|Mexican-Spanish guitarist Mauricio Diaz Alvarez.—VNS Photo Bạch Liên|
Mexican-Spanish guitarist Mauricio Diaz Alvarez, a widely travelled performer, also teaches classical guitar at the Conservatory of Fine Arts of Choisy-le-Roi (France). After performing at Hà Nội University on April 19, he spoke to Vương Bạch Liên about his passion and his career.
Inner Sanctum: How did you become a guitarist?
My father was one, and I developed a passion for it as little boy. At 8, I began to learn the guitar seriously. I held my first professional concert when I was 13.
Playing the guitar is something very natural for me, like breathing.
I didn’t do well at school. The only thing I wanted to do was to play music.
When I was 17, I left my family in Mexico to live in Madrid (Spain) where I spent another 17 years studying and playing the guitar.
I was young and I wanted to live adventurously. But I did not know that it was a definitive departure from Mexico.
When I arrived in Madrid, I passed a very difficult exam to the Madrid Royal Conservatory. Here, I had a great teacher, the renowned Spanish guitarist Gabriel Estarellas. We have had a very beautiful friendship. He appreciates me a lot. He composed for me a piece, Tribute to Marcel Proust that I recorded in my first CD. I play it everywhere in the world.
Inner Sanctum: You inherited your passion from your father. Would you like to pass it on to your son?
My son is still very small. He is just eight. But he loves listening to music, and is already attracted to the guitar and the piano. It’s very natural, as he sees me play the guitar every day.
Since he was small, I’ve made him listen to Beethoven and Mozart. It’s a marvelous way to begin with music, not to play immediately, but to listen first.
To be honest, I don’t wish that my child becomes a guitarist as it is a very hard job. But if he wants it, I cannot say no. It’s not for me to decide. I would love it if he could also play well the piano, as it is an instrument that is more traditional in France.
The guitar is a music which is closely attached to the Hispanic culture, not the French culture.
Inner Sanctum: You said being a guitarist is a very hard job. Could you explain?
Not only a guitarist, but the job of a concertist in general is very hard as it requires a minimum of four hours of work per day. They have to play the guitar, the piano or other instruments 4 hours minimum every day, even when they are on a holiday. Concertists have to work with discipline to maintain their good technique.
Music is a complicated job, it’s a universe which parallels that of pedagogy. I mean that I know many good professors at the conservatory who never perform at concerts. It means that you can be good teacher, but you may never perform at concerts.
There are guitarists who get very stressed when they get on stage and cannot play in public.
As for myself, even though I am already a professor, I still have to work hard. In 2002, I won the Infanta Doña Cristina International Guitar Competition. It is the greatest Spanish guitar competition in Madrid, patronized by the royal family. It allowed me to make an international tour around the world. It’s a great honour, but also a big responsibility because I have to keep my level and even enhance it. There are now exceptional guitarists everywhere in the world, from Japan, China and so on. The guitar keeps evolved technically at higher and higher levels. So I have to keep working hard.
Inner Sanctum: You have 35 years of experience in performing with the guitar in nearly 1,000 concerts. Do you still feel stress before and during a concert?
The day when I do not feel any stress will be the day when I retire.
I mean that I am always stressed when I get on stage. Stress is a vital energy, a very important energy that allows musicians to communicate with the public and convey their emotions.
So, if one day I do not feel any stress, it means that I do not care about everything. There is always an uncertainty, we are afraid, of course. And this is a positive thing.
For me, there is no small or big room. If I play tomorrow before 200 people or before 2,000 people, it is always the same emotion, the stress is the same. I cannot make a difference between concerts, saying that this one is more important than the other. All concerts are very important, and it is for me a responsibility to live up to, to meet the expectations of the public.
Inner Sanctum: You are both a concertist and a guitar professor. Which job do you prefer?
I love both jobs. If I stick to teaching only, I will miss the moments when I am on stage. I need to be on stage, to feel the stress and live the strong emotion.
But if I only perform at concerts, I’ll miss the pedagogy, the communication with my students. But I have some colleagues who are professors but cannot play in public because of the stress.
Inner Sanctum: What advice do you give to young people who want to become guitarists?
I would say that they have to respect the discipline of this job.
Discipline is the most important.
Of course we can talk about passion and skill. But if one doesn’t have discipline, he or she can never succeed.
When I say discipline, I mean that students have to practice playing guitar at least 20 minutes every day, even when they are on holiday.
Sometimes we can feel tired, and we do not want to play anything, but we have to motivate ourselves to practice the guitar every single day.
Inner Sanctum: Will you return to Việt Nam for another concert?
Yes, I love Việt Nam and I hope that I can organize and perform in a concert next year with three other guitarists from Chile, Argentina and Việt Nam. Our concert would be entitled Iberoamerica Songs.
I am very happy to have an opportunity to perform in Việt Nam this time.
My concert at the University of Hà Nội was very important as it was the first time I was playing in the country. And there was also the passion of students. There is a guitar students’ club here.
My concert also got the support of the Mexican and Spanish embassies. Everyone expected something. And musicians like me have to live up to the expectation of the students and of the public here.—VNS