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Bemidji Symphony Orchestra: Classical guitarist to spotlight Sunday concert

Petar Jankovic will make a return visit to Bemidji when he plays with the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. at the Bemidji High School Auditorium.

When he played in the Bemidji Concert Series as a solo artist, a member of the Bemidji music scene was in the audience. Beverly Everett, BSO conductor, approached Jankovic after his performance, and they spoke. Perhaps that was when Everett conceived the idea of the upcoming "Spanish Triumph" concert when Jankovic will play Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez."

"This is a demanding concerto for guitar, technically very difficult and demanding," Jankovic said in a telephone interview. "You need a professional to play it because the composer of the piece was not a guitarist. It really takes me into (the music) when I play it. I see the sun, nice weather, all the senses you can feel when you go to Spain. This is my favorite concerto and is considered Rodrigo's best work. I am asked to play it all over the globe."

The classical guitar has its roots in the Spanish Court; the rhythms are subtle and the music is folkloric but elegant. The strings are nylon and are played with the fingernails. The guitar is the national instrument of Spain, as well as Mexico, and is quickly becoming the instrument of choice in this country, according the Jankovic.

"Classical guitars have more depth and more body in the sound," he said. "There are colors, a warm experience, tender, velvety if I may use the terms."

He said he likes the balance of the lone guitar with the orchestra in this piece. In the first movement, there are many scales and jumps. The second movement is about the loss of the composer's infant who died in childbirth. The orchestra plays with great passion at the birth and then the very delicate passage when the baby is accepted by the angles. The third movement has some very fast passages, he said.

Jankovic started playing classical guitar at age 8 in his native Yugoslavia (presently Serbia) and then went on to the Music Academy of Belgrade for a degree in classical guitar. Along the way, he earned honors as a gold, silver and bronze medal winner during National Music Competitions in Serbia. He started his professional career at 16 and was teaching beginning classical music to students at a local community college by 20. Jankovic earned his master's degree from the Indiana University School of Music and then studied under Maestro Ernesto Bitelli for an Artist Diploma Degree.

Jankovic is now head of the Guitar Department at IU's Jacobs School of Music with 300 students studying classical guitar. He said he feels the guitar is a natural bridge whereby younger audiences can go to classical concerts even though their interests lie in rock, folk or other styles in playing the guitar. For example, noted jazz trumpeter, the late Miles Davis, transposed the second movement of "Concierto de Aranjuez," first played at Carnegie Hall in 1961, into a jazz standard

Tickets will be sold at the door Sunday and cost $15 for regular admission and $10 for seniors and students. Season memberships will also be available for sale.