Guitar Fest Brings in Musicians from Coast to Coast this Weekend

Posted: August 20, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

People are coming from all over to the Potomac Music Academy’s final program of the summer-the Guitar Fest and Seminar-but none will work so hard to get here as performer and teacher Gray Snead. Braving rain and muscle aches, sleeping on the ground, and biking an average of 85 miles each day, Snead rode in a coast-to-coast bike ride raising money for the American Lung Association (ALA) in honor of classical guitarist Charlie Byrd, who died of lung cancer in 1999.

Snead, who ended his 3,300-mile ride last weekend, will perform Sunday, Aug. 22, with fellow musicians Cory Blake and Rodger Bennett in an evening concert of the Guitar Fest. He will be accompanied on piano by McLean Symphony Orchestra conductor Dingwall Fleary.

Good friends with George Mason music professor and classical guitarist Larry Snitzler, Snead decided to ride for the ALA in honor of Byrd, who had performed with Snitzler in the Washington Guitar quintet for many years. “I personally have not lost anyone to lung cancer,” says Snead, a doctoral student in the Community College Education program at George Mason. “But I know many people who are addicted to smoking, including my brother. Larry [Snitzler] also lost some dear friends to lung cancer. I decided to ride in memory of all of those people and for all the people I met along the ride who also lost people to the disease.”

Snead raised more than $6,000 for the ALA when he rode into Washington, D.C., with his fellow bikers on Saturday, stopping at the Lincoln Memorial. “I’ve never done a long distance ride like this before,” says Snead. “But I like to help people and get involved, and this seemed like the best ride to participate in.”

Now that he’s back, Snead is busy preparing for the festival, which will take place this Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday. Master classes, performances, and lectures will fill the schedule, and each night will end with a concert by renowned classical guitarists. Saturday’s performance will highlight Berta Rojas, a world-famous guitarist from Paraguay. The festival will culminate on Tuesday with a performance by Snitzler, who will play a mixture of classical, Brazilian, and jazz pieces from composers such as Malats, Weiss, Byrd, Jobim, and Pernambuco. Renowned vibraphonist Chuck Redd will join Snitzler in the second half of his performance.

This is the first time the Potomac Music Academy will host a classical guitar festival, and Snitzler knows it will not be the last. “We are planning on expanding the program for next year and will include classes specifically tailored to public high school teachers,” he says. “There are great things happening with music in this area. Summer is not a time for musical absence-there are festivals and workshops springing up everywhere, and it’s exciting for George Mason University to be a part of that.”

For more information, call the Department of Music at 703-993-1380, or e-mail

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