Medford Oregon’s Mail Tribune
This fall, Ashland classical guitarist Tye Austin will continue his musical education at Boston’s New England Conservatory, America’s oldest music school. The conservatory has an acceptance rate for graduate students of 26 percent and generally accepts three to five students into its guitar program each year. Austin’s entry into the prestigious school is all the more fascinating because he’s been playing his instrument for only six years.
“I got a really late start,” Austin says. “I first heard classical guitar in concert when I was 16, and I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I needed to learn how to master the instrument.”
Austin enrolled in Southern Oregon University’s music department in 2008 and began his formal study of the guitar
“There were definitely some roadblocks and hardships,” Austin says. “Sometimes you feel really frustrated with everything. But then it started to click. It’s truly my passion. Learning my instrument is not so much a task as it is a joyous wonder to explore and navigate.”
At NEC, Austin will study under Eliot Fisk, the last student of the famed Andres Segovia.
“Segovia’s like the godfather of modern classical guitar,” Austin says. “He brought the instrument to the concert stage and made it as reputable as the violin or piano.
“Being part of that musical lineage is an exciting experience. It’s like a rock guitarist studying with Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen.”
As a student of Fisk, Austin also will have the opportunity to study at the Mozarteum Conservatory in Salzburg, Austria, named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Before he heads east, Austin will perform a fseries of concerts. He will perform at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show. He also will open for Grammy-winner Bela Fleck and the Britt Orchestra at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, in the Performance Garden at the Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville.
The main event for Austin’s Rogue Valley concerts will be his official farewell concert at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4, at Ashland Artworks, 291 Oak St., Ashland. Admission is $13, though Austin says no one will be turned away due to an inability to pay.
The program for the concert will feature Austin and a string quintet from the Rogue Valley Symphony — Aaron Moffatt (violin 1), Melissa Orr (violin 2), Morgan O’Shaughnessey (viola), Paul Shubat (cello) and Bruce McKern (double bass) — along with other musicians. Music will feature Austin’s arrangements of “Spanish Romance” and Carlos Gardel’s “Tango Por Una Cabeza.”
While Austin loves living in the Rogue Valley, he doesn’t see himself returning anytime soon.
“I was born here, so I’ll always have a special place for it,” Austin says. “But it’s time to venture internationally and establish myself. I might end up back here in my later years, but for now my sights are set on New York City, London and other parts of Europe.”
Medford Oregons’ Mail Tribune
Seven years ago, at age 16, Tye Austin had just graduated from Crater High School and was determined to go pro with BMX biking. He knew he had a good mind and could “deep focus” on anything and master it, which is what he’d done in 30-foot bike jumps and many other tricks of that extreme sport, despite the occasional concussions.
Then he saw classical guitar performed at a music concert.
“I knew at that moment what I was going to do with my life,” says Austin, now 23. “I’d found my passion.”
He bought a classical guitar in a local pawn shop and began the search for a master to teach him. He was “a rebel against college,” wanting to do things on his own, but soon realized Southern Oregon University had what he wanted.
Under the tutelage of David Rogers and James Edwards of the school’s guitar performance department, he mastered the instrument over the past four years, wrote and conducted a symphony for orchestra and guitars and on Sunday will perform solo in Carnegie Hall in New York. He will give a preview performance tonight at SOU.
Austin’s spot at Carnegie accompanied the first prize in the American Protégé International Piano & Strings Competition. And it has opened more doors: Following the performance, he will audition in New York at The Juilliard School for one of 11 positions for a master’s degree in guitar.
He also will audition for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Royal Academy of Music (in Steinway Hall) and the Manhattan School of Music.
How did Austin make it to Carnegie in five years? Literally, he says, it was practice, practice practice — “prioritizing my time, disciplining myself to set goals I might not have thought possible.”
When other students would party after an event, he remembers, he would go home and comb over all the parts that were difficult, even visualizing, as he fell asleep, he says, how to alter his fingering to make it better.
