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La Vita Musicale: Carlo Corrieri Enchants as a Gifted Classical Guitarist
The first teacher refused him. “The classical guitar,” the teacher told seven-year-old Carlo Corrieri, “is too big for your little hands. It just won’t work.”
Undeterred, Corrieri’s father took him to a second teacher who agreed to work with the child’s small fingers. Soon young Carlo was developing the technique and musicality that has made him, at age 18, one of the most promising classical guitarists in the world.
Winner of 19 international classical guitar competitions, Corrieri is now completing his freshman year at Seaver College, where he studies under classical guitar master Christopher Parkening, Distinguished Professor of Music at Pepperdine University, and eponymous inspiration for the Parkening International Guitar Competition,
As a young child in his native Pisa, Italy, Corrieri taught himself music on a small guitar with just two strings. Playing by ear, Carlo mimicked music he heard on television cartoons. By the time he reached seven, he was ready for an upgrade.
“There are no musicians in my family,” Corrieri remembers, “but I had always heard about this instrument, the classical guitar. I saw it in stores. I was very attracted to it, and it was a very natural thing. I was sure about it from the beginning.”
After finding an appropriate and willing instructor, Corrieri learned rapidly. He won his first international classical guitar competition in northern Italy at only eight years old. “I was competing,” he recalls, “against children much older than I was: 14- to 18-year-olds.”
Corrieri received scholarship money as his prize, and at age 11, enrolled in a conservatory of music in Livorno, Italy. There, he studied everything from harmony, music theory, music history, and guitar, to such traditional high school subjects as philosophy, chemistry, biology, Italian, and his favorites, Latin and Greek. Although the program usually takes ten years to complete, Carlo finished in just six due to high scores on his exams. He earned an honorable mention on his final exam upon graduation in June 2006.
By the time he left the conservatory, Corrieri knew he was headed to Pepperdine. In the summer of 2005, he attended an eight-day Christopher Parkening master class at Montana State University along with 15 other musicians. There, at a solo concert he wowed Parkening and other audience members, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. That performance changed everything. As Parkening recalls, Carlo “inquired about studying with me at Pepperdine University, and received a scholarship because of his exceptional talent.”
Now a student at Seaver College, Corrieri studies classical guitar, music business, and music ensemble, in addition to four to five hours of practice daily and training with Parkening for a few hours each week. Corrieri values Parkening’s input on technical details and stage presence, while Parkening says, “I most enjoy working with Carlo on the interpretation of the music. He already has a fine technique and a very good sound.”
Corrieri performs two or three times each month, including with the Pepperdine orchestra, and has 25 pieces in his repertoire. He usually selects eight pieces to play in a concert, and often plays his favorite, Capricio Diaboleco by the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. “I try to choose pieces from lots of different times and styles,” he explains, “like Renaissance, Baroque, modern, and so on.”
He frequently travels for concerts and competitions, including recent trips to Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia, where he took the stage at the memorable RiverCenter for the Performing Arts at Columbus State University. Corrieri also played for the national radio program “From the Top,” and on April 16, he filled Pepperdine’s Raitt Recital Hall to capacity for a concert that he calls “a great success.”
The concert represented one of Corrieri's many collaborations with the Pepperdine Italian language program, which cosponsored the concert along with the Seaver College Fine Arts Division. Says Paola Lorenzi, assistant professor of Italian, “Carlo’s soul emanates his rich Italian heritage, which is masterfully expressed through his innate sense of music. He is a wonderful example to all students studying Italian and his presence is a testimony to the immense privilege and rewards of embracing a foreign language and its culture.”
While in the United States, Corrieri has embraced American culture and the English language. Although he made his first visit to the States two years ago, he began learning English only last February, a remarkable date considering his current level of fluency.
Splitting his time between his campus apartment and one in Calabasas (where he retreats for concentrated practice), Corrieri is quite taken with Los Angeles. An only child, he misses his father, a technician, and mother, a teacher at Pisa University, but he plans to stay in Los Angeles. He says, “California is an incredible place. A little bit expensive, and a little bit polluted, but really beautiful.”
Los Angeles is also home to thriving music community, including the Los Angeles Orchestra, the director of which recently attended Corrieri's concert to listen to him play. Parkening has helped introduce Corrieri to local musicians and contacts, and the young musician hopes to record an album in the next few years.
Predicts Parkening, “There are very few musicians who make a living solely by playing the classical guitar in concert. If Carlo works very hard, he has the chance to become one of the few concert classical guitarists in the world.”
For the young man whose hands grew large enough to play his guitar daily for the past eleven years, the chances look good.
by Megan Huard