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Christopher Parkening's Musical Beginnings

Celebrated as one of the preeminent guitar virtuosos of our time, Christopher Parkening's commitment to music extends beyond his demanding performance schedule. The Parkening International Guitar Competition, honoring his lifetime commitment to fostering musical excellence in young artists, was launched in 2006. In this excerpt from his appearance on From the Top's radio show, Christopher Parkening discusses his own musical beginnings:

"My first teacher was actually Celedonio Romero [founder of the legendary Romero guitar quartet]. My father, I remember, called a local music store and talked to the guitar teacher there, and the guitar teacher said, 'We are completely filled up. I can't take a single new student... but there's a Spanish family that's just moved into town and they're supposed to be quite good. Their names are the Romeros.' So my first teacher, believe it or not, was Celedonio Romero!"

When Christopher Parkening was 15, he performed his debut concert with the Young Musicians Foundations Orchestra, playing the Concerto in D Major by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He had the unique opportunity to study the interpretation of the piece with the composer, and on the day of the concert, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was in the audience.

"I remember a week before, I was kind of anticipating the concert," Parkening remembers. "I would imagine walking out in front of those hot lights and with all those people, and playing for the first time with orchestra. Finally the day came, and I walked out on stage, kind of in a daze. I sat there under those hot lights as the orchestra began the concerto. It was like I was sitting in a dream. 'It's finally happening,' I thought to myself. I started the beginning of the piece almost in a fog, just playing through it mechanically. I made it through the end of that section, and then the orchestra had a section where they played, and then the guitar was to come back in.

When I came back in, I recomposed that section of the piece with some wrong notes, and I realized at that point, 'I am not going to play this piece perfectly. It's gone, it's over, I messed up!' And I remember, right then, it totally relaxed me. I thought, 'OK, I can go for it now. I can relax.' So, I've never forgotten that. The rest of the concert went fine, and at the end of the concert I introduced the composer who was in the audience, and he signed his score for me and ended up writing a solo piece for me. It was a wonderful experience. Still, when I hear the recording of that performance, some of the same feelings come back. I'm definitely grateful for the grace of God in allowing me to get through it."

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