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Music Professor Wins Award for Research and Scholarship

KEENE, N.H. 4/4/03 - José Lezcano, professor of music at Keene State, began playing guitar at age 10. He loves the instrument because “it is so flexible,” he says. “It can take on so many accents.”

Lezcano is the third recipient of the KSC Award for Faculty Distinction in Research and Scholarship. The award, presented last year to William Doreski, professor of English, and the previous year to Jerry Jasinski, professor of chemistry, recognizes contributions to scholarship at Keene State.

A member of the Music Department at KSC since 1991, Lezcano says that scholarship is an essential part of being a faculty member at Keene State. A classical guitarist by training, Lezcano teaches music theory and Latin American music, and he directs the Guitar Orchestra and Latin American Ensemble at Keene State. He has visited South America many times to perform and to conduct research, following, he says, a “tradition of classical guitarists who seek inspiration from folk music” from the region.

In 1999, Lezcano, a native of Cuba, received a Fulbright Lecture Research Award to study and perform in Ecuador. There he spent time with Ecuadorian Indians, studying their music traditions. “It was a life-changing experience for me,” Lezcano explains. “The sincerity of the musicians’ approach showed me how important music is in constructing one’s identity. It made me feel more receptive to my heritage and helped me reconnect to my Cuban and Spanish roots.” The trip also introduced Lezcano to new instruments, the charango and pan-flute, which he incorporates into his teaching at Keene State.

As a teacher, José says he is searching for a way of teaching that is musical from the beginning. Although music theory is formal - the “grammar” of music - he strives to get his students to listen to “the spirit of the piece.” Given the range of abilities of his students, his teaching style is flexible. In the fall semester, for example, many of the students in the Latin American Ensemble, which José directs, are non-music majors and often are unable to read music. In this case, José teaches his students in the manner that Andean musicians learn their music - by rote. “I play a phrase on the piano and they play it back to me and we keep going until they get it.”

It is as a composer that Lezcano says he has begun to explore his roots, to satisfy an “inner need to express parts of me that exist in music.” Among his published works are Cuban Sketches, a suite for guitar, flute, and bassoon, and Sonatina Tropical, for guitar and flute. In 1999, Lezcano’s CD, Passports: Native Tongues, was released to critical acclaim and in 2002, the New Hampshire Music Teachers Association named him composer of the year.

Lezcano has given recital and chamber music performances at Carnegie Hall and at international festivals in Rio de Janeiro, Lima, and Quito. He was a guest artist at the Zlate Hory Chamber Music Festival in the Czech Republic in 2002, performed and coached musicians in China with the Apple Hill Playing for Peace program, and served as Apple Hill Chamber Music Festival artist and composer for four years. He has also performed with the Orquesta Nacional del Ecuador, Orquesta Filarmonica de Lima, the Granite State Symphony, and the Keene Chamber Orchestra.

A graduate of Peabody Conservatory of Music, Lezcano earned his doctorate from Florida State University.

For more information, contact José Lezcano, professor of music, at 603-358-2180.

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