SGS Newsletter for January 2024




SGS Orchestra Rehearsal 2024

Hello Orchestra members! Please note the rehearsal schedule has been modified slightly from the 2023 schedule. Still at the Clara, on the 3rd Sunday month.


12:30-2:30pm: SGSO Intermediate

2:30-4:30pm: SGSO Advanced


These times include a ten minute window at the beginning for setting up. Please be ready to play on time to maximize rehearsal time and check in with Sean if you have any questions.

Jason Vieaux Concert in Grass Valley



Classical Duo


Grass Valley, CA: On Sunday, January 21 at 2pm, InConcert Sierra presents Grammy Award-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux and French superstar accordionist and bandoneonist, Julien Labro.


Jason Vieaux is the Grammy-winning co-founder of the guitar department at the Curtis Institute of Music and is recognized as "among the elite of today’s classical guitarists" -Gramophone. NPR has described him as "perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation."

Acclaimed by the Chicago Tribune as "the upcoming accordion star, "Julien Labro has solidified his position as a leading accordion and bandoneón player in both classical and jazz genres. Described as "a triple threat" for his brilliance, poetic melodic sensibility, and clever arranging, Labro has garnered international acclaim for his artistry, virtuosity, and creativity as a musician, composer, and arranger.


“I'm looking forward to returning to InConcert Sierra. This time I'll be performing with the wonderful bandoneon and accordion virtuoso, Julien Labro. You're going to love this incredible musician if you haven't heard him already. I've been collaborating with Julien for 15 years now, and we made a couple of terrific albums on Azica Records together. We're going to play works by Piazzolla, some Bach solos, some Pat Metheny, a work by Julien from his “Double Concerto” that I premiered with him, and there's some cool encore music in the bag as well,” said Vieaux.


A few highlights of the January 21 program will be the four-movement “Histoire du Tango” by Astor Piazzolla, who devoted his life to advancing and nurturing tango as a serious art form; 

20-time Grammy-winning guitarist/composer Pat Metheny’s beautiful and passionate “Antonia”;

solos for both Jason and Julien by J.S. Bach; Piazzolla’s “Escualo” and “Libertango,” arranged by Labro; and Dino Saluzzi’s charming “Minguito.”


There will be a pre-concert forum at 1:15pm. For additional information and tickets, please visit or contact us at 530-273-3990.


InConcert Sierra is a Nevada County nonprofit organization that presents concerts featuring the world's leading and emerging classical musicians and produces its own Sierra Master Chorale and InConcert Sierra Orchestra concerts, with robust educational opportunities for all ages.



What:     Guitarist Jason Vieaux and Accordionist/Bandoneonist Julien Labro

When:    Sunday, January 21, 2024, at 2pm (1:15pm Pre-concert Forum)

Where:   12889 Osborne Hill Road, Grass Valley, CA (Seventh-day Church)

Tickets:    $48 general, youth under 18 free

Appreciating Sean O'Connor

SGS Guitar Orchestra Conductor

The Sacramento Guitar Society would like to recognize the excellent service that Sean O'Connor has been providing a conductor to our community orchestras over the past decade. His dedication to creating a welcoming an musically inspiring atmosphere is a huge part of what our community thrives upon. His tireless efforts have been greatly appreciated and valued by so many. Thank you Sean!

Here is a little Q&A interview with Sean to share his background and journey with the guitar. Enjoy!

Sean, tell us about your journey with the guitar.

I officially started playing during my freshman year of high school in 1995, when I took a beginning guitar class offered as an elective. I never imagined back then that my journey would lead me to become a professional musician and teacher, let alone one who is releasing an album this year (more on that later). Mel Bay's Modern Guitar Method is what we had to work with, so I started reading music right away, for which I'm very grateful. Of course, I also picked up a lot of tips from my classmates, some of whom were not beginners and signed up to have an excuse to play guitar at school. I was hooked, and continued taking music classes through the rest of high school, including jazz band and choir. I also played electric guitar in a very heavy metal band that never went beyond playing a backyard concert or two, and did a lot of noodling and jamming with friends.

When it came time for college, the only major I could imagine enjoying was music. So I majored in classical guitar performance at CSUS, studying with Richard Savino, and eventually graduating Magna cum Laude. During this time I also studied lute for a couple semesters, which planted the seeds of fascination with early music and multi-string guitars. I also started teaching privately while still in college, picking up teaching gigs through a program called Community Music Division, and later starting to teach at Music-Go-Round and Kline Music, thanks to my friend and colleague Joshua Ray's referral.

