Tucson Guitar Festival

June 7, 2014 |
Brian Lopez headlines the Tucson Guitar Festival on June 14. photo: Jimi Giannatti

Brian Lopez headlines the Tucson Guitar Festival on June 14.
photo: Jimi Giannatti

Classical, blues, rock, country, Celtic, Hawaiian, jazz, flamenco and even air.

Yes, the guitar is indeed the versatile backbone of much of the music that touches our lives and captures our imaginations.

The second annual Park Place Guitar Festival on Saturday, June 14–with a kick off-event Friday, June 13–celebrates those styles and more, featuring over 30 performances on several stages, clinics, a host of exhibitors and an air guitar competition. The Guitar Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the mall, 5870 E. Broadway Blvd.

The event, organized by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, was designed as a free mid-summer, family-friendly, fully air-conditioned event with wide appeal, says Jonas Hunter, the group’s Special Events Director.

“We’re an organization that caters to the arts in any form and we’re always looking at new creative ideas,” he says. “We’re so heavily involved in music and concert series, we thought, ‘why not do an event centered around what’s arguably the most popular instrument in America?’”

The mall reached out to SAACA for a promotion during the slow season before back-to-school shopping and last year’s success was enough to make it an annual event, Hunter says.

“We heard from them it was one of the busiest single days they’ve ever had,” he says. “As the event grows we’re hopefully able to get more budget for it. My ultimate goal is to turn it into something bigger as we progress forward. The hardest part is getting any national artists to come in with the budget we have. Keeping it local is a good thing at this point.”

The local talent includes Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo Magnet High School, the Greg Morton Band, bluesmen Bryan Dean and Jeff Engelbert, Pascua Yaqui virtuoso Gabriel Ayala and headliner Brian Lopez.

“For me it’s been a culmination of the touring I’ve been doing over the past year, which was solo acoustic,” Lopez says. “These concerts are becoming more and more fun for me because I can showcase more of my classical training.”

In his own career, Lopez says he’s felt the push and pull of several different genres, adopting them into his own style along the way. Gathering accomplished musicians from a wide spectrum of styles is a good display of Tucson’s musical strengths.

“Tucson is a very diverse musical culture. There are so many different types of music here. When you cross into genres like Celtic and bluegrass there are just amazing players in all the styles,” Lopez says.

Ayala, who’s toured all over the world in his 25 years as a professional guitarist, says the festival is a good reminder for people in Tucson how much talent is right here.

Gabriel Ayala performs at the Tucson Guitar Festival on June 14. photo courtesy Gabriel Ayala

Gabriel Ayala performs at the Tucson Guitar Festival.
photo courtesy Gabriel Ayala

“A lot of times think they have to go somewhere else for live entertainment or wait until a traveling artist comes to town,” Ayala says. “Tucson has never really had something of this magnitude.”

Though he’s known for his signature blend of flamenco and jazz, Ayala says his listening habits aren’t confined to any one genre.

“I’m a fan of sounds, period. If people looked at my phone and saw my play list, they’d be shocked by the diverse genres I have. I listen to a lot of everything. To be a well-rounded musician you need to know what your peers are doing around you,” he says. “I’ll definitely make sure to get there a good three hours early and show my support and listen to others.”

For the non-musicians, the air guitar competition offers a chance to shine. Entry is free and competitors are split into two age groups, under 18 and 18-and-over. In the first round, each contestant performs a self-chosen song. In round two, the top competitors in each age bracket will perform a to a surprise compulsory song. Each performance is one minute of a song and is judged on a combination of technical merit, stage presence and “airness.” The grand prize is $150, second place is $75 and third place is a gift certificate.

“We wanted to focus on everything we could,” Hunter says. “We brainstormed all the different styles that are out there. Nobody before him did what Eddie Van Halen did and nobody did what Jimi Hendrix did before him and Les Paul before him. The guitar is constantly evolving and we want to highlight that.”

Visit SAACA.org/GuitarFestival.php for more information and to register for the air guitar competition.


Food Court Main Stage
10 a.m.: Michael Nordberg (rockabilly/surf)
11 a.m.: Steve Harris (bass
Noon: Jeff Engelbert and Clark Engelbert (blues)
1 p.m.: Billy Cioffi (classic rock )
2 p.m.-4 p.m.: Air Guitar Competition
4 p.m.: John Bujak (rock)
5 p.m.: Gabriel Ayala (flamenco/jazz)
6 p.m.: Brian Lopez (flamenco/rock)

Sears Stage (acoustic)
10 a.m.: Remi Good (classic guitar)
11 a.m.: Grace Shepard (classical guitar)
Noon: Jonathan W. Martinez
1 p.m.: Kathy Acosta Zacala (classical guitar)
2 p.m.: Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo Magnet High School
3 p.m.: Tucson Ukulele Meetup Club
4 p.m.: Christopher Krantz (looping)
5 p.m.: Jamie O’Brien (Celtic/Hawaiian)

Macy’s Stage
10 a.m.: Pete Biedermann (acoustic finger style)
11 a.m.: Charles Lolmaugh (country)
Noon: Greg Morton Band (bluegrass)
1 p.m.: Dan Griffin (jazz)
2 p.m.: Paul Almquist (rock)
3 p.m.: David Rose (acoustic)
4 p.m.: Bryan Dean and Koko (blues/jazz)
5 p.m.: Ed Delucia (rock/blues/jazz)
6 p.m.: Matt Mitchell (jazz)

Category: Community, Entertainment, Events