JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition

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The JoAnn Falletta International
Guitar Concerto Competition

Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio, Artistic Directors

Buffalo, NY


The inaugural JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition was a spectacular event that grabbed the attention of the guitar community around the globe.  The first ever guitar concerto competition received such an overwhelming response that it truly served as a testament of the need for such a competition.  It also paid tribute to the international appeal of Buffalo Philharmonic conductor JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic itself.

The 2004 judge panel included Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio whom are regarded as one of the elite chamber ensembles on the music scene today and also co-directors of the competition, composer Jack Behrens, Grammy nominated guitarist Carlos Bonell, classically trained musician and owner of Dusman Audio, Inc. David Dusman, associate professor of guitar at Florida State University Bruce Holzman, Classical 94.5/WNED-FM program host John Landis and one of the leading composers of his generation Roberto Sierra.

The semifinalists whom performed before the judge panel hailed from Canada, Mexico, Germany, Urugay, Argentina, Poland, Sweden, Brazil and the US. In the end, it was Marcin Dylla of Poland who captured the title of first ever winner of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.


The 2nd biennial JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition continued to build on the success of the first one.  The momentum continued and delivered us back to Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY with another world-class event.  It was hard to believe that two years had passed since the inaugural year and 2006’s competition solidified the competition’s place as one of the foremost musical events in the entire world.

The 2006 judge panel welcomed back Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio who continued to serve as co-directors of the competition, classically trained musician and owner of Dusman Audio, Inc. David Dusman and Classical 94.5/WNED-FM program host John Landis.  New to the panel were free-lance composer Miguel del Aquila, guitarist and program director for the Orange County Guitar Circle Jeff Cogan, winner of the first competition Marcin Dylla, critically acclaimed producer David Frost and international classical guitarist Eduardo Pascual Diez.

Ten of the finest guitarists on the planet, representing Peru, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Uruguay and the US, participated and the international panel of esteemed judges faced the difficult but wonderful challenge of whom to bestow first place prize. It was the 2nd place winner of 2004’s event, Pablo Garibay of Mexico, who stood onstage besides JoAnn Falletta and took a bow as the winner of the 2nd JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.


The momentum of the Competition continued!  The City of Buffalo greeted 2008’s Competitors and Judges with open arms and demonstrated it by purchasing more tickets than ever before.

There were many firsts in 2008’s Competition beginning with not only one but two female guitarists competing.  Artist Hugo Rodriguez was welcomed as the official artist of the Competition and his vibrant artwork graced the Competition’s print promotion, Kleinhans stage and in the Buffalo/Niagara Airport Art Gallery.  A community outreach program titled Guitar Days was added to the roster of events which sent the international guitarists out into the community to perform at various locations including Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Chautauqua Institution, Barnes and Noble, Orchard Park High School along master classes presented at the Buffalo Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Perhaps the most exciting addition to 2008’s Competition was its live local broadcast of the semi-finals on WNED-FM which was also a live international broadcast via the WNED website.  It reinforced the Competition as a world class event and allowed the competitors’ fans, friends and family back home the opportunity to listen to their performances live from Buffalo, NY.

2008’s judge panel included world-renowned guitarist Eduardo Fernandez, president of the Guitar Foundation of America Brian Head, leading classical guitarist David Leisner, host of radio show Classical Guitar Alive! Tony Morris, and Spanish guitar virtuoso Enrique Muñoz Teruel.

The 3 competitors who advanced to the finals were Benjamin Beirs representing the U.S., Laura Klemke representing Germany and three-time semifinalist Marco Sartor representing Uruguay.  After three magnificent performances with the full Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Laura Klemke was honored by the orchestra with the Musicians Award and Marco Sartor took the Audience Favorite Award and named 1st place winner of the Competition.


Another fabulous competition, enthusiastically received by classical music fans everywhere was set to begin after months of planning- the fourth annual JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, was off and running on June 1, 2010. Selected from a field of 40 competitors, the nine semi finalists representing eight nations, were anxious to perform!

The extraordinary semifinalists were Benjamin Beirs (USA), Artyom Dervoed (Russia), JeanFrancois Desrosby (Canada), Mark Edwards (USA), Ekachai Jearakul (Thailand), Samuel T. Klemke (Germany), Edel Munoz (Cuba), Nemanja Ostojic (Serbia), and Thomas Viloteau (France).

The two exciting days of semifinal competition to advance to the final round of three competitors began on June 2.  After two nights of exceptional performances, the final three were named.

Finally the moment arrived and finalists were announced: Artyom Dervoed of Russia, Nemanja Ostojic of Serbia and Thomas Viloteau of France.

