If at the end of the Road to Santiago you are in the mood to learn music, you must visit the Municipal School of Music And Dance . There you will be gladly attended by the head of studies Guillermo Alzugaray, who is also passionately devoted to his cello lessons … Get to know him better by reading this interview!
How did it all start?
If I recall correctly, at first I chose violin and viola, but for one reason or another, I did not manage to study those instruments in the conservatory of Irún. And so, by process of elimination, I started with the cello. I guess at first I did not imagine myself playing such a great instrument (laughs). Even today I have to explain to my students’ parents that there are cellos of all sizes, since many parents don’t know it and discard the cello for their children: they think their children are not going to be able to play it.
The orchestra or chamber group that made an impact on you?
While studying at the Conservatorio Superior de Música de Aragón, some students were lucky enough to collaborate with the Cadaqués Orchestra performing the 1st Symphony of Gustav Mahler. That was my first experience with a professional orchestra… an orchestra that I admired, and I was also accompanied by friends who shared that feeling with the same passion. I am fortunate to have one of those concerts recorded on DVD, every time I listen to it I feel really thrilled.
You are a teacher in the Santiago de Compostela Music School, and since this course, also the head of studies. How is the day-to-day life of a music teacher in Spain?
When I was a child I used to attend and learn a lot from my teacher Iñaki Etxepare’s classes. It was he who showed me his passion to teach, and I will always be grateful for it. I love teaching people how to play the cello. I feel that I bring something nice into their lives. The philosophy of music schools fits perfectly with this idea: any person, no matter his/her qualities, child or adult, he/she can learn to make music. I find it exciting. Each student, each class, is a challenge for me as a teacher, and that makes my job the best occupation I can have.
If you were given the opportunity to learn with infinite time any instrument of the world, which would you choose now?
What I would like is to be able to play all of them in order to be able to interpret some pieces of each instrument. But since that is absolutely impossible, if I had to choose only one, it would be the flute.
My brother plays the flute, but when I was a child, it was not an instrument that drew my attention especially. However, over the years it is the instrument that has fascinated me the most. Listening to flute music, it gives me the feeling that the air becomes music because it could not be otherwise; I feel that the melody was always there, and that the flute is the transmitter that allows me to listen to it. In addition, its sound and timbre fit perfectly with the sound and timbre of the cello.
An inspirational phrase that has been useful for you?
I suppose there are many, but I often remember a funny story about it. I was in class with my teacher David Apellaniz and at one point of a piece of music there was a huge shift of position, which meant that I had to move with my left hand from one end of the cello to the opposite extreme in a few thousandths of a second (if you know the third movement of the Schumann cello concert you will imagine to which shift I am referring).
Well, as usual, the shift did not work out correctly. Then he, to show me how to do it, repeated it ten times in a row, all perfectly, and he said to me, “Do you see it? There is no possible mistake.”
“I love teaching people how to play the cello. I feel that I bring something nice into their lives. The philosophy of music schools fits perfectly with this idea: any person, no matter his/her qualities, child or adult, he/she can learn to make music. I find it exciting.”
I could not but laugh at that moment. I realized that to be able to do something, technique is not enough: conviction is fundamental. Nowadays I say that phrase to my students.
The latest scores you’ve performed?
Right now I’m immersed in a theatre project called “Suite Up” , based on the Bach six cello suites, so I’m hanging out with the suites on stage.
How did you hear about LumaSuite and what do you think about the project?
I came to know of LumaSuite by Maider Camarero: friend since childhood and also companion of conservatory. I am excited because the cases are manufactured in Euskadi, and it is a great pleasure for me to collaborate as much as possible with suggestions for the cello case. I have been lucky enough to try one of them and I think the result is truly exceptional.
Future plans for Guillermo Alzugaray?
Almost by chance I found myself playing music in theatre shows, and it’s something that has impressed me. It is a way of bringing the cello music to other types of scenarios or public to which it is not so easy to arrive. In the incoming months I will be embarked on a new project of this type. On the other hand, I am meeting for a long time a couple of cellist friends to prepare a program and take it on tour on various places, but our agendas are a little incompatible… we will have to persevere!