Since moving to Whidbey Island last year, Andre Feriante and his Spanish guitar have gotten around.
Besides playing at wine bars and community events, he’s donated his time and talent toward various nonprofit fundraisers. Now, he’s ready to throw a full-scale guitar festival that he hopes to make an annual event. Over three days, Aug. 10-12, the many voices of the guitar will be featured as performers gather at Comforts of Whidbey winery and Dancing Fish Vineyards. The festival is designed for both those who love to play guitar and those who just love to listen.
Feriante plays multiple instruments, including harp guitar, ukulele, nylon string banjo, charango, and most recently, the oud and tar. He’s been described as a crossover artist in the vein of YoYo Ma or Sting. Feriante was recently a featured speaker in a TEDx Talk about the healing qualities of music.
This week, Feriante took time off from frantic festival preparations to answer questions.
Q: What’s your vision for the guitar festival?
A: I wanted to build a festival around the idea of bringing different types of music lovers together under the same roof. I also like the idea of having various types of guitar players share the stage and spend time together. There will be many musical styles: flamenco-fusion, jazz, Americana, Indian traditional, Latin, folk blues, gypsy jazz — classical to contemporary. We have a great lineup. The visiting players are from around the Northwest and beyond. The beautiful thing is all of the artists have a story of how the guitar chose them and how the guitar has taken them to many places and audiences.
Q: I’ve read you’ve put on guitar festivals around Washington. Tell me about them.
A: I call it Guitar Euphoria, and I’ve held a series of concerts. In 2015, it was held at Icicle Creek Center for the Arts in Leavenworth. I was the musical director for the festival and we had workshops, concerts, guitar yoga and other fun stuff. In 2016, it was pretty simple and held at the Triple Door in Seattle. We had two nights of concerts. In 2017, I was new to the island and the concerts were held in a barn on the property where I lived.
Q: How did the guitar become your instrument of choice?
A: The guitar first spoke to me in a major way as a 13 year old. I was born in Naples, Italy to an Italian father and American mother. I was going to the Overseas School of Rome where I heard my first flamenco concert. There was a gypsy flamenco player in the town were we lived, Emilio, and he taught me my first Spanish guitar lessons. I heard the recordings of Andres Segovia and then began studying with a well-known classical guitarist in Rome, Henry Rivas from Bogota, Colombia. At age 17, I went to Bogota to study with Mr. Rivas where I also performed concerts and on national radio. When I was 21, I got accepted to perform and study with Maestro Segovia in a master class in Madrid.
Q: How did you end up in the Northwest?
A: My mother is from a little town in Eastern Washington called Sunnyside. I moved from Rome to Yakima when I was 17. I lived in Seattle for 27 years and performed at private clubs, wineries, fine dining rooms. I also traveled and played concerts in the Northwest, around the U.S. and once every couple of years, in Europe. Also, every February for 20 years, I’ve performed a concert at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.
Q: Did you go through different artistic periods or interests?
A: I moved to Seattle in 1989 and a couple years later, began a major change in my artistic direction and development, a “coming into my own” so to speak. I began painting, writing poetry and composing music for the guitar. My philosophy of art moved from the classical, traditional mindset to one of music simply being sound communication, an open language. My early days in Seattle were very meaningful and magical and set me on my current lifetime quest for knowledge through beauty and listening.
— Whidbey Island Guitar Festival: Aug. 10-11 at Comforts Winery in Langley (Friday, 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 4-8 p.m.) and Aug. 12 at Dancing Fish Vineyards in Freeland (Sunday, 2-6 p.m.) For schedule and tickets: www.facebook.com/WhidbeyIslandGuitarFestival