Greg Dinger Redefines Classical Guitar Music

Dinger has spent years as an educator and performer. For his concert, he combined both of these things to leave the audience better informed. “Musical Pairs for the Classical Guitar” took place at Shepard Recital Hall last Thursday, Feb. 28. Dinger is a music professor here at SUNY New Paltz.

When most people hear the word “classical” they think of grand, sweeping orchestras and Beethoven-like conductors in a foppish powdered wig. They think of all the instruments that are played at classical concerts, like violins, violas, cellos, trumpets, trombones, so on and so forth. Very few people think of an instrument like the acoustic guitar being played in a classical manner. 

However, that simply isn’t the case. On Thursday, Feb. 28, adjunct professor Greg Dinger performed a series of musical pairs from the classical guitar’s five hundred year history in the aptly named “Musical Pairs for the Classical Guitar.” Dinger played pieces by Johann Bach, Agustin Barrios and Leo Brouwer among others. Some of the pieces had been rearranged for the guitar. The concert was held at the Shepard Recital Hall at 8 p.m. A pre-show discussion was also held there at 5 p.m.

Dinger has been a part of the New Paltz faculty ever since 1988, and received his education at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. As stated on the program flyer, Dinger has trained with “internationally famous virtuosi Manuel Barrueco, Eliot Fisk, Frederic Hand, Sharon Isbin and Christopher Parkening.” Dinger also teaches at SUNY Ulster, Bard College, the Music Institute of Sullivan and Ulster Counties and privately at his home.

The main concept of the concert was for Dinger to play paired pieces of classical guitar music. Some of the pieces were originally written as pairs, while others were paired together based on how they sounded together. For the performance, Dinger not only wanted to present these classical pieces to the New Paltz community, but also have it be a learning experience. 

“The premise was pairs of pieces, and it just sort of worked out rather well to cover the history of the guitar. Sort of kill two birds with one stone,” Dinger said. “And that’s a pretty standard thing with classical guitar; start with early music and go to the present.”

To achieve that balance between art and education, Dinger provided the audience with packets of the piece’s sheet music so that they could follow along with what he played. Dinger also explained the history of a piece, it’s author and what stage of development classical guitar was at during its conception between pieces. He kept the audience informed as much as possible during the show, making it easy to follow classical guitar’s history with him. Dinger went even deeper into this history during the pre-show discussion, which was requested by New Paltz’s concert committee.

The pre-show discussion gave Dinger the opportunity to go in-depth with the pieces in a way that he couldn’t have during the concert. 

“I think with compositions, people don’t realize there’s more to them than just ‘somebody gets up there and plays a bunch of nice notes successfully,’ there’s stuff going on,” Dinger said. “So it was kind of interesting demonstrating that to people. But, I wouldn’t want to take up too much concert time with that.”

As for the performance itself, Dinger played each piece masterfully, changing styles at the drop of a hat as he went through the guitar’s history. From the humble beginnings during the Renaissance with “Balleto and Volta” by Michael Praetorius to the Baroque stylings of Bach with his “Sarabande and Double” and finally ending with chaotic, contemporary, dual movements of “Elogio de la Danza” by Leo Brouwer. Dinger played earnestly, diligently and with the discipline of a seasoned expert.

Terri Vargas, a second-year music major, is glad that Dinger is bringing this kind of music to campus, and feels that it does something for the people on campus. 

“Greg’s actually my teacher, and I came out to support him,” Vargas said. “Music in general enriches, [it] activates all parts of the brain. It doesn’t do anything for [people] unless they don’t want it to.”

Dinger hopes that students leave the show with an expanded idea “of what’s possible and what has already happened on the guitar.”

“I tend to think we’re smothered by pop-culture… so it’s good to know that there’s other stuff,” Dinger continued, “And we’re so smothered by electronic everything… but for a long time in human history there was no electronic anything. Most of this music is pre-electronic, and it’s just good to know that. It doesn’t make it better or worse. It’s just good to have horizons expanded.”