A classical education

Classical guitar virtuoso Benjamin Verdery will hold his 17th classical guitar master class on Maui, which includes a series of concerts presented in Makawao, Makena, Keokea and Lahaina.

A “Maui Guitar Extravaganza” concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Makawao Union Church will feature Verdery, with fellow guitarists David Leisner, Simon Powis, and Ian O’Sullivan. The program will include both solo and ensemble performances.

“It’s like a festival, a celebration of four different guitarists with different backgrounds,” Verdery explains. “They all have a different approach to the classical guitar. David Leisner is a total virtuoso. He’s really revered as a player, composer and teacher, and we’re doing an incredible piece by Steve Reich. I’ll play some of my music and Dave will play some of his.

“I’ll also be playing a duo with Simon Powis, who is an extraordinary Australian guitarist and a former student of mine. And Ian O’Sullivan has grown into this mature virtuoso exploring what it is to be a Hawaiian classical guitarist playing pieces by slack-key masters and conservatory, academic music. It’s so exciting to see him grow into such a great player. I now learn from him.”

A classically trained guitarist and composer from Oahu’s North Shore, O’Sullivan has been a lecturer in classical guitar at University of Hawaii at Manoa since 2012. Well versed in Hawaiian slack-key guitar and the ukulele, in addition to the Western classical repertoire, he explains: “I try to approach Hawaiian music like the classical composers who came before me. Francisco Tarrega, Agustin Barrios and Heitor Villa-Lobos are just a handful of those who contributed to the classical music repertoire by combining it with their native music, thus creating some of the most popular guitar music performed today.”

As a child, O’Sullivan began playing the ukulele by ear, and was later introduced to classical guitar by Maui’s Jeff Peterson at the University of Hawaii. He went on to become the first guitarist from Hawaii to be accepted into the Yale School of Music, where he graduated with a master’s degree and was the recipient of the Eliot Fisk Award bestowed on an outstanding guitarist.

In 2013, he released his first solo album, the Na Hoku-nominated “Born and Raised: New Music for Solo Guitar,” featuring his original compositions alongside music of fellow Hawaii composers like Byron Yasui and Peterson. He just released his second CD, “Songs for the North Shore,” which features a collection of his original compositions inspired by the area in which he was raised.

“I write songs about places,” he says. “It’s music written for the land. The songs on this album are my impressions of places, from the majesty of Mount Ka’ala to the windswept sands of Kahuku.”

With O’Sullivan leaning primarily on his classical training, some of these new compositions bring to mind the work of the Windham Hill label’s finest guitarists. In mood, they range from the upbeat “Puu O Mahuko,” which reflects a Spanish influence, to soothing tracks like “Loko Ea” and the more jaunty “Mokuleia.”

O’Sullivan most recently played on Maui at the 25th Annual Ki Ho’alu Guitar Festival at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

At noon July 8 at the UH Maui College Science Building lecture theater in Kahului, O’Sullivan, Aaron Cardenas, Stephen Kane and Conor Padmanabhan will perform a free concert featuring a variety of music for solo guitar, as well as duets and music for ukulele.

Master class advanced participants will perform a free concert of music by Leisner, Manuel Ponce, Bryan Johanson, Luigi Legnani and others at 2 p.m. July 10 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Keokea. And free student concerts will be presented at 7 p.m. July 12 at the Lahaina Jodo Mission, and at 7 p.m. July 13 at the Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena. They will include solo performances and works for guitar orchestra composed and conducted by Verdery and O’Sullivan.


The LahainaTown Action Committee will once again present a memorable July 4 celebration with a major fireworks display at 8 p.m. and free music on Front Street.

The live entertainment kicks off with Dan Saunders from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Banyan Tree Park, followed by the Haiku Hillbillys from 3 to 5 p.m. Then Jazz Maui 2016 presents the Na Alii Big Band, and the Chop Suey jazz band with singer Sheryl Renee performing on the Lahaina Library lawn from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Music continues with the Kukui Nuts barbershop quartet on the library lawn from 6:40 to 7 p.m., followed by the Maui Community Band from 7 to 8 p.m.

Front Street will be closed between Baker and Hotel Streets. Official Lahaina 4th T-shirts, starting at $20, will be available at Campbell Park and the Hard Rock Cafe, with proceeds helping fund future free events.

A day earlier, between 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, Renee, a Denver-based vocalist, will perform a free concert with the Gene Argel Quartet at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center as part of Jazz Maui 2016.


Rock legend David Crosby has never played solo on Maui before. His Castle Theater concert at the MACC on July 9 offers a rare opportunity to hear him in an intimate setting.

Drawing from a spectrum of 50 years of music, his set list ranges from his Byrds’ days with “Everybody’s Been Burned” and “Triad”; Crosby Stills & Nash staples like “Deja Vu”; tunes from his solo albums and from CPR; “Naked in the Rain” from his time as a duo with Graham Nash; and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Free.”

A Guitar Disorder concert review noted: “David Crosby’s performance was nothing short of breathtaking. For over two hours, this legendary singer-songwriter entertained the sold-out audience with stories, political opinions, and some amazing guitar playing and singing.”

As an added bonus, Crosby is soliciting questions from fans that he responds to in his concerts. “I love questions,” he says. So send inquiries to askcroz@gmail.com.

In next week’s column, Crosby talks about how he’s experiencing a creative renaissance with two new albums set for release this year (including one with the founder of the amazing jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy), his love for harmony singing and social activism, a funny email from Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and thoughts on Donald Trump.

* David Crosby will perform at 7:30 p.m. July 9 in the MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $51, $56, $61 and $66 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org. A dollar from each ticket sold will be donated to the nonprofit organization The Guacamole Fund, which supports environmental/social change.


It’s exciting news that part-time Maui residents Lukas and Micah Nelson will play at what could be one of the most epic concerts in rock history. The Nelson siblings with Promise of the Real will back Neil Young at the sold-out Desert Trip mega concerts in Indio, Calif., in early October, on a legends’ bill with the Rolling Stones, The Who, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters.

Promoted as “the concert of a lifetime,” the show will present the Stones and Dylan on Oct. 7 and 14; McCartney and Young on Oct. 8 and 15; and The Who and Waters closing on Oct. 9 and 16.

Promise of the Real is currently touring Europe backing Young. The group opened in Glasgow, Scotland, in early June and will close the tour in Austria on July 23.


Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones will play an intimate “Storytellers Series” show at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku on Aug. 9.

One of the most talented and insightful artists of our time, Jones has continually evolved since the release of her Grammy-winning debut album in 1979. A distinctly original, unconventional musician, she is now based in New Orleans.

Last year, Jones released “The Other Side of Desire,” an album steeped in the sounds of New Orleans from swamp pop to Fats Domino’s style boogie woogie.

* Tickets are $65, $60, $50 and $45 and are available at the Iao box office by calling 242-6969.


The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band with Maui musicians Mark Johnstone and Lenny Castellanos will depart for Colorado in September to headline one of the nights at the 23rd Annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival. Joe Walsh and Gary Clark Jr. will also perform.

Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie was recently on Maui catching Mick and the lads at Club Keller. Talking about music for a projected new Mac album, McVie told the U.K.’s Mayfair Times: “The songs are fantastic, they have a whiff of ‘Rumours’ about them.”