2018 Artists & Performers


Paul Nelson - Friday 1st,  Opening Concert

Paul Nelson is a three time Grammy-winning American guitarist, performer, record producer, and songwriter. He was the protege of legendary blues rock guitarist Johnny Winter, becoming his band leader and producer. He produced and played on several of Winter's albums, including the Grammy-nominated I'm a Blues Man, Roots, Step Back. The latter of these won him a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album that debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart for Blues Albums and Independent Albums, and debuted at #16 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, the highest spot in Winter's career. Nelson is also a Blues Music Award recipient for Best Rock Blues Album and has been inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame. He is a recipient of the distinguished KBA award from the Blues Foundation. He received a Grammy award in 2017 for his work as producer and performer on Joe Louis Walker's Everybody Wants a Piece.

Paul Nelson is credited as being a composer and performer for music heard on international and national television broadcasts such as NBC, TNN, and UPN, as well as for the WWF and has been featured in many publications such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, USA Today, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Premier Guitar, Classic Rock, and Vintage Guitar Magazines. His solo guitar work can be heard on his first solo CD, entitled Look. 

Nelson who was taught by Steve Vai, Mike Stern, and Steve Khan has toured the world and performed live and on recordings alongside artists such as Eric Clapton, Leslie West, Larry Carlton, Edgar Winter, Derek St. Holmes, Rick Derringer, Joe Perry, Robben Ford, Brian Setzer, Billy Gibbons, Earl Slick, Dicky Betts, Mark Knopfler, Joe Walsh, Slash, Pat Travers, Elvin Bishop, Kim Simmonds/Savoy Brown, Anders Osborne, Quinn Sullivan, Los Lobos, Tinsley Ellis, Ana Popavic, Albert Castilla, Lucky Peterson, Jon Herington, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Mike Zito, JT Taylor (Kool and the Gang), Joe Louis Walker, Steve Vai, Samantha Fish, Popa Chubby, Mark Naftalin (Paul Butterfield), Ronnie Earl, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Vince Gill, Warren Haynes, Gov't Mule, G-Love, Debbie Davies, Sonny Landreth, Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees), Joe Bonamassa, Uptown Horns, Ben Harper, Hubert Sumlin, Harvey Brooks, Steven Seagal, Bill Evans, James Cotton, Magic Slim, Coco Montoya, Reese Wynans, Edgar Winter, Ray Davies, George Lynch, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Anthony Jackson, Junior Brown, John Medeski, Ron Holloway, Jimmy Vivino of Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Paul Schaffer's CBS Orchestra, and the Blues Brothers Horns. He has appeared on Late Night With David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Nelson signed with Sony Music Group for his self-titled solo work Badass Generation.


Jiji - Saturday 2nd Concert

Applauded by the Calgary Herald as “…talented, sensitive…brilliant,” Jiji is an adventurous artist on both acoustic and electric guitar, playing an extensive range of music from traditional and contemporary classical music to free improvisation.  Her impeccable musicianship combined with compelling stage presence and fascinating repertoire earned the Korean guitarist First Prize at the 2016 Concert Artists Guild International Competition.

Upcoming engagements include her New York Recital debut at Weill Recital Hall on the CAG series, 92nd st Y Guitar Fest,. She appeared as guest soloist with Kansas City Symphony, led by Carlos Miguel Prieto, where The Kansas City Star described her as “A graceful and nuanced player,” adding that “…she presented an intimate, captivating performance.”  In recital, she has performed in a wide array of venues, including: Carnegie Hall, National Sawdust, Miller theater, Mass MOCA, Subculture NYC, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Princeton Sound Kitchen, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Her recent tour in Hong Kong consisted of performances collaborating with a performance Artist, a traditional Chinese instrument ensemble, and an Erhu player in art galleries, clubs, and even on a moving trolley.

Jiji’s performances have been featured on PBS (On Stage at Curtis series), NPR’s From the Top, WHYY-TV, FOX 4-TV, Munchies (the Vice Channel), The Not So Late Show (Channel 6, Kansas), and Hong Kong broadcast station RTHK’s The Works. A passionate advocate of new music, Jiji has premiered a duo piece Talking Guitars by renowned composer, Paul Lansky, and her subsequent studio recording of that work (with young Chinese guitarist Hao Yang) will be released on Bridge Records in the 2017-18 season. As a recipient of the 2017 BMI commissioning award, she commissioned Nina C. Young for a new guitar piece scheduled to be premiered in 2018. She has premiered works by numerous emerging composers, including Gabriella Smith, Riho Maimets, Krists Auznieks, Gulli Björnsson, Andrew McIntosh, and Farnood HaghaniPour. She also performs her own compositions, incorporating electronic media and acoustic music, and she currently works as a composer with the Yale Repertory Theater, Yale Cabaret, and Yale school of Art.  Her music is influenced by her regular activities as a DJ, where she highlights the electronic dance styles of happy hardcore and Berlin experimental electronica.

