El Maestro

Antonio Joaquin Arizaga (1959-) Renaissance Man – Desert Sun Article

Arizaga can’t remember a time before the guitar was a part of his life. As a young child he was often at the home of his grandmother, who owned a restaurant/bar on the waterfront in San Pedro CA,PROOF Anthony A 6 28 2014   -2762 where he would hear the rich intoxicating sounds of the “Trios Romanticos” which featured the high pitched “Requinto” guitar complementing the beautiful 3 part harmony vocals with virtuosic guitar embellishment, and at home his mother often played this and many other types of records, nearly always including guitar, on the old tube magnavox. When his aunt played for him a record of the famous flamenco guitarist“Sabicas” he was deeply affected. So when grandma, in an effort to slow down the precocious Antoniño produced a dusty guitar from the closet, it was love at first sight and his fate was sealed. They were inseparable and he was soon trying to play everything he could by ear. By age 15, he began to study the standard classical guitar repertoire and to compose his own works. He was accepted into the California Institute of the Arts at age 17. Soon he was playing master classes with George Sakellario, Julian Bream, Pepe and Angel Romero, and flamenco guitarist Mario Escudero.

Soon after he began to study privately with a number of teachers including Jack Sanders and Stewart Fox at the California Institute of the Arts -Valencia, Gunnar Eisel at Citrus College, and after playing a master class for Pepe and Angel Romero (of Los Romeros-Royal Family of the Guitar), he was accepted as a private student of Pepe Romero in his home in Del Mar, California.

Romero was an old school hard line Maestro. At their first meeting Romero said to him (referring to the masterclass at which they met) “I was hard on you- I knew you had talent and I wanted to shake you up” To which Arizaga replied “I’m here, I’m ready” At the first lesson, Romero commanded Arizaga to memorize all 25 progressive and melodious etudes by Mateo Carcassi. (no easy task) “When you can play any of them I ask, in any order, by memory, then I will see you again.” In three months time the assignment was completed to the satisfaction of the Maestro, the lessons continued…

By 1982 Arizaga found himself the sole support of a family of 4. Armed with only a guitar and the knowledge he had the good fortune to have acquired, he be began to perform every where he could, his family nevflamenco_ber went hungry. A typical day during this time period; repair musical instruments at the local music shop 4 hrs, teach private students 4 hrs, perform at local venues, clubs, restaurants, etc, 4 hrs, go home and practice into the night, 4 hrs. These 16 hr days were nearly always 7 days a week and went on for almost 20 years. In the same year he began to work at “the Fret House” in Covina Ca he filled a vacancy as a musical instrument repair technician though he had no prior knowledge. He learned fast, his family had to eat, and the work for a young classical guitarist was unsteady at best. His time at the music shop saw a ten fold increase of repair job income for the store . The knowledge he acquired, latter would be called upon when he began to hand make his own fine Spanish classical guitars, in 2006.

In 1974 he taught his first private music lesson at the local music shop, and right away was recruited as a guitar, piano, accordion and banjo teacher at the age of 14. He has been teaching nonstop ever since, crediting his success as a sought after teacher to the fact that he never lost touch with how it felt to be a beginner and has been helping beginners constantly for 40 years now. While many teachers never actually teach throughout their entire education, Arizaga was guiding people on their musical journey from the start, giving him a special empathy that has endeared him to hundreds if not thousands of students over the years.

In 1989 he began to focus on traditional flamenco and accompanying the Flamenco dance company Village Dance Arts, in Claremont, California. He learned more about flamenco guitar from the class’ former accompanist, Tony Triana.

In 1996 Arizaga began an appointment as professor of guitar at College of the Desert in Palm Desert Ca. He continued to perform every chance he could and began performing internationally. Also during this time he began making recordings which as of the date of this article, number 18, and published a bilingual guitar method book “Viva La Guitarra”WEB size-_MG_3350-2-Edit Recently Arizaga has spent the Summers since 2007 to present in Spain researching, studying, and performing in a never ending quest to approach mastery of the elegant beauty of the tradition of Spanish guitar, and to do what he can to bring back and share the knowledge acquired by his life altering time in Spain. In his most recent trips to Spain, Arizaga has had the honor of being mentored by one of the greatest living guitarists in Spain, José Marîa Gallardo del Rey and admits that he will eternally be indebted to him for his most generous guidance. Arizaga continues to practice, perform and record, the traditional flamenco guitar music of Niño Ricardo, Ramon Montoya, Paco Pena, Juan Serrano, Sabicas , Juan Martin and others, and the classical guitar music of Spain from renaissance masters Milán, Narvaez and Mudarra through 20th century composers Turina, de Falla, Granados, Rodrigo, etc. Arizaga continues his professorship at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California, and also teaches privately at his home in La Quinta Ca.

“Antonio Joaquin Arizaga has had a long and illustrious career as a performer, recording artist and music educator. Maestro Arizaga’s mastery of the Spanish Guitar indicates devotion and respect for this art form, which dates back centuries. His live concert repertoire includes dramatic and brilliantly executed performances of Spanish guitar pieces as well as expressive arrangements and extraordinary performances of popular adult contemporary selections. Arizaga has matured into a well rounded and seasoned performer who never fails to leave an audience astonished at what one man and one guitar can do.” -Lifedance Records Portland Or
“Arizaga has recorded numerous CD’s, performs internationally, has a reputation as an inspiring teacher and is an avid musical scholar.” -San Gabriel Tribune
“Arizaga has achieved the resonant and lyrical touch that coaxes from the guitar an authentic and breathtaking sound. Dazzling execution of challenging finger-work graces every song in his repertoire.” -Los Angeles Times
“Flamenco artist, Antonio Joaquin Arizaga, carries the listener through time and space, gracing the stage with ancient music of Spain, much to the delight of his audiences. The range of nuance he elicits from the guitar demonstrates virtuosic technique and intuitive insight into the spirit of the music that is truly breathtaking to experience. Arizaga goes beyond mere technical excellence. Through every brilliant musical showstopper breathes the ineffable angst of the Spanish soul.” – Luna Park, Beverly Hills.”
“Antonio Joaquin Arizaga has roots and influences that span classical, flamenco and popular music. With an exceptional ability to uncover the best qualities in any piece of music and reveal them to his audiences, Sr. Arizaga always provides a show that opens the ears and hearts of the listener{s} to the real beauty of music. He does this as naturally as only a prodigious talent can, and , using and improvised flamenco style, creates an evening of music that is both unique and exciting.” -“Fret House” concert release, Covina Ca
“An incredible musician who plays both Flamenco & Classical guitar. He played a great Tarantas for The Flamenco Society of Northern California in San Jose in 1995. The audience responded with a “bleeding palms” ovation which lasted for several minutes and afterwards the late Anita Sheer said “I had no idea he was that good”. Aficionados talked about his performance for months whether in my store or at subsequent juergas. “Wasn’t that guy from L.A. great!”. At that time Anthony acquired the 1980 Manuel Reyes Flamenco Guitar from my store which he uses on this recording (Dos Almas de España). Randy Osborn – Fine Fretted String Instruments, San Jose Ca
“On his CD ‘heart of a Gypsy’ Arizaga plays Traditional Flamenco solo guitar in the virtuoso style of the ‘Golden Age’ of Flamenco. Not to be confused with modern nuevo quasi flamenco, this album is full of the original passion of authentic flamenco.” -Amazon
El Maestro Don Arizaga and soulful interpretations have been a constant source of joy in my life! His playing breaths of the passions of La España! Viva La Guitarra! -Don Edgardo Antonio de Casanova y Martinez