Interview with Nina Fourie-Gouws for The Art of Guitar Concert Series, by Sheryl Deane

When did you start learning the guitar and who taught you?

I was in grade 4 when I saw our primary schools’ “strum-and-hum” guitar group perform in assembly. It was love at first sight! It took some convincing but a week later my parents finally gave in and bought me a guitar at the local pawn shop and I started with my first group lessons playing chords. One week later I performed for the first time in the school concert. I was like a duck to water. A few months later a family friend’s son played ‘Spanish Romance’ on my guitar, while he was visiting my parents workshop, and I was completely mesmerized! I copied what he played, note-for-note from memory and thus my journey as a classical guitarist started.

Abri Jordaan was my undergrad guitar lecturer at the University of Pretoria and James Grace my postgrad lecturer at the South African College of Music, UCT. In 2012 I was invited to partake and perform in the Volterra Project Summer School in Tuscany, Italy. The Volterra Project is an innovative classical guitar training school offering a 360 degree formative course with highest level guitar master classes, music physiology training, and arts business management seminars. The 2012 course included guitar masterclasses and lectures from a former Guitar Foundation of America winner, Antigoni Goni, as well as Carlos Barbosa-Lima. Business Seminars with Christine Lim and Music Physiology with Eva Pareyn. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have received masterclasses from a large number of famous concert guitarists and pedagogues, including Carlos Bonell (Royal College of music in London), Nikita Koshkin (Russia), Craig Ogden (Australia), Aldo la Grutta (Venezuela), Marco Tamayo (Cuba), Štěpán Rak (Czech Republic), Victor Villadangos (Argentina), Goran Krivokapic (Montenegro), Antigoni Goni (Greece) and Giuseppe Ficara (Italy).

What made you choose the guitar over any other instrument?

I think the guitar chose me! I’ve played many instruments over the years (flute was my second instrument at high school but I also played violin, recorder, trumpet and trombone in the school ensembles!) but guitar has always been my first great love.

What is your favorite guitar piece or composer?

I love Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. To me it feels like the soundtrack to my life. I’ve always loved JS Bach as well as Leo Brouwer.

How much time does it take to learn to play the guitar?

“To master something, you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it.” This concept is from Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, about famous and successful people and what makes them different to others. The idea that it takes approximately 10 000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. For instance, it would take 10 years of practising 3 hours a day to become a master in your subject. It would take approximately 5 years of full-time employment to become an expert in your field. Although it’s not an exact science I do believe in it. But remember, practice doesn’t make perfect… PERFECT practice makes perfect. Otherwise you’re just cementing in your mistakes!

How long does it take to prepare for a concert?

I have a few larger works which take months to study and practice, even years to develop fully but I always include new pieces which take less time to prepare. Being a performer means that you are constantly working on old and new concert repertoire. So in short, I’m constantly preparing!