The Paraguayan virtuoso will be in Manila and Cebu for concerts May 15 and May 17 respectively.
Let's up closed and personal to the world's most outstanding female classical guitarists Berta Rojas.
Full name: Berta Beatriz Rojas Benítez
Date of birth: September 23, 1966
Country of birth: Paraguay
Who are your favorite writers, composers?
The great composers of all time, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms….but I always felt a call to perform the work of Latin American emerging composers with whose music I fully identify. Edin Solis, Quique Sinesi, and Julio Cesar Oliva, whose works are included in my latest album "Salsa Roja" are clear examples. This album is true to my essence as a Latin American classical guitarist. In it I sought to explore rhythms and sounds of our America from living composers writing their music today and doing so with a beauty that is totally moving for me. Something similar happens to me with literature; I feel strongly attracted to the work of Latin American writers.
ON YOUR WORK OF ART:
When did you decide to become an artist?
When I started my first steps in music, I considered it a hobby, a fun way to share relaxed time with my brothers and friends. Besides, I had a really good ear and an ability to learn. Being very undisciplined at the time, I didn't glimpse what music would later represent in my life.
Things changed radically when I had the chance to get to know in depth the work of a great artist from my country, someone who despite so many adversities and so much solitude and distance, was able to make his way with effort, tenacity and an iron will. That someone was Agustin Barrios. Discovering his world had a great impact in my life and I can say today it was crucial in making the decision to become an artist.
How would you describe your body of work?
On one side, there is the performer in me, and on the other side there is the artist concerned about the art’s place in society. The human being concerned about music is the vehicle to social change. Initiatives such as the Schools Tour project has allowed me to take Agustin Barrios’s music to more than 26,000 kids and support new talent through competitions like the Barrios WorldWideWeb Competition or the Beatty Competition.
What are the best and worst things about doing what you do?
Being a concert guitarist, in my specific case, a classical guitarist, implies a very large responsibility to the public, which is often extremely demanding. This requires one to be as emotionally stable as possible, something not easily achieved. Many factors can contribute to achieve that inner peace, such as good nutrition, adequate sleeping hours, harmony in the family and in the work team, and a constant search for balance in our inner self.
Even though this career is highly demanding, it has also allowed me to get to know many countries around the world and keep in touch with people from different cultures. I have managed to create bonds through the years that have provided me access to many other opportunities that I have treasured and tried to honor with the best I have to give: my art. Without any doubt, the possibility to see the world with my own eyes is the best part of being an artist.
Where do you find inspiration?
In everyday things, the rain, the sun, smelling the jasmines in my garden….I believe that inspiration has to find you, and if possible, let it find you working.
Career plans and Dream projects?
To be the best musician and person I can be. It is a daily challenge, and the growth opportunities are huge. I always have projects in mind, and I can make many of them real in the short term, others are more ambitious, but they provide the motivation, energy and desire to continue to grow, setting personal goals for myself that I know I can accomplish.
Do you still get nervous?
It is something an artist should learn to live with. The secret is in that magical moment when the audience is open to receive what you have to offer and you feel pleased with it. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, the feeling is indescribable.
Who are your heroes in real life?
“The Unattainable” Agustin Barrios. A true-life example, as a human being and as an artist. My admiration for him grows every day.
Do you have a favorite happy memory in life?
A very happy moment in my life was when we finished our last Tour of Schools, in which we took Agustin Barrios’s music to schools all over Paraguay, when we came to realize that we had reached more than 26.000 students.
Do you have a life philosophy or motto?
“Paint your village and you will paint the whole world”, from Leo Tolstoy. We use this quote from the Russian novelist every year on the Tour of Schools when we visit schools across Paraguay. We bring the life and work of Agustin Barrios Mangoré to the young students who are more and more receptive and eager to learn about his music and what he represents to the Paraguayan culture.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough?
Two things: love and passion for music. It seems that the more difficult the challenge, the greater the desire that drives me to keep going. Even though classical guitar is an instrument that demands many hours of solitude, I have a fantastic working team that helps me to maintain stability and feel contained.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to and where would you still like to go?
Last year during the tour “In the Footsteps of Mangoré” I had the chance to visit Antigua Guatemala, such an exotically beautiful place! I would love to go back any time. French Guiana’s natural beauty has also made an impact on me. Singapore also left me in awe of its stunning architecture and the warmth of its people. I haven’t had a opportunity to visit Africa and Oceania yet but hope to get to these places soon.
What is your favorite non-music hobby?
It has to be cooking. I enjoy a lot experimenting with new recipes, combining flavors and spices in my free time. I recently started experimenting with Thai food and I fell in love with the flavors as well as how healthy the preparations are. My mom is a great cook, and she congratulated me on how delicious the exotic and appealing menu turned out.
What is your greatest luxury/how do you indulge?
Definitely it is my house. Although it is not a luxurious mansion, it is my home, my personal space, my shelter. It is the best place where I can dedicate time to study, rest, and enjoy sharing with my family, or just finding myself.
What's been your most exciting moment so far?
I've had many exciting moments in my life so far! But some of them include the concert I offered with Carlos Barbosa Lima at Carnegie Hall, having the CD Salsa Roja recorded with Paquito D’ Rivera nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2012; the morning the Washington Post defined me as an “extraordinary guitarist”; the night I had the privilege to play the Aranjuez Concert, accompanied by the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra for the Belgian radio with Joaquin Rodrigo’s daughter in attendance. These are just a few unique and unforgettable moments that are probably experienced only once.
Ms. Rojas is tourism ambassador of her native Paraguay, where she happens to be the most popular musician. It is her profile that greets visitors just coming out of the international airport in Asuncion, the country's capital.
The concert in Manila will be at 8 pm in the Meralco Theater. The concert in Cebu will be at 8 pm in the Marcelo Fernan Hall in Lahug. Jointly organized by the Independent Philippine Art Ventures, Inc., and the Arts Council of Cebu Foundation, the concerts will be the classical guitar events of the year in the country.
Special guests for the Manila concert are Ramoncito Carpio, the country's most internationally awarded classic guitarist and Triple Fret, a trio composed of Marga Abejo, Jenny de Vera, and Iqui Vinculado. Triple Fret play classical and more accessible pieces.
For ticket inquiries, call Ticketworld at 891.9999
Hope to see you in Meralco theater this coming May 15,2014