***Originally Published in KaLeo Newspaper***
Bobby Bergonio, Staff Writer
From playing by ear in the hallways of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa to performing at Carnegie Hall in New York, Ian O’Sullivan, lecturer in guitar at UH, has come a long way from his humble beginnings in music.
O’Sullivan became the first person from Hawai‘i to graduate with a masters in guitar from Yale University in 2011, but his journey has come full circle – he returned to give back by teaching guitar, forwarding the guitar program and paying tribute to Hawaiian musicians.
‘BORN AND RAISED’
After graduating, O’Sullivan worked on his debut album, a collection of slack key and classical guitar compositions entitled “Born and Raised,” noting his Hawaiian origins.
The album, completely fundraised by Kickstarter, features works from composers like Byron Yasui, Michael Foumai and Darin Au, as well as O’Sullivan’s own original compositions. O’Sullivan hopes to use a portion of the proceeds from this album toward a new program that he is introducing to the music department.
MASTERING THE PERFORMANCE ASPECT
O’Sullivan believes that the ability to perform is essential in any classical musician. Much of his success is due to graduate classes that he took throughout the summer with guitarist and composer Benjamin Verdery in Maui. Graduate courses are performance based and encourage students to play religiously in front of a crowd.
“I had a student play in one of my master classes, and he immediately went back to his seat when he was done. I was like, ‘No dude, you’re not done yet – this is a master’s class,’” O’Sullivan said.
O’Sullivan noted the lack of emphasis on performance in music classes at UH. “Besides having one rep lab in the middle of the semester, where [students] have to play for a couple of students, and an exam at the end of the semester, where they sit in front of a couple of judges, some may only have performed twice in their life.”
This is the main reason for his fundraising efforts. Having workshops available for student musicians is what O’Sullivan believes will make them better artists.
“Everything I learned about guitar when I was doing my degree at UH, I got sort of outside of UH,” O’Sullivan said. “I would meet and study with Byron Yasui, who was a composition professor at UH, and ask to perform for different places.”
ENHANCING THE GUITAR PROGRAM
Yasui, O’Sullivan explained, “was a big component in the guitar program but wasn’t able to get it running.”
O’Sullivan, who does volunteer studio classes with his students for two to three hours every week, hopes to eventually expand UH’s program by being able to “offer courses in guitar history and ensemble. It’s important that [students] play in a group and as soloists.”
To raise funds for these new programs, O’Sullivan will be holding a concert in February, which will feature his own compositions as well as works by Bach, Villa Lobos, Prokofiev, Jeff Peterson and Yasui.
“Honolulu Guitar Quartet, which I put together, will also be having their debut performance,” he said.
The concert will be held Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Orvis Auditorium, with tickets starting at $8. Tickets to see O’Sullivan’s show may be purchased by calling 95-MUSIC (808-956-8742), or at the door.