Sunday 3rd Workshop Artists Including Jiji


The Alturas Duo

The Alturas Duo is one of the most engaging ensembles performing in the chamber music world today. The only group of its kind, the Duo was formed to bring together the worlds of South American folk, traditional classical and new music on the unusual combination of viola, charango and guitar. Founded by Canadian guitarist, Scott Hill and Chilean violist and charango player, Carlos Boltes, the Alturas Duo has performed extensively in Europe as well as North, Central and South America at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Symphony Space, the Smithsonian Institute, the Music Mountain Chamber Music Series, La Guitarra California, La Maison de Mai in Paris, and the 34th International Viola Congress. Always interested in collaborations and new musical experiences, the Duo has worked with artists and ensembles as diverse as guitarist and composer, Horacio Salinas; charango virtuoso, Ernesto Cavour; flutist, Nicole Esposito; quena virtuoso, Marcelo Pena-Lobo; pianist, Polly Ferman; Argentine bandoneón legend, Daniel Binelli; the Voce Choir of Hartford and the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra. Throughout their career, they have been passionate proponents of new music. This earned them the 2010 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming and has led them to premier dozens of pieces including recent works by Javier Farías, Frank Wallace, José Lezcano, Russell Nadel, Thomas Schuttenhelm and Ronald Pearl. The Duo took First Prize at the 2006 New England International Chamber Music Competition and are currently "Artists in Residence" for the Intake Organization in Stamford, CT.

Ben Verdery

Artistic director of 92nd Street Y’s Art of the Guitar series since 2006, chair of the guitar department at the Yale University School of Music and artistic director of the bi-annual Yale Guitar Extravaganza since 1985, Benjamin Verdery is hailed for his innovative and eclectic musical career.

Since 1980 he has performed worldwide in theaters and at festivals, including Theatre Carré (Amsterdam), Maverick Concerts (NY), the International Guitar Festival in Havana, Wigmore Hall (London), Festival Internacional de Guitarra de Taxco (Mexico), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Opera in New York. His tours regularly take him throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. He has recorded and performed with such diverse artists as Andy Summers, Frederic Hand, William Coulter, Leo Kottke, Anthony Newman, Jessye Norman, Paco Peña, Hermann Prey and John Williams.

Ben Verdery has released more than 15 albums, his most recent being Happy Here with William Coulter; and Branches, featuring works of Bach, Strauss, Jimi Hendrix, Mozart and the traditional Amazing Grace. His CD, Start Now, won the 2005 Classical Recording Foundation Award, while other recordings of note include Some Towns & Cities and his collaborations with John Williams (John Williams Plays Vivaldi) and Andy Summers (First you Build A Cloud). Future recordings include one featuring Yale composers and one featuring his classical guitar arrangements: Randy Newman, Neil Young, Prince, Hendrix, John Lennon, Eddy Vedder, The National, Cream, Elvis and others yet to be arranged.


David Madsen

David Madsen founded what is now The Hartt School Community Division (HCD) Suzuki Guitar Program in 1991. The program presently includes sixty students and two faculty members. He is Chair of HCD's Guitar and Harp Department. Madsen graduated with a Bachelor of Music in performance from the University of Connecticut, studying with David McLellan and Ed Flower. 

He has since studied with David Leisner and Pepe Romero. His Suzuki studies have been with Bill Kossler and Frank Longay. In 2000 David became the third registered Teacher Trainer in guitar with the Suzuki Association of the Americas and has conducted training courses throughout North America and in Peru, Puerto Rico, and Argentina. In January 2016, David began training in Suzuki Early Childhood Education (birth to three) with Lynn McCall. Madsen currently serves on the Teacher Development Advisory Committee  for the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA), and is also a member of the SAA Guitar Committee.

Drew Pinto

Drew Pinto is a 25-year old musician based out of Monroe, Connecticut. Locally known as a “fingerstyle guitarist” for his use of rhythmic tapping and acoustic harmonic techniques, Drew has performed at venues in Trumbull, Newtown, Danbury, Brookfield, Sandy Hook, Bridgeport. He has performed at the Ives Concert Park and at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, during several Full Moon Festivals. With styles spanning rock, folk, indie and alternative, Drew pushes to compose songs that capture both emotion and groove. He is currently working on his first full length album.