Friday, June 4 at 7:30 PM, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra led by music director JoAnn Falletta was  ready, as were the artists.  After three memorable performances, the judges went to work and the winner was announced by JoAnn Falletta- Artyom Dervoed of Russia!  He also received the Audience Favorite Award.

But that was not the end!  The semifinalists who did not advance participated in “Guitar Days,” the community outreach that was added to the competition in 2008.  The program allows many more area residents the opportunity to enjoy classical guitar music at its finest level.


The fifth edition of the competition saw a very talented group of classical guitarists selected as semifinalists from more than 30 entries.  They arrived in Buffalo on Sunday, June 3, ready for a week of work, exhaustion and exhilaration!

Greeted by competition Artistic Directors Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio, the eight were given the itinerary for the week.  The guitarists were Petrit Ceku, 27, (Croatia) Andras Csaki.31, (Hungary) Mark Edwards, 28, (USA) Tariq Harb,31, (Canada/Jordan) Ekachai Jearakul, 31, (Thailand) Celil Refik Kaya, 21, (Turkey) Nemanja Ostoich, 28, (Serbia) and Sanel Redzic, 24,(Germany).  Rehearsals were scheduled and the competition was underway!

The 2012 Semifinals  took place in the studios of WNED TV on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  But another level of excitement was added to the competition as both nights of the semifinals were broadcast live on WNED and were seen by audiences in the US and Canada.

The atmosphere was quite tense and the studio audience was feeling the same way. The  competitors did not learn who would advance to the finals until the last performance of the semifinals on the second night. Finally the esteemed panel of judges made their decisions and the three finalists were announced and brought up on stage by Music Director Joann Falletta.

Petrit Ceku, Ekatchai Jearakul and Celil Refik Kaya advanced to the finals, held Saturday June 9th at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo. The  finalists would each play a solo piece in  front of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Joann Falletta.

While the finalists were busy with rehearsals for the Saturday night performance, the five semifinalists spent Friday in the community, bringing classical guitar music to many who might not be able to attend the Saturday performance.

Saturday night saw three very memorable performances.  Each finalist brought deep skill, interpretation and emotion to this wonderful evening.  After each finalist performed, he was invited to play a piece of his choosing (not judged)- a bonus that delighted the audience.

Late that evening, the  judges made their decision:  The winner was Celil Refik Kaya from Turkey, currently residing in the United States and studying at the Mannes School in NYC. Petrit Ceku (Croatia) was second and he received both the audience favorite and the musicians favorite honors.  Ekachai Jerakul of Thailand placed third.


The Western New York community was excited to see the sixth edition of the competition kick off. The semifinalists were: Dan Alexandru Ahire of Romania; Chad Ibison of the United States; Ekachai Jearakul of Thailand; Laura Klemke of Germany; Marcin Kuzniar of Poland; Sanel Redžić of Germany and Bosnia; and Marko Topchii of Ukraine. Benjamin Beirs of the United States stepped in for You Wang of China, who was unable to compete.

After an opening reception at Larkinville in South Buffalo, it was down to business for these talented musicians. Over two nights at the WNED studios, eight became three as Ekachai Jearakul, Marko Topchii and Chad Ibison were invited to move on.

On Saturday night, a crowd gathered in Kleinhans Music Hall to experience the talents of these three young men. Each turned in outstanding performances, but there was one in particular who captivated everyone. Marko Topchii went home with First Prize, Audience Favorite and Musicians’ Choice. He earned a return engagement with the BPO, a solo concert at the prestigious series Incontri Musicali, (Musical Encounter) in Milan, Italy in April 2015 along with a $10,000 cash prize, a Carnegie Hall appearance, national and international broadcast exposure, a guitar by Master Luthier J.D Glass, and a recording contract with Fleur de Son.

Ekachai Jearakul, who has won many fans in Buffalo during his previous appearances, placed second. Newcomer Chad Ibison placed third.


The 2016 JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition is in the books! Eight competitors representing France, Greece, the United States, Russia, Hungary, Romania and Finland faced off during the semi-finals held on June 8 and 9 at the WNED studios and broadcast live over the air in Western New York and Southern Ontario and available online everywhere. The judges selected 32-year-old Anton Baranov of Russia, 34-year-old Andras Csaki of Hungary, and 21-year-old Alec Holcomb of the United States to move on to the final round on June 11. While the other competitors brought their music into the community during Guitar Day, the finalists rehearsed with the BPO. At the end of the June 11 finals, one man emerged as the clear winner. Anton Baranov was not only awarded first place, but was selected as the musicians’ choice and audience favorite. Andras Csaki was awarded second place, and Alec Holcomb was awarded third place.

