Skip to main content

Strings attached: Nurturing talent at UWEC guitar program

| Gabby Anderson, '22, B.A., Integrated Strategic Communication

Meet Felipe Vargas Magdaleno, a guitar professor who discovered his passion for music at the age of 14 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Growing up with limited access to music education compared to the United States, Vargas learned from his community and friends, who all contributed to his musical journey. Unfazed by the limitations that surrounded him, Vargas is currently on the final leg of his DMA in music performance at the University of Kentucky, while further expanding the vibrant Guitar Program at UWEC.

In 2020, Vargas arrived at UW-Eau Claire and kickstarted an exciting new guitar program. He vividly recalls the program's humble beginnings, with only a single student pursuing a degree in guitar. However, that didn't deter him. The UWEC Guitar Program flourished over time, becoming a hub for aspiring guitarists.

The program offers a diverse range of activities, including private lessons, masterclasses, clinics, and a studio class dedicated to honing students' performance skills. While classical guitar takes center stage, the program also caters to jazz enthusiasts through an engaging weekly contemporary guitar workshop and several opportunities for students to perform in jazz combos and ensembles. Moreover, non-major courses like beginner classroom guitar and introduction to electric guitar are provided, ensuring that students of all skill levels can participate and benefit from the program's offerings.

One of the program's highlights is the chance for students to professionally record a CD at the Pablo Center Recording Studio. This collaboration with Pablo Center and UW-Eau Claire's audio engineer, Lena Sutter, allows students to build their portfolios and create a tangible representation of their musical journey during their undergraduate studies.

Vargas works diligently to bring accomplished artists to the program for concerts and masterclasses, enriching the experience of the students. One standout event in the program's calendar is the annual UWEC Guitar Fest. Held every fall, UWEC Guitar Fest offers to students and the general public a full day of activities such as concerts, masterclasses, and clinics featuring guest artists.

Currently in his first three years at the university, Vargas aims to further diversify the student body in the program, believing that they can learn valuable lessons from each other's unique experiences. Looking ahead, Vargas has ambitious plans for the program's expansion. He envisions satellite projects such as a summer guitar camp, guitar conventions, partnerships with local music stores, and increased community outreach.

Felipe Vargas Magdaleno and the UWEC Guitar Program are paving the way for aspiring guitarists, offering comprehensive education, exciting collaborations, and a welcoming environment. With their eyes set on growth and innovation, they are sure to continue inspiring and empowering students.