By John C. McClanahan
Since 1979, Carlo Pezzimenti, a Brookhaven College charter music professor and world-class guitarist, has taught students the nuances of classical guitar and musicianship. Forty years after signing on at Brookhaven, Pezzimenti still sits with aspiring guitarists in a downstairs studio in D Building and teaches them to fine tune their playing techniques.
Last December, he traveled over 5,000 miles to Rome to play at the Vatican. There, he strummed musical phrases on his acoustic guitar for a solo program. Pezzimenti played “Silent Night” with the Ursuline Academy of Dallas choir during the Mass of The Holy Innocents, backing the group on his guitar. He also performed with the choir in churches in Rome and Florence.
“Some of these unbelievable artists left some amazing works of art for the rest of us to be inspired by,” Pezzimenti said. “Culturally, [the Vatican] is an amazing place. The whole city is amazing.”
Pezzimenti is no stranger to Italy. At age 13, he moved to Florence with his family from his native Cleveland. He fell in love with guitar after attending concerts where classically trained musicians elegantly plucked strings and strummed chords. Soon after, he decided he wanted to master the instrument.
In the late ’60s, Pezzimenti enrolled in Loyola University Chicago’s Rome campus to study music where he trained under tutelage of guitar master Sergio Notaro. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music theory from the Conservatory of Music Francesco Morlacchi in Perugia, Italy in 1973.
Later, in the ’70s, Pezzimenti studied music under world-famous musician Andrés Segovia, who he considers one of the most influential acoustic guitarists of the 20th century. In the summers of 1973, Pezzimenti attended Segovia’s master classes in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
“It was amazing, because [Segovia] was this person who had friends who were people we read about in books,” Pezzimenti said. “Picasso was his friend.”
He said Segovia’s influence helped his approach to music and musicianship.
In the late ’70s, Pezzimenti moved to Alicante, Spain, where he studied Spanish music, and he continued to study under Segovia. After Pezzimenti returned to the U.S. in the mid-1970s, he continued to take private lessons from Segovia through the ’80s. Pezzimenti visited him in Spain almost every year until the legendary musician died in 1987.
A few years before June 1980, Segovia gave Pezzimenti a special citation for outstanding achievement in the performing arts. In the citation, Segovia said, “I wish Carlo Pezzimenti the success he deserves for his young talent and will of working.”
Since he first picked up a guitar, Pezzimenti has played venues around the world, including North and South America, Europe and China. During his decades-long career, he has played with ensembles such as the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra. In 1982, Pezzimenti performed at Carnegie Hall.
“I’ve listened to [Carlo] teach,” Octavio Gutierrez, music department chair, said. “Even though it could be the millionth time he teaches that same song, still he has some freshness of creation on that. I think the way he plays, he’s not just playing something. He’s creating something. And that’s what every musician should be.”
Pezzimenti has taught music at Texas Woman’s University since 1981. But whether Pezzimenti conducts a lesson at TWU or Brookhaven, he tries to convey the same music philosophy shared by his mentors. Pezzimenti said he learned there are three qualities other than talent a student must have to be a great musician: tenacity, perseverance and patience.
“You hear a lot of noises about people being geniuses,” he said. “That’s really rare – I mean, incredibly rare – in the arts. Amazingly rare, but it’s a lot of work. You have to practice. That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to practice. And you got to be patient, and you got to persevere.”