Dan Murphy, who mentored Austin, agrees that he was driven to succeed as a guitarist, noting the teen was accepted into SOU as a music major only six months after he began playing the guitar.
“Tye has immense passion, commitment and discipline,” says Murphy, the former chief executive officer of Community Works. “His accomplishments in a short period are remarkable for a professional musician. They highlight how much a person with clarity, passion, purpose and discipline can achieve.”
Austin has landed scholarships, including SOU’s coverage of his travel to New York, but still has a big financial hurdle: paying off his $37,000 in student loans. His $800 in application fees on his New York trip were paid for by a grant from Friends of Music.
Austin opened in 2011 at the Britt Festival for a guitarist from Julliard and performed at Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show. He graduates from SOU this June. After his two-year master’s program is done, Austin hopes to work out of San Francisco.
“I aspire to be an ambassador of classical guitar … . I want to tour the world as a concert guitarist playing solo recitals and with symphonic orchestras,” he says. “I want to compose and commission my own guitar concerti, plus other works for solo guitar and chamber groups including guitar.”
Eventually, he said, he would like to teach at a university or a music conservatory.
Playing Carnegie, he says, “is a debut that many musicians wait for their entire lives. My dreams and visions are becoming my reality.”
In a preview of the Carnegie performance, Austin will perform a concert at 7:30 tonight at the SOU’s Plunkett Center, at the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Mountain Avenue. Tickets — which will help defray his travel expenses — are $20, or $5 for students.
For more information, contact Austin at 541-324-3938 or http://www.tyeaustin.com.
Ashland Oregon’s Daily Tidings
Though Tye Austin started studying music just three years ago, he already has composed his first symphony, Symphony No. 1 in F minor, and has found a local church to purchase his work.
Austin, 22, is a senior majoring in both classical guitar and composition at Southern Oregon University. While Austin was working as a media lab aide at SOU recently, he met Grace Lutheran Church conductor Ivan Olinghouse, and they got to talking about composition.
“I showed him some of my works, and he asked if I wanted to sell some of them, and we started talking about the liturgical calendar,” said Austin.
“Generally what most churches follow is a liturgical calendar, like Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. So the season we’re in right now is the Epiphany of Our Lord.”
For this phase of the calendar, the conductor asked Austin to compose a piece with Bible verses Isaiah 60:1 and Psalms 72:5, 7 and 14 in mind.
“I took Scripture from the Bible and spliced, diced and rearranged words,” he said. “You want to be careful because you don’t want to take the meaning out, but you want to change the words so that they are more musical and have a rhythm to them.”
The piece is very contemporary, said Austin, with influences from hip-hop and reggae. The audience may even be inclined to get up and dance, he said.
Austin started out writing the composition on his classical guitar, and then developed the main motif, eventually incorporating parts for 30 voices, a string quartet, guitar quartet, double bass, tenor trombone, bass trombone, triangle, symbols, timpani, Dumbek, piano and solo guitar. He also wrote two parts each for flutes, clarinets and bassoons.
“I wrote this in about one day, I finished it all up, and then I met with the church conductor, and we went over certain names and the text,” said Austin.
Grace Lutheran has a budget for employing musicians from around the valley. “They have a church choir of 30 voices, but they couldn’t coordinate nor afford a full symphony,” said Austin. “So it will be a big set, but it won’t be the full score.”
For Austin’s debut at the church, the second movement will be performed by the 30-piece choir, a double bass, Dumbek, piano and classical guitar. It will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, at Grace Lutheran, 660 Francis Lane. This will be the first time his composition will be performed in a public setting. A sermon also will be given during the service on the text Austin used for the composition.
“I’m really inspired by the 18th and 19th century musicians,” Austin said. “Not only were they virtuosic performers, but great composers and transcribers.”
So far Austin has written five compositions from the liturgical calendar and is preparing about 42 musicians for his composition recital at the end of February at SOU.