In search of 'surprising sounds'

Admittedly not the fastest player who ever lived, Grammy Award-winning guitarist William Kanengiser says he prefers slow, rich tones and color in his music.

"I try to do things that make surprising sounds and contrasts of tone and color that people wouldn't expect," he says.

The Los Angeles-based guitarist will demonstrate his musical savvy in concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 3, at the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Kanengiser plays from a comprehensive repertoire, ranging from classical and contemporary compositions to Eastern European and Caribbean arrangements.

"One of the things about a guitar that is so alluring is that it can cross so many musical boundaries," he says. "It works great with classical, traditional, Renaissance, Baroque, world music styles and jazz, rock and fingerstyle.

"It's a chameleon instrument."

His performance at SOU will run the gamut of musical traditions ranging from Hungarian folk melodies by Bortok and African sketches by Dusan Bogdanovic to Cuban folk songs by Leo Brouwer and the most traditional piece, "Fantasie Elegiaque," by Sor.

"I like to show the diversity of the instrument ... and have a good balance between traditional music and unexpected music," says Kanengiser.

A native of New Jersey, Kanengiser attended University of Southern California, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees and was named Outstanding Graduate of the School of Music. He has been a member of the guitar faculty at the USC Thornton School of Music since 1983.

Kanengiser, a founding member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, tours regularly with the group through the United States, Canada, Asia and Europe. The group has recorded more than a dozen albums, including its 2004 recording "Guitar Heroes," which won a Grammy in the classical crossover category.

Kanengiser also showcases a wide range of guitar traditions in his four solo albums: the classical "Ronda Alla Turka," the Eastern European-influenced "Echos From the Old World," "Caribbean Souvenirs" and the jazz-inspired "Classical Cool."

Besides his musical dexterity, Kanengiser is recognized for his creative approach to transcription and his musical theatrics, which spilled over into his stage production "The Ingenious Don Quixote: Words and Music From the Time of Cervantes."

The one-hour show, written by Kanengiser, features one actor who performs 15 characters and is accompanied by the Guitar Quartet, playing complex Spanish Renaissance music. The show premiered in 2009 featuring Monty Python's John Cleese as the actor.

"It was fun for me to envision, create and realize," says Kanengiser. "I spent more time and energy creating that show than anything else I have done in my life."

Tickets to Kanengiser's solo show at SOU are $15, free for students, and can be purchased by calling 541-552-6101 or visiting SOU's box office. For more information, see or

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