaron Cardenas played for us. Like Ian, he was born on O’ahu in Kaneohe. Aaron began on the violin and found his love for the guitar later, eventually studying with Ian O’Sullivan. His first performance was Waialua written by Ian O’Sullivan. Waialua was a very beautiful song and carried the same experience that Ian gave. Aaron’s last two songs were Allegro Assai Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005 by Johann Sebastian Bach this piece was written for the violin and lastly he played A Felicidade by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I could see many similarities between Ian’s and Aaron’s techniques and styles.

Ben Verdery (left), Christopher Mallett, Ian O’Sullivan

Lastly, Christopher Mallett from California performed. Like Ian, he attended Yale and has become an amazing guitarist who has received numerous awards. Christopher was so much different from Ian and Aaron. He played with much more emphasis on his plucking. I could feel each string that he was touching as if I were right next to him. Christopher performed four songs for us: Fuga by Leo Brouwer, Zapateado by Regino Sainz de la Maza, Open up Your Ears by Bryan Johanson, and Capitola and Milwaukee by Benjamin Verdery. Every one of his pieces was flawless and very enjoyable.

At the end of this concert, the guitarists gave duo performances. I can’t remember which songs but Ian and Aaron performed together with Ian on the ukulele. Then Ian and Christopher performed another fun song, in which Ian lost his place in the middle and had to compromise. With everything said, this concert was amazing and a great experience for all. My children watched carefully as they played and took full interest in the music. Since we attended this event, my girls have been attempting to play my guitar.

After the concert, Maui College provided food for all and a chance to meet and greet the performers. My daughter shook Ian O’Sullivan’s hand and said, “That was very beautiful.” He thanked her and said, “You might be better than me one day.” This was altogether a great event.


Editor’s Note: for program notes and background information, visit previous blog post – producing an event without being there

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Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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