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The joy of classical music

Teen plays classical guitar with the Charlotte Folk Society

By Joanne Spataro
Correspondent

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  • Meet Lando Pieroni

    Age: 16.

    School: Junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Myers Park High.

    Favorite classical guitar composer: Astor Piazzolla.

    Favorite author: Ernest Hemingway.

    What people first notice: His height – he’s 6-foot-4.

    Not your average teen: He doesn’t have a cellphone and is not a huge fan of technology.

    Nailing it: Pieroni says a lot of people ask why he has such long nails on his right hand. He needs them to play classical guitar correctly.

    Watch: "Tango en Skai," by French composer/guitarist Roland Dyens, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHpJosL-mhQ.



Lando Pieroni was the only classical guitarist at the Great Aunt Stella Center Jan. 11, performing in the 12th Annual Charlotte Folk Society Young Talent Showcase.

He quickly picked each string with the long fingernails on his right hand, adding hand flourishes and slaps. His left hand, with much shorter nails, manned the fretboard. Lando, 16, rounded his body over the guitar, making his thick brown hair almost fall into his eyes.

 “I isolate myself from everybody else, and all I hear is me and the guitar,” he said.

While most musicians in the Charlotte Folk Society play bluegrass, Celtic music and ’60s folk – and a banjo or fiddle is more common than a classical guitar – Lando stands out. His passion for Argentine tango and for flamenco, which originates in Spain, has made him a unique member of the society, which is more than 30 years old. This was his second showcase performance, and musicians in the society asked him to perform on their stage at Festival in the Park last fall, too.

“He plays extraordinary music with skill typical of someone much older,” says the society’s Harry Taylor. “When he performs before our audiences, he brings something different to the table.”

Lando has studied classical guitar consistently for five years, two with Charlotte instructor David Solis Olson, who says he’s one of the best students he has had: “I’ve had the unique opportunity to see him flourish. He’s a great performer.”

Born and raised in Florence, Italy, Lando took up the guitar in a place more attuned to its charms than Charlotte.

“There is a stronger interest in classical guitar – and classical music in general – in Europe,” said Olson. “They have centuries of teaching traditions and repertoire and performance venues and concert series… Having that foundation and perspective has done (Lando) well.”

But it also meant that when his family moved to Charlotte in 2011, he found a classical guitar culture much different – much less visible – than Italy’s. (They had visited his mother’s parents in Fayetteville for years, and moved so Lando and his brother could apply as residents to N.C. colleges; their older sister now attends Duke.)

In Italy, Lando played with the Orchestra Giovanile di Greve in Chianti (located between Florence and Siena), and with various chamber ensembles. Opportunities were abundant. Here, classical guitarists are more rare and the instrument is less used in orchestral settings, said Olson. Lando had trouble even finding a teacher at first.

But one night at the Evening Muse in the NoDa arts district, he and his parents met guitarist John Tosco, owner of Tosco Music Studio and founding member of Tosco Music Parties Inc. Tosco encouraged Lando to join the Charlotte Folk Society. Last February, Lando applied for the Tosco Music Party Scholarship – and won.

“I thought someone in the folk kind of style would win, but I did,” he said.

The prize? A week of guitar instruction at the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College, near Asheville, studying gypsy jazz and jamming with other musicians. “I was in the forest the whole time (during the camp) and met a lot of people. It was probably one of the best weeks of my life.”

Said Tosco: “Where Lando excels in my opinion is his hard work and dedication…I think he’s got a future in music.”

Lando comes from a family of musicians and artists. His grandmother, Paola Ferrarese Pieroni, is a retired opera singer who performed in the 1960s and 1970s in Italy in various theaters, including La Fenice di Venezia, II Regio di Parma, and Il Comunale di Firenze. His dad, Carlo Pieroni, is an international photographer who played classical guitar as a teenager, but didn’t stick with it. Now Lando plays his dad’s classical guitar, his first and only. His mother, Carol Wilson, has a brother-in-law, Matthew Alexander, who is a psychologist, singer/songwriter and folk guitarist who lives in Charlotte. Lando says Alexander is his greatest musical inspiration.

A junior in the International Baccalaureate Program at Myers Park High, Lando practices guitar four to five times a week. In his rare spare time, he plays Amateur Athletic Union basketball for Carolina Basketball Club and volunteers in the gift shop at Presbyterian Hospital. While he says classical guitar will always be a major part of his life, he seeks a career in medicine.

Now, he’s expanding his musical repertoire, thanks to the Charlotte Folk Society. Last Christmas, his parents gave him a banjo, and he’s been using his classical guitar training to learn to play it.

“If you know how to play classical, you can play any style,” he said.

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