Baranov will receive $10,000, a return engagement with the BPO, a solo concert on the prestigious Incontri Musicali series in Milan, and a recording contract for one CD with the Fleur de Son Classics Ltd. label, distributed worldwide by Naxos of America. Csaki will receive $3500 and a medal. Holcomb will receive $1500 and a medal.


It was a monumental evening, as finalists Bokyung Byun, representing South Korea, and TY Zhang and Congyi Zhang, both representing China, performed their solo pieces for the audience. After careful deliberation, South Korea native Bokyun Byun was awarded first prize, the first woman in Falletta Competition history to receive it. She also took the Musician’s Choice Award. TY Zhang earned second place and Audience Favorite. Congyi Zhang took third place and was also the inaugural winner of the William and Carol Greiner Award, created to encourage Competitors to present lesser-heard works.

Byun will receive a solo concert at the Fondazione La Società dei Concerti in a recital among the series “Winners!” of Incontri Musicali at Gaber Auditorium in Milano, Italy, along with a $10,000 cash prize, national and international broadcast exposure, and a return engagement with the BPO.

Byun began playing guitar at age 6. At the age of 11, she began going on concert tours in Korea. By her teen years, she had won competitions held by the Korea Guitar Association, the Music Association of Korea, and the Guitar Foundation of America. She was the first guitarist ever to be admitted to Juilliard’s undergraduate guitar program. She is now pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Southern California as the recipient of the prestigious International Artist Fellowship. She is 23. Byun performed Concerto pour Guitare et Petit Orchestra by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Salseado from Sonata for Guitar by Roberto Sierra.

The JoAnn Falletta International Guitar concerto Competition was also honored to present Liona Boyd with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Boyd, known as “The First Lady of Classical Guitar,” was on hand to accept, and to witness Byun’s win.

Judges for the 2020 Competition

Rene Izquierdo

Rene Izquierdo, a native from Cuba, graduated from the Guillermo Tomas, Amadeo Roldan Conservatory and Superior Institute of Art in Havana. In the United States, Mr. Izquierdo earned a Master of Music, as well as an Artist Diploma degree from the Yale University School of Music, where he studied with Benjamin Verdery. While at Yale he represented the university in an exchange program with the Conservatoire National de Musique et de Danse du Paris and worked with guitarists Olivie Chassain and Roland Dyens. Rene has appeared as a guest soloist and in chamber music concerts throughout the United States, Cuba and Europe. He has shared the stage with prestigious guitarists including Eliot Fisk, Benjamin Verdery and Jorge Morel, as well as renowned flutist Ransom Wilson, soprano Lucy Shelton, David Jolley and Paquito d’Rivera. Renowned composers such as Jorge Morel and Carlos R. Rivera have dedicated works to him.

Mr. Izquierdo is a recipient of numerous awards. He is a winner of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition in 2004, Extremadura International Guitar Competition, Schadt String Competition, and Stotsenberg International Guitar Competition, among others.

He is currently a professor of classical guitar at the Wisconsin State University in Milwaukee and an active solo performer and chamber musician. Rene has studied with Leo Brouwer, David Russell, Shin-Ichi Fukuda, Eli Kassner, Pepe Romero, Angel Romero, Carlos Barbosa-Lima, David Starobin, Eduardo Fernandez, Jorge Morel, Robert Beaser and Anthony Newman among others.

Martha Masters

Martha Masters first achieved international recognition in 2000 when she won first prize in the Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition. That same year she also won the Andres Segovia International Competition in Linares, Spain, and was named a finalist in the Alexandre Tansman International Competition of Musical Personalities in Lodz, Poland.

Since then, Ms. Masters has been active as a solo recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist around the world. Recent seasons include appearances at festivals and on concert series through the United States, Germany, Poland, Russia, and China.

Masters received both the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Peabody Conservatory, where she studied with Manuel Barrueco, and completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California as a student of Scott Tennant.

Ms. Masters is currently on the guitar faculty of Loyola Marymount University and California State University Fullerton, and is president of the Guitar Foundation of America. She has five recordings on the Naxos and GSP labels, and has published three books with Mel Bay Publications and Alfred Music. For more information, visit

Judicael Perroy

Born in 1973 in Paris, Perroy began playing the guitar at age 7, attending the Conservatoire Municipal Inter-districts of Paris. He studied with Delia Estrada and Raymond Gratien at the Ecole Nationale d’Aulnay-sous-Bois where he graduated with honors.

Among his competition prizes are: Ile de France, Concours international de guitare René Bartoli, Licence de Concert from Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, 1st prize at the 7th International Competition of Bourg-Madame and the Guitar Foundation of America International Artists Competition.

Highly sought after as a teacher, he is regularly invited to give master classes around the world. Mr. Perroy is currently a Professor at the Ecole Nationale de Musique d’Aulnay-sous-Bois. He holds the Certificate of Aptitude and has taught at l’Ecole Nationale de Musique Blanc-Mesnil.

