Local Guitarist Prepares for International Debut
by Tanner Stening
The Boston Guardian
December 2, 2016
En route to his international debut at London’s Royal Albert Hall, New England Conservatory graduate (NEC) Tye Austin will showcase his classical guitar talent on Friday, December 9 at The Guild of Boston Artists on Newbury Street.
Austin, 27, began his musical career at age 17, which for many classical musicians, he said, is unusually late in life. It was while watching a guitar performance at a music festival in his home town of Ashland, Oregon that he had what he described as an epiphany.
“It was a ringing conviction,” said Austin, who lives near Symphony Hall in the Fenway. “I instantaneously knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Having no background in music, and little support from his family, Austin embarked on his musical career before he even knew how to hold his instrument. Between working at a hostel and as a stagehand at the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival in his hometown, he paid his way to Southern Oregon University, where he was already auditing classes to learn guitar fundamentals.
“I knew I wanted to do something more creative,” Austin said. “Something that would give me the liberty to make my own schedule.”
Austin said he was drawn to the guitar because it is “one of the only instruments that you hold right against your heart.”
“You can feel it resonate with your own body,” he said. “I think that’s really special.”
Within three years of beginning college, Austin composed his first symphony and arranged a 50-student orchestra. Two years later, he won first prize in the American Protege International Strings competition, earning him a debut performance at Carnegie Hall.
Under the tutelage of virtuoso Eliot Fisk, and with funding from two private philanthropists, Austin graduated from NEC this past May with a master’s degree in music. His most recent first place finish in the Grand Prize Virtuoso International Music competition has propelled him further onto the worldwide stage with a solo performance at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall slated for Wednesday, December 14.
“His story is fascinating,” said Bill Everett, gallery director at The Guild of Boston Artists. “To have come this far in a fairly short time, it’s really quite remarkable. He has quite an innate ability.”
While a career as a classical guitarist has granted Austin the freedom he desires, it has not come without difficulties.
“Guitarists are forced to be entrepreneurs,” he said. “We don’t really have a steady income, and we don’t have a lot of salary opportunities.”
The guitar, he said, has traditionally had “no part in orchestral music.” Part of his mission is to integrate the classical guitar into more modern venues — jazz clubs, cocktail lounges and fashion shows — in order to “reach a wider demographic than the one attending classical music concerts in formal concert halls.”
With this in mind, he created the Back Bay String Quartet, which will debut at the Boston Athenaeum next weekend. The work of arranging group performances, composing music and conducting, which he does alongside teaching, keeps him very busy, and has helped him acquire a business competency that he believes made everything possible.
Tomorrow Austin will be in New York City competing in the Forte International Music competition. He is also working on a solo album titled The Art of Guitar that he plans to release in the spring.
Visit http://www.tyeaustin.com for more information and concert bookings.