This fall, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Music and Theatre Arts department welcomes a new guitar faculty to campus. Felipe Vargas Magdaleno hopes to use his expertise to expand the university’s opportunities for both beginner and experienced guitarists.
Starting in the fall semester of the 2021-2022 academic year, students will be able to major or minor in guitar.
“That major will focus both in classical guitar and jazz guitar,” Magdaleno says in regards to the new program. “In the current musical environment we’re living in today, it’s very useful for the students to be able to speak both languages when they graduate. The job opportunities they will find out there will greatly increase if they are able to do a little bit of jazz and a little bit of classical.”
Born and raised in Brazil, Magdaleno initially struggled to find an instrument that would stick. When he discovered the guitar, he kept with it, and soon moved to São Paulo to live as a professional musician before entering the academic world. He hopes to give students the experience and skills necessary to succeed as professionals.
“I was living as a musician doing gigs and recording in studios and doing other things that were not related with the academic world… As I'm looking at the students as young professionals that will get out of their university, they need to understand how to make a living as a musician, how to be professionals.”
The Music and Theatre Arts department has been looking forward to installing the program for years. With Magdaleno as a part of the music faculty, that dream will finally be realized.
“Having a guitar program will also increase opportunities inside the music program for collaborations… within the department, the guitar is going to be collaborating with singers, with jazz bands and a lot of other instruments, so that’s going to breathe some new air in the program. In the future, I would very much like to extend these guitar opportunities to the community in general, through outreach programs - so offering guitar courses for people in the community, or activities related to the guitar. You can expect to see, in the coming years, guest artists and masterclasses. I would really like to do something in the line of a guitar festival or something like this that can go along with the many other festivals and shows and activities that the music department has.”
With interests ranging from rock and electric guitar to Latin American music, Magdaleno’s interests are broad.
“I did my undergrad in classical guitar, initially because there was no option to do another style - we didn’t have any kind of jazz programs in Brazil at the time, for example - so out of options, I did classical guitar as my undergrad, but I fell in love with it.”
However, he is especially inspired by contemporary music, both personally and academically. For my doctorate (at the University of Kentucky), I’m going to be working on a piece that was written for me last year. So it’s something that is really new, and the reason that I like this area of the repertoire is because there are a lot of innovations going on, different techniques, different ways to write music, so I’m really interested in that area, academically speaking… There is so much good music in so many different forms. I still like pop music, and rock, you name it. If it’s well played and well thought out, I will appreciate it.”
Eau Claire is already a place where Magdaleno feels comfortable, he says.
“The people that I’m working with - my colleagues, the faculty - they have been amazing, I couldn't ask for better faculty to be with. Everyone is very close and willing to make the guitar program grow. That’s something that the whole department has been wanting for years is to have a guitar program, so everyone is working together with me to make this program grow, and I am really looking forward to doing my best here… as I think this university deserves to have a really good guitar program.”
Students interested in pursuing coursework in guitar now have the opportunity to get involved. For beginners, an introductory class is in the process of being created, but a Special Topics class is available until that time. Intermediate students may also take one-on-one lessons. Students are encouraged to check the course catalog or contact Felipe directly if they are interested in enrolling.