Joe Kiernan

Joe Kiernan earned his bachelors degree at the Crane  school of music, SUNY Potsdam With a major in music education and a minor in classical guitar. His Masters is in educational leadership from the University of Bridgeport where he minored in jazz guitar. Joe Kiernan has played in taught throughout the country and internationally in Canada and South America. Joe Kiernan has played with Les Paul, Ronnie Earl, and most recently with Bernie Williams. Joe Kiernan is also a composer with his own CD labeled Inventory . Joe Kiernan is in established jazz and funk and blues guitarist with students to have gone to music schools on full scholarship including Berkeley College of music. JoeKiernan has also taught at the National Guitar Workshop and Camp Jam. Currently, Joe Kiernan is the band director and teaches all the general music classes at the discovery magnet school in Bridgeport as well as a Saturday program for the KEYS foundation and has his own private studio of students. 

Joe Kiernan can be seen and heard at local bookstores and restaurants throughout the Tri-state area, where he plays with his own jazz trio and solo. 


Trevor Babb - festival adjuticator

American guitarist/composer, Trevor Babb, is a versatile and adventurous musician based in New Haven, CT. He has devoted the majority of his energy to contemporary music and performs on classical guitar, electric guitar, and other plucked instruments.

Mr. Babb has received several awards and recognitions including a Fulbright Award, the Yale School of Music's Eliot Fisk Prize, and top prize in the 2016 Denver Classical Guitar Competition. He has performed throughout the US and internationally as a soloist and chamber musician. He has collaborated with the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra, Toronto's Caution Tape Sound Collective, Boston's New England Chamber Players, New York City's Aeon Ensemble, and the Yale Band.

As a passionate advocate of new music, Trevor composes and performs his own music, and has given countless premieres by established and emerging composers. His debut recording on Innova Recordings, Warmth, features original music for multiple electric guitars along with several premiere recordings by emerging composers. Many contemporary music festivals have hosted him as a fellow including the Nief-Norf Summer Festival, Bang on a Can Summer Festival, and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival New Music Workshop.

Mr. Babb holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music. He also studied for a year at the Haute École de Musique de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree will be conferred by the Yale School of Music in May 2018. His principal teachers have been Nicholas Goluses, Benjamin Verdery and Dusan Bogdanovic.

Christopher Ladd - festival adjuticator

Award winning and internationally renowned classical guitarist Christopher Ladd is recognized throughout North America and abroad as one of the most promising classical musicians of his generation.  Fingerstyle Guitar hails his performances as being“… rendered confidently and expressively.” Praised as“… an exercise in extremes.” by Soundboard Magazine, he is highly sought after as a soloist and chamber musician.  

Most recently Mr. Ladd was a featured performer at the 2017 Sarajevo International Guitar Festival.  Noteworthy performances include appearances at the Vijećnica in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzgovina, Mengi and the Kaldalon Theater at Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland, the DiMenna Center in New York City, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Viennese Opera Ball hosted by the Austrian Embassy, the historic Byrdcliffe Theater in Woodstock, NY and for former vice-president Al Gore at his residence in Washington, D.C.  Active also as a chamber musician, Mr. Ladd is a founding member of The Pandora Duo which features acclaimed flutist Janet Arms, and The Amaranth Duo with Icelandic violinist Asa Gudjonsdottir. 

 Mr. Ladd has been a prize winner in numerous competitions including the Appalachian Guitar Festival Solo Competition, American String Teachers Association Solo Competition and he was twice a semi-finalist in the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America International Competition.

Mr. Ladd currently serves on the faculty of The Hartt School in West Hartford, Connecticut, as an Artist/Teacher, Director of The Hartt School Guitar Festival, and as the Chair of the Guitar and Harp Program.

Alexander Vlassenkov - festival adjuticator

Alexander Vlassenkov has been teaching and playing guitar internationally for over 30 years.Alex has earned two Master's Degrees in Music Performance and Guitar Teaching, one from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, UK, and one from the State Academy of Music in Minsk, Belarus. He has been trained and certified in Suzuki Guitar method with David Madsen, Frank Longay, and Mary Lou Roberts at the Hartt Music School in Hartford, CT.  

Currently Alex teaches guitar at Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, CT, and offers  private guitar instruction at his home studio in Branford, CT, to students of all ages and all levels.

Catherine O'Kelly - festival adjuticator

Classical guitarist Catherine O’Kelly is an up-and-coming performer, both as a soloist and as a chamber musician. She is a member of Tedesco Duo with flutist Arielle Burke, and recently she has earned a position with The Hartt School’s Honors Chamber Music Program, Performance 20/20. 

 Catherine is currently pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in classical guitar performance at The Hartt School in West Hartford, CT. She earned her MM in guitar performance in 2013, also at The Hartt School, where she studied with Richard Provost. She has performed in master classes with Jason Vieaux, Odair Assad, Sergio Assad, Andrew York, Vladimir Gorbach, Antigoni Goni, Oscar Ghiglia and Eliot Fisk.