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.