What job do you do after graduating in classical guitar?
When I first visited Chengdu two years ago, I was surprised that the professor at the conservatory, Xu Bao also ran a music shop.
I learned that this was a place his more advanced students could teach and it was a general meeting place for the increasing number of students he had.
There were also guitars for sale.
On this present visit, he had just opened a new shop, a hundred yards down from the previous one, but I also discovered that there were another two shops in other areas of Chengdu.
They all sold relatively expensive guitars from Altamira, Martinez and Milestone.
Overall, there were around 300 students and each shop was managed and part owned by one of Xu Bao’s students.
Intrigued, I wanted to find out why there was such a demand for guitar studios, their function in the life of students who have finished their studies and how Xu Bao manages to sell higher quality and more expensive guitars to his students.
The studio/shops themselves were also an interesting design, incorporating lots of open space and making use of all the space that was available.
In the following interview, I was ably assisted by one of Xu Bao’s former students, Wenjun Qi, who is now studying with Bill Kanengiser in Los Angeles.
When I was in Hong Kong in October, I had the chance to interview Hanson Yao, an unfamiliar name to many, but a highly successful guitar maker and manufacturer. His company, which he started with his wife Jenny in Guangzhou, is Altamira Guitars, which sponsors many guitar events both in China and the west.
I ask him how he started and how the company has grown over the last seven years to producing 28,000 guitars a year with 120 workers, all of whom have been personally trained by Hanson at the factory in Guangzhou.
His recent venture has been the opening of a guitar shop containing his workshop in Hong Kong, which is already becoming a centre for Hong Kong guitar activities (during the interview, David Russell was giving a masterclass in the shop).
As well as guitars, the shop also sells violins, and Altamira will be sponsoring CD recordings for Naxos of prizewinning guitarists in many of its competitions throughout China.
I was lucky enough to produce just such a recording with the 14 year old prodigy Kuang Junhong which is to be released in December, and the hope is that there will be many more.
This enthusiasm for the guitar and hard work to get it established commercially in China is an undertaking which many of us could learn from – here’s to Hanson and Jenny’s continuing success.
A personal take on this amazing event which had 450 contestants and 120 jury, and concerts and clsasses by Aniello Desiderio, Eliot Fisk, the Amadeus Duo, Emma Rush, Eva Beneke, Kuang Junhong, Beijing Quartet, etc and yours truly with a movement from
“China Sings!” for guitar solo and Guitar orchestra
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