His recent CD, “Aspen Suite” as well as his earlier CD recording on the French label QUANTUM received high praise and won 5 Diapasons, awarded by Diapason Magazine and was subsequently re-released on Bayard Musique label, including two new CDs for Bayard Musique Meditation, as well as a disc with flutist Florence Bellon and another with harpist Joanna Kozielska. More recently, he recorded an all Bach CD for Naxos label.

He currently resides in Paris where he enjoys teaching at the Pôle Sup’ 93, Lille’s Association de préfiguration du Pôle supérieur d’enseignements artistiques, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the Ecole Nationale de Musique d’Aulnay-sous-Bois.

Berta Rojas

Berta Rojas ranks among today’s foremost classical guitarists. She has been praised as “guitarist extraordinaire” by the Washington Post and by Classical Guitar Magazine as “Ambassador of the classical guitar.”

Berta has been nominated three times for Latin Grammy Awards; in the category of Best Instrumental Album for Día y Medio – A Day and a Half, a duet with Paquito D’Rivera (2012), in the category of Best Classical Album, for her album Salsa Roja (2014), and more recently in the category of Best Tango Album, for her album History of Tango (2015), recorded with the Camerata Bariloche.

In 2018 she performed with John Williams at the prestigious Shakespeare’s Globe Theater at London and this year she was the first woman to receive the “Silver Guitar” award at Taxco, Mexico, and in 2011, with guest Paquito D’Rivera, Berta initiated the four-year tour “In the Footsteps of Mangoré” which followed the travels of Agustín Barrios, pioneer of the classical guitar in the Americas. The duo performed in 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries, concluding the journey at the national theater of the capital of El Salvador, final resting place of the celebrated composer.

Berta takes her audience on a colorful journey of sound, embracing new works by composers in diverse genres. The journey is echoed in recordings such as Cielo Abierto (2006) and Terruño (2009), as well as the duo with Carlos Barbosa-Lima on Alma y Corazón (2007) and the celebrated Intimate Barrios (2008) featuring works by the great Paraguayan composer and guitarist. On her latest recording, Felicidade (2017), she pays tribute to Brazilian music, with guest artists including Gilberto Gil, Toquinho and Ivan Lins.

She created the first online classical guitar competition, the Barrios World Wide Web Competition, in 2009, and was the Artistic Director of the Ibero-American Guitar Festival at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.

Berta has joined the prestigious Berklee College of Music as Associate Professor, sharing her knowledge and love of music with a select group of young guitarists from all over the world.

She has been named a Fellow of the Americas by the US Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her artistic excellence, and honored by her country with the title Illustrious Ambassador of Musical Art. In 2015 she was awarded the National Order of Merit of the Comuneros. In 2017, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to culture, she received both the National Order of Merit Don José Falcón and the Carlos Colombino Award. She was awarded with the title of Doctor honoris causa by three national universities in the years 2017 and 2019.

Raphaella Smits

Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio

Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio have enjoyed a celebrated career as one of the foremost guitar duos in the world. Cited by the legendary Leo Brouwer as one the greatest guitar duos of the century.

They are the Artistic Directors of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition and judge competitions around the world. The two have recorded ten acclaimed CDs, two named “Best of the Year” by Fanfare Magazine and American Record Guide. Critics around the globe from the New York Times to Gramophone Magazine have unanimously praised their, “elegance, style, poise and exquisite taste in interpretation”.

The Duo has championed chamber music through the acclaimed recorded label they founded and direct, Fleur de Son Classics, Ltd., featuring numerous Grammy Award winners and nominees including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel Chamber Orchestra.

The pre-eminent American Guitar Duo, the nation’s capital has embraced them with two National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist Fellowships. They have been featured in concert at the White House, the Smithsonian Institution, the JFK Center for the Performing Arts, and are consultants to the Music Division of the Library of Congress. Their legacy continues, having been recently inducted into the Alice Tully Circle of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

For more information, please contact Fleur de Son Classics at 716.681.8106 or at

Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio use Savarez Strings exclusively.

JoAnn Falletta

Hailed as a “leading force for the music of our time”, for her work as a conductor, communicator, recording artist audience builder, champion of American composers and distinguished musical citizen, JoAnn Falletta serves as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center and Music Advisor to the Hawaii Symphony. She has been acclaimed by The Washington Post as having “Toscanini’s tight control over ensemble, Walter’s affectionate balancing of inner voices, Stokowski’s gutsy showmanship, and a controlled frenzy worthy of Bernstein.”

Ms. Falletta has guest conducted over a hundred orchestras in North America, and many