When Michael Lawrence, maker of the new documentary Aaron Shearer: A Life with the Guitar, explained to me that Mr. Shearer told him he left out two things in his film, one of those things was Ricardo Cobo. Mr. Shearer said that Cobo was possibly his best student.
I would think that most of us have heard of Ricardo Cobo but as far as I’m concerned there are many guitarists that are better known that are not his equal. What can I say but he is one of my favorite guitarists of all time.
I have never heard a recording that so mated all components, the player/material, guitar, space and engineer/producer than Latin American Guitar Music performed by Cobo on Naxos.
GUITARRA MAGAZINE: Coming from Colombia, a culture so different from that of the U.S., how did you become interested in the classical guitar?
RICARDO COBO: Before I played guitar, I was already immersed in the piano by the time I was six years old. My mother, a terrific pianist, loved music and instilled in me a fascination for music as far back as I can remember. Colombia’s “culture” was quite different when I was growing up. It was more deeply rooted in European and Iberian traditions than American culture. Hence, the only existing music schools or conservatories were patterned after traditional European-French models complete with solfège, theory, ensemble, and lots of one-to-one lessons. In addition to my studies in the Conservatory, I was also attending a bilingual high school, which had no real music program.
RICARDO COBO describes his present hometown in Las Vegas as a competitive environment, yet he finds that the challenge, along with the climate, suits him. If you take a look at Cobo’s overall career trajectory, it’s clear that he has never been shy about laying down a solid foundation while maintaining the intent to carve out his own path.
‘The guitar scene in Cali was small,’ he says. ‘It was small then and still is now, so I decided to study in the United States. The Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore was my first choice because I wanted to study with a recognized teacher like Aaron Shearer, whom I eventually followed to the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. I had an F-l visa at the time which allowed me to remain in the US as a student. After I finished my graduate and Doctoral work with Bruce Holzman I was awarded an “Extraordinary ability” Visa which enabled me to work and perform freely.’Cobo began his studies at the Antonio Maria Valencia Conservatory in Colombia when he was 13 years old and recalls taking a class from Abel Carlevaro in Bogota.
Given today’s climate – when Hispanic in many people’s minds means “Mexican” and Mexican means “illegal” – Colombian guitarist Ricardo Cobo’s sold-out concert Tuesday night at UNLV’s Doc Rando Hall somehow acquired added meaning.
Not that Cobo crafted his nearly all-Latin American program with any stated political intent.
But cultural displays from an artist with the talent and sensibility of the sort Cobo possesses have a way of making a point sometimes, beyond the beauty of the displays themselves.