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International guitar festival provides music students with world-class experience

Two University of Indianapolis guitar students embarked on a life-changing trip in March to the XVIII Guitar Art Festival in Belgrade, Serbia. Their instructor, Nemanja Ostojić, University of Indianapolis professor of guitar and world-renowned classical guitarist, was a featured artist at the festival. 

Evan Hawk (second row, second from left) and Jamie Johnson (third from left) performed in the World Guitar Orchestra with 100 guitarists.

A grant from the U.S. Embassy funded travel and accommodations for sophomores Jamie Johnson (music and psychology) and Evan Hawk (jazz studies), who also received lessons with some of the world’s leading guitarists. They also attended concerts and performed in an international guitar orchestra.

“I was extremely thrilled and felt very blessed. I have always wanted to visit Europe, but it is very expensive. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than this,” Hawk said.

For the students, it was a chance to develop an appreciation for a potential career as an international musician.

“My UIndy students had an incredible opportunity to meet and collaborate with their peers from other cultures, other guitar schools and various musical backgrounds, all while working on a common project within the World Guitar Orchestra (WGO),” Ostojić said.

The theme of the XVIII Guitar Art Festival was “Integrations,” with the World Guitar Orchestra (WGO) as one of the realizations of that theme, Ostojić said. The students rehearsed with more than 100 ensemble members from various countries across five continents. Similar to Hawk and Johnson, most had never traveled internationally.

The resulting language barrier may have been a blessing in disguise, Ostojić said, “as many students used their instruments to practically advocate their ideas to fellow WGO members. This kind of use of instrument and musical skill to communicate was a critical experience for my students and an invaluable learning outcome.”

The students performed for children at the International School Belgrade.
The students performed for children at the International School Belgrade.

The students were grateful for their first international experience, which included performing for schoolchildren in Belgrade, sightseeing and sampling the local food. They also made valuable international connections and friendships.

What I enjoyed the most out of this trip was experiencing a culture different from my own and also meeting new people from different places and learning from them,” Johnson said.

This experience will impact my development as a musician because I was able to attend several guitar performances and also meet other guitarists and receive different ideas and insights from them,” Johnson added.

Ostojić hopes to repeat the trip next March so that more music students can benefit.
“I wanted to have my UIndy students understand what it was like to roam in the professional world of guitar and to get a hands-on experience while participating in all the events. I believe they responded well to all their duties, and our goals were beyond fulfilled!” he said.

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Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact with your campus news.