Brendan Evans’ life as a guitarist started out with something small: A toy guitar, smaller than the standard instrument, and instruction at home from his mother, starting at age 7.
Because he started early, he understands the struggles of his youngest students: the guitar is awkward to hold and difficult for small hands to play, and playing it frequently develops callouses on players’ fingers. “It’s not what I’d call an ergonomic instrument,” he says.
In spite of that, Evans kept at it during his youth, taking private lessons during high school. “I got serious about it in college,” he says, inspired in part by hearing his teacher playing classical guitar.
“I’d never heard anything so beautiful coming from a guitar,” he says.
Since those days, he has dived into the guitar’s diverse repertoire, which spans more than five centuries. Earlier this year, he spent several weeks in Switzerland working on guitar music from the Renaissance, studying with early-music experts and learning, in his words, “to loosen up my interpretation.” He also has a deep love of flamenco – Spanish guitar music that he calls “some of the happiest music I’ve ever played” – and has spent time in Spain immersing himself in it.
It’s interesting, then, that Evans was drawn to teaching an instrument played by so many who are self-taught. It’s only natural, he says. “I’ve always had teachers, so I’ve always been part of that world.”
In his teaching, he says he looks forward to moments “when students surprise you with the work they’ve done.” He noted one student from Camden who, over the summer, grew out her fingernails in the style of classical guitarists. She seems ready for a big leap forward musically, like Evans was during college.
From his years of performing, Evans recalls sensational, almost out-of-body experiences where he has felt the transcendence of performing; in a sense, because he knows this feeling is possible, he wants to help others reach the point where they can experience it. In these moments, he says, “you can feel it when the struggle stops and music-making begins.”