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From Dateline (April 22, 2004)

Bulgarian Guitarists Follow Their Passion to America
by Gail Matsunaga

What began with a visit from faculty member David Grimes to Bulgaria has become an international exchange for three talented brothers with a passion for the guitar. Vasil, Nikola and Petar Chekardzhikov are working toward their master’s degrees at Cal State Fullerton. Having arrived just last fall, the charismatic trio has already made an indelible impression as “show stealers,” according to Jerry Samuelson, dean of the College of the Arts.

Throughout Grimes’ travels in Bulgaria – as a music competition judge, master class presenter and solo performer – he became acquainted with Vasil, who was studying at the Academy of Music and Dance in Plovdiv. Although Vasil’s twin, Nikola, and Petar were students at the University of Economics in their hometown of Varna, the three had always performed, until recently, as a quartet with their sister.

It was during subsequent internships in Wisconsin – economics for Nikola and Petar, music for Vasil – that the brothers inquired into furthering their guitar education. “We were wondering about good programs,” explains Petar. “We still wanted to continue with music.”

In November 2002, they visited Cal State Fullerton during a Meet the Music Department Day and decided to pursue their studies here – influenced, in part, by the assistance and attention from Grimes.

“The university has a very nice program for guitar education,” says Vasil. “You rarely see this kind of program in a university in the United States.”

“It’s a good place for music,” adds Nikola. “Within two months of when we came, we got to listen to one of the best guitarists in the world. In Bulgaria, because of the economic situation, it’s a little bit harder to invite all these performers.”

As far as having particular style or influences, Vasil says, “We are basically versatile. We like to play anything that is good, from Renaissance to modern and classical. We like to play some traditional Bulgarian styles, light jazz tunes, famous movie or pop entertainment music. Mostly, we play a Spanish classical repertoire – anything that is connected with the instrument.

“The strange thing about us is that we were never influenced by, and don’t have much of an interest in, the electric guitar.”

Looking ahead, the brothers Chekardzhikov hope to “develop our solo skills and play as a trio,” says Vasil. “We want to play as many concerts as we can and maybe make some recordings.”

Grimes has been very impressed with the threesome. “Their work ethic, enthusiasm, talent and dedication are an inspiration to all the other students,” he says. “It’s such a great pleasure to work with them, and I look forward to their career blossoming over the next couple years.”

Upcoming concerts featuring the Chekardzhikovs include performances with the university’s Guitar Ensemble tonight (Thursday) at Servite High School; May 15 at Chapman University for the Orange County Guitar Circle; and May 21 in the Little Theatre of the Performing Arts Center. In addition, the Chekardzhikovs will help organize the ensemble’s tour in Bulgaria next year.