Larry Long Talks About Loving Classical Guitar Music
This entry was posted on January 26, 2016.
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Responsible for bringing classical guitar music to East Tennessee, Mr. Lawrence (Larry) Long is full of excitement talking about his journey as a prominent player, composer and above all teacher. And what fun his stories are to hear!
First he tells that he presumes his classical music training came from playing in the crib at age 3 when his Mother would have soap opera shows on in the next room every day. In those days all the intro and background music was classical!
The family moved from Sevierville to Knoxville for his Dad's grocery store business, and Larry grew up working
in grocery stores during the summers "learning the value of hard work". Larry had started music with the public school music program in Knoxville choosing to start on French Horn in Elementary, changing to Trombone in Middle School and Tuba and the upright Bass in High School. He credits a high school career day with guiding him to decide on a music education major at UT Knoxville. His senior year in high school, Larry went to the All State Band with the Tuba, staying with a family during the program. Their daughter owned a guitar that was never used. Larry asked his Dad to buy the guitar (for $25) when he came and picked him up, and Larry taught himself all the notes in the back seat on the way home. That summer after his senior year, he wanted to concentrate on learning the guitar and take lessons rather than working long hours in the grocery store. His father went thru the roof!! At that time, everyone with long hair was strumming on a guitar, and it was associated with taking drugs. So, asking this of his father was almost like asking if he could take drugs. It was a big NO.
Off to UT Knoxville for Music Degree
Attending UT was great, as Larry got much personal attention from some great teachers. The composition teacher was also conductor of the Knoxville, Symphony - Mr. David Van Vactor urged Larry to join the symphony with his upright bass. Another teacher urged Larry to answer a guitar teacher ad, even though he had only been taking lessons for 3 weeks! And another told him to join the Army Band in Europe to get some experience!
- - Teacher Interview: Larry showed up to the Guitar Teacher interview in a suit and a tie after only having 3 weeks of lessons! This was at the biggest private music school in the country headquartered in Knoxville. They taught lessons for every instrument, but they didn't yet teach guitar. The owner invited all 20 of the guitar players up into a big bedroom. Most of the guys had long hair and genes. Some of them had 20 and 30 years of experience on the guitar. The owner pulled out a music stand and put music on it. Larry was the only one of them that could read music and he got the job!
- - Experience with the Army Band (1958 to 1960): Larry joined the 76th Army Band, the #1 band in Europe stationed just outside of Paris. (In 1960, they moved to Germany). Larry could play any instrument that was needed. They played all over France and it was hard work. They started marching where the US Army had liberated the first town on one coast in WW II. They marched thru the town, then on to the town that was liberated next, and so on. Several guys in the group didn't drink and had to stay behind. In each town the mayor would give them a toast with wine. By the end of the long marching, they were exhausted but happy. Larry played trombone, french horn, and bassoon, flute and piccolo parts on an electric guitar when it was needed for one concert.
Meeting Segovia: After graduation from UT, Larry played upright bass in the Knoxville Orchestra, but liked guitar so much that he taught guitar. In 1962, Segovia came to play with the Knoxville Symphony. That very week, Larry had signed up for classical guitar lessons, but hadn't had his first lesson. In his symphony suit, he walked up to Segovia and asked him which of his 3 guitars he was going to play that evening. Segovia called his wife over who brought his guitar. Segovia handed his guitar to Larry to try! That was a thrill he never forgot, and the concert was an inspiration for learning classical guitar music. Larry took lessons with C. Ivan Maracle from Toronto. Larry says a problem with electric guitar is you always need an accompanist. So classical guitar was very attractive. Larry knew that if he were going to teach classical guitar, students would have to hear it (since there was no you tube in the day). So Larry brought the Guitar Society to East Tennessee. He eventually had 90 guitar students, and had to quit his symphony job after 9 years. He taught Guitar students at UT Knoxville in addition to in a studio private lesson students.
Guitar Society: Larry founded the Oak Ridge-Knoxville Guitar Society bringing in world class classical guitar players. They all stayed at Larry's house for some southern hospitality. Larry was President/Program Director from inception in 1971 to 2002. They had 9 concerts a year, and his wife was an expert publicist producing big crowds. Birdie wrote careful articles for the newspaper with personal performer interviews and gave announcements to several radio stations. Professional Guitar Players coming in from all over the wold usually doesn't happen if you don't live in New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, Paris, London...
Meeting Mr. Sakellariou: One of the visitors Larry welcomed to perform in the Guitar Society was George Sakellariou. Just before he arrived, someone gave Birdie a free pass to a psychic. Jokingly, Larry said he'll go and he did! Amazingly enough, the psychic told him that he would meet someone from California that would make a big difference in his life!! In walks Mr. Sakellariou, a student of Segovia, faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. This man became a lifelong colleague and friend. He later volunteered to record much of Larry's music. Larry has composed and arranged volumes of music. Larry gave me a copy of his Mel Bay book, "Conversation Pieces", consisting of all original classical guitar solos by Lawrence Long for the beginner and intermediate player to enjoy. It comes with a recording of all songs by renowned classical guitar player, George Sakellariou. The recording below is a "Toccata" from Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor arranged for classical guitar by Larry, played by Mr. Sakellariou.
Larry Leaves a Legacy : Mr. Long is very proud of all his students and can remember 18 students who played guitar in college some of whom were on music scholarships. and 13 of his students who became guitar teachers. If you google Lawrence Long on you tube, you will find many people playing recordings of classical guitar music written by him, some of whom, his students. Of all the awards and citations Mr. Long has been awarded, he is most proud of the "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" Award.
What Else? I see some interesting Civil War prints on Larry's wall. Larry and an art professor at UT Knoxville started a civil war group. They made Civil War presentations up and down the east coast. While Professor Dick LeFevre, who eventually produced 32 (stunning and "neutral") Civil War watercolor collages, was the MC, Larry performed music with or without a full band on original Civil War instruments. Larry arranged the music, which was partly background in the presentation, and partly highlighted. He fondly remembers performing with such talented performers as Multi-Instrumentalist, Rachel Schlafer-Parton.