Since graduating, I've been teaching 40-50 private students per week. In addition, I've played solo classical guitar gigs and concerts, and also played in two rock bands. I joined SGS in the early 2010s while taking lessons from Daniel Roest, who helped me recover my classical chops after a long period of focusing on electric guitar. Daniel got me coming out to see what the group was all about, playing at open mics and in the orchestra, and I was hooked. At that time, the orchestra was under the direction of Greg Williams. I took over the orchestra director gig in 2014 and have been having a blast doing it ever since.

On the teaching end, I taught at both stores for a while, but eventually moved exclusively to Music-Go-Round because it was closer to my home. In 2013, that store went out of business, so I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, rented an office space in the neighborhood, and started my own independent music teaching practice. I've been flying solo ever since, and loving it, despite the challenges of running my own business.

The latest step in my guitar journey has been learning (and eventually recording an album on) the 11-string alto guitar, an instrument invented in the 1960s by two Swedish gentlemen. Georg Bolin, a luthier, created the design in collaboration with guitarist Per-Olaf Johnson. Johnson wanted an instrument he could use to play lute music, but using guitar technique. So Bolin redesigned the classical guitar, giving it a shorter scale, raising the tuning up a minor third (three frets), and adding five extended bass strings that were tuned down step-wise from the sixth. This gave it a tuning similar to an eleven string tenor lute, specifically g-d-a-F-C-G for the main six strings, and then down step-wise for the extended basses, typically F-Eb-D-C-Bb, but often adjusted to match the key of the piece. You play the extended bass strings only as open strings, with the right hand thumb, similar to a harp guitar. One of the especially cool things about Bolin's design is that the extended basses increase in scale length progressively, so you don't have to use big thick strings as you would on a ten or seven-string guitar. Instead, you use more "low E" strings and they work just fine.

I discovered this instrument in 2016 via YouTube, where I stumbled across Göran Söllscher playing pieces by Bach and Weiss. I was instantly captivated by the full, clear sound of the instrument, and its expanded range. My friend and colleague, Matthew Grasso, encouraged me to go for it, and in 2017 I took the plunge. Since then I've learned a great deal of repertoire, the bulk of it being lute music, but some in the form of arrangements, and original pieces by Matthew Grasso and myself. I've since played many concerts and gigs with it, some solo, and some with Matt's Multi-String Guitar Ensemble in Davis.

In September of 2022, I began recording my first full-length album on the instrument, again with Matt's help (he did the audio engineering and co-produced). It's called Journey to Eleven, and releases on 12-11-23. It's comprised of lute repertoire by Giovanni Zamboni and Sylvius Leopold Weiss, Göran Söllscher's transcription of the Sarabande and Gavottes from Bach's sixth 'cello suite, and my own transcription of Couperin's Les Barricades Mystérieuses. I'm very proud of it. It's available via BandCamp here. The download/streaming package has been up since 11/1. The CD and CD+streaming+download package will be up as soon as the CD shipment gets to me, which may happen before this is published. I'm also very happy to announce that I'll be doing an album release show and party at Cal Cap Black Box theater in Rancho Cordova on January 13.

What drew you to the classical guitar style, repertoire?

It all started with my grandfather, and John Williams. Grandpa lent me a cassette of John Williams album "Spanish Guitar Music" when I was a senior in high school, and it had a huge impact on me. I always enjoyed playing alone, and discovering that it was possible to play a complete piece music with melody, harmony, and bass on a guitar completely blew my mind. That's when the quest began. I also loved the depth of feeling that came from the Spanish repertoire, and had always been captivated by the big classical composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Learning that this type of music could be played on the guitar got me very excited.

Name a few pieces that are very special to you and why?

Carulli's Waltz in E minor was one of the first two classical pieces I learned, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Weiss's G minor Chaconne was the piece that drew me in to playing the 11-string alto guitar, and it's on the album for that reason. I absolutely adore that piece's melancholy feel, and rich contrapuntal texture. Finally, Bach's first 'cello suite was the first full baroque suite I ever learned, and I still go back to it for the beautiful melodies and incredibly clever melodic counterpoint. These are just examples, though. Every piece I've played is special to me in some way or another.

