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Here are five Kansas City guitarists to help you celebrate International Guitar Month

Five guitarists in a collage.
Courtesy of musicians
Aleia González (top left), Mark Bentley (bottom left), Beau Bledsoe (center), Larry Beekman (top right), Jim Lammers (bottom right)

When you think about the guitar, your favorite rock band or a singer-songwriter might come to mind, but classical guitar rocks just as hard as its more mainstream counterparts. April is International Guitar Month: celebrate by learning more about Kansas City’s classical guitar scene.

There’s no better month to celebrate local classical guitarists than April, which is International Guitar Month. International Guitar Day began on February 11, 1987. The holiday was created to increase guitar sales worldwide and guitar month encourages musicians of all skill levels and genre preferences to pick up their guitars and play.

The invention of the guitar dates back to the 14th century in Spain, and looked very different from today’s modern guitars. In the 16th Century guitars only had four strings instead of six and were tuned C-F-A-D, not E-A-D-G-B-E, which is the standard tuning today. The fifth and sixth strings were added by the 18th century.

Kansas City is flush with talent when it comes to classical music, and guitar is no exception. You can get into the spirit of International Guitar Month by checking out these local classical guitarists and catching them at one of their upcoming performances.

Woman stands and holds a guitar
Alejandro Avila Alvarez
/
Courtesy of musician
Guitarist Aleia González

Aleia González

Born in Paraguay, Aleia González came to Kansas City in 2018 to pursue her master’s degree at UMKC. She now serves on the board of the Kansas City Guitar Society, which is how she discovered the local classical guitar community. González continues to grow the classical guitar community in KC through education, as she is currently a guitar instructor at Barton Community College and Wesleyan University. Her talent shines through in her live performances, and her passion for the music transforms each piece she plays.

You can see González perform in the Kansas City Guitar Society’s Casual Concert Series, which offers several concerts per season. If you’re up for the drive, she’ll also be performing three times in the Salt Creek Song Festival with tenor Genaro Mendez in Ashland, Nebraska from May 19th through 25th.

Man sits and plays a guitar
Jeff Evrard
/
Courtesy of musician
Guitarist Beau Bledsoe

Beau Bledsoe

A jack-of-all trades guitarist, Beau Bledsoe plays several other styles of music in addition to classical including jazz, folk, and even country western. Bledsoe plays music from Spain and Portugal in the Ensemble Iberica and country music in Slim Hanson and the Poor Choices. In both genres, Bledsoe’s superb guitar skills and communication with the other musicians allows the groups to become one sound, not just several musicians playing at the same time.

Bledsoe’s next performance with Ensemble Iberica, La Fuente Del Flamenco, will be on July 3 at 7 p.m. at Music Theater Heritage. A Flamenco dancer will join the ensemble to bring the music to life. You can catch Bledsoe playing in Slim Hanson and the Poor Choices every fourth Tuesday of the month at The Ship from 7-10 p.m.

Man playing a guitar
Courtesy of musician
Guitarist Larry Beekman

Larry Beekman

Have you ever wondered what songs by The Beatles would sound like on classical guitar? Thanks to Larry Beekman’s book, Beatles for Classical Guitar, you can learn songs like “Come Together,” “Day Tripper,” and “In My Life,” arranged for classical guitar. Some of his other published books include John Lennon for Guitar and Fingerpicking Enya, and he has composed several original pieces for classical guitar as well. Beekman is a pillar in the teaching community and holds guitar orchestra recitals that bring young musicians together.

His performance of “Huajra,” - specifically the intro on Ruth’s Music Corner - demonstrates his skill and dexterity on the guitar.

Man smiles and plays a guitar
Courtesy of musician
Guitarist Mark Bentley

Mark Bentley

Park University professor-turned business owner, Mark Bentley, has been involved in all facets of the classical guitar world. Bentley was a guitar professor at Park University and Missouri Western State University until 2002 and simultaneously taught while opening Bentley Guitar Studios in 1996, which also offers repairs and lessons. When he’s not teaching, Bentley plays with his wife, harpist Theresa Bentley. The duo, known as The Bentley Project has toured throughout the United States and their original compositions are available on various streaming platforms. One of their most recent songs, “Eventide,” is a lullaby-like composition that features melodies from both instruments that seem to lightly dance around one another while lulling the listener into a state of relaxation.

Man playing a guitar
Courtesy of musician
Guitarist Jim Lammers

Jim Lammers

Jim Lammers has been active in the classical guitar community in Kansas City for more than 30 years and has performed in over 1,500 public and private events. In addition to his impressive performance resume, Lammers is also an alumni guitar instructor at UMKC, where he is revered for his patience and clarity during class. Don’t “fret” if you don’t get the chance to hear him play live, because you can listen to some of his best guitar performances on his albums, So Nice to Come Home To and A Winter’s Night.

Be sure to check out these talented guitarists and show your support for Kansas City musicians by streaming their music and attending live performances. You can find more upcoming concerts in the Kansas City area on Classical KC’s community calendar.

Laura Fotovich is the Spring 2024 intern for Classical KC.