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Take a deeper dive into specific pieces of music and composers with Classical KC and the UMKC Conservatory while learning how they connect to events today.

Arturo Castro Nogueras' guitar playing strums on the heart strings

Composer Roberto Sierra (left) and guitarist Arturo Castro Nogueras (right).
Courtesy of artists
Composer Roberto Sierra (left) and guitarist Arturo Castro Nogueras (right).

As part of UMKC Conservatory's inaugural América Festival, guitarist Arturo Castro Nogueras will present a program of works for solo guitar, including Roberto Sierra's stunning "Sonata para guitarra."

Taylor Hicks and Tori Venske are students at the UMKC Conservatory.

This April, the UMKC Conservatory will host the inaugural América Festival, celebrating Latin American music with a series of concerts and presentations. One concert will feature the music of classical guitarist Arturo Castro Nogueras.

Nogueras is an incredibly in-demand artist, performing internationally as well as maintaining an active online presence. Drawing from his Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban heritage, Nogueras embodies many of the Latin American musical characteristics on display in his recital, especially in Roberto Sierra’s work for solo guitar, "Sonata para guitarra."

Roberto Sierra is a Puerto Rican composer and currently works as a professor at Cornell University. Born in 1953, Sierra began playing the piano at a young age and later studied composition at the Conservatory of Music in San Juan. After completing his degree, Sierra went overseas to Europe where he continued his compositional studies.

The main influences for his sonataa were the folkloric music, salsa, and a sense of longing for the Puerto Rican countryside which he experienced in his youth. Sierra’s compositional career has been successful, particularly with "Sonata para guitarra."

In 2021, the piece won the Latin American Grammy for “Best Classical Contemporary Composition.” It was also featured on guitarist Manuel Barrueco’s album Music from Cuba and Spain, Sierra: Sonata para guitarra, which won the Grammy for Best Classical Album in 2021. This is a full circle moment for the two men, as Sierra composed the work specifically for Barrueco.

The composer did not expect to win and was surprised when he discovered the news online. In fact, when the Grammy Awards were broadcast, he was eating dinner with his family. Sierra expressed his gratitude for the win, but believes, “...your life doesn’t change. You just keep doing the same things you were doing before. As long as I am alive, I will keep working and keep trying to make my own art better.”

"Sonata para guitarra" is a four-movement piece for unaccompanied guitar that, according to Sierra is, “mining the memories of his youth in Puerto Rico and transforming them into something more abstract and universal."

The piece includes typical Latin American rhythms, while incorporating contemporary techniques. It features both intensely technical and grippingly emotive performance, with fast and highly chromatic — and at times jarring dramaticism — that gives way to a more lilting, beautiful, and intimate style in the second movement, “Expresivo, casi religioso.”

The third movement is “Scherzando,” that alternates between short, plucked notes and melodic flourishes. The piece ends with a vibrant and upbeat climax, inspired by the salsa dance form appropriately titled “Salseado.”

"Sonata para guitarra" is the planned finale for Arturo Castro Nogueras’ classical guitar recital during the América Festival on Saturday, April 8.

Learn more about the performance and the festival on the UMKC Conservatory's website.