What makes a good student?  Teacher?

I think the qualities are the same for both. Hard work, clear communication, empathy, and a collaborative spirit. I believe that the adversarial style of teaching often portrayed in Hollywood is the worst possible approach, aside from total apathy. There is a relationship between the teacher and student that I feel should be based on trust and mutual respect. You don't establish that through bullying or emotional manipulation. As a teacher, you try to guide your students to the habits you want them to form by making the path forward as clear as possible, but they have to walk that path.

What goes in to orchestra piece selection?

The first concern is, will this be rewarding to play? That means the piece must be musically interesting, and also within the technical capacity of the players. The other thing I try to do, with varying degrees of success, is create a program for each season that is either thematic or has an interesting variety of pieces, so that we can keep both audience and performers engaged.

10 years in now, what have you learned, and what keeps you coming back?

I've learned a great deal about leadership, in particular leading by example. The harder I work as the director, the more motivated my players are. It's generally pretty obvious to people when you are invested in something, and they tend to respond in kind. I've also greatly improved my conducting and arranging skills along the way, which is very valuable to me.

What keeps me coming back? Mostly it's the people. When you play music together, and put on a performance, there are bonds that form between people that you just don't get any other way. We have a lot of fun in rehearsals, but the biggest reward is hearing the improvement as we go through each season, then giving that big performance at the end and giving everybody a metaphorical (or literal) high-five. It's immensely satisfying.

Thank you Sean for your great service to the SGS and our guitar community.

SGS Hosted Event Presenting Adriana Ratsch-Rivera to the Clara

Saturday March 23rd @ 3:00 PM - 4:15 PM

SGS welcomes Adriana Ratsch-Rivera to the Clara for a concert performance including the inspiring pieces and their stories.

Where: Saturday 3/23/24 at the Clara Auditorium 3pm to 4:15pm performance


“Inspiring Guitar Pieces and their Stories” is a captivating program that delves into the rich and timeless compositions of four influential guitar maestros: J.S. Bach, Fernando Sor, Francisco Tárrega, and Heitor Villa-Lobos. This musical journey not only showcases notable guitar pieces of these masters but also unveils the fascinating stories and inspirations behind each piece.

Short Bio:

Adriana Rätsch-Rivera, born and raised in Berlin, Germany, had a strong interest in music from an early age and gravitated toward the guitar in her early teens. At first, she was mostly self-taught but in her late teens she studied with Dimitry Nikitos from Athens in Stuttgart for two years before she moved to the United States. She became a music major at the University of Hawaii with a guitar music scholarship and studied with Charles Michael Brotman and Dr. Byron Yasui. Encouraged by her guitar professors, she participated in Masterclasses with the Classical Guitar Society of Hawaii and played for some respected guitarists: George Sakellariou, Ricardo Iznaola, Jeffrey Van and the late Carlos Barbosa-Lima. After her graduation, she performed for Art Exhibitions at Honolulu City Hall (Honolulu Hale), The Art Loft and Dance Performances at the University Theatre, Fiesta Latina and Jones-Ludin Dance Center. After she graduated, she moved to California and went to California State University, Hayward (now East Bay) where she concentrated in Music History and Literature and won several awards for her research on Ludwig van Beethoven. Among her personal performing highlights, she counts the performance of the Vivaldi Concerto in D, KV 93 at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston for three nights. In California she continued her performing engagements first at the Holiday Inn, Fairfield, and then at various Bay Area venues like the Geyser, Botanical Gardens, Art Galleries, Cafés, wineries and churches. She taught at Contra Costa College and more recently, she did a Master’s Recital at Napa Valley College where she was the director of guitar studies until 2020 when she retired and started to concentrate on teaching privately and performing.

Some of her music can be heard at:



Guitars 4 Vets Program

SGS has partnered with the Guitars 4 Vets program! Our instructors are offering 10 free lessons to veterans with PTSD who have passed a course with the program. Loaner guitars can be provided as needed.

Whether you are thinking about joining the program yourself, know someone who might, or just want to support the program financially, be sure to click the link below!

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Keep the Music Going

Have you been enjoying watching or participating in the Guitar Orchestras and their concerts? The Sacramento Guitar Society's Community Guitar Orchestras, and programs are funded by the generosity of our members. Please donate whatever you are able to keep the music going! Your donations are tax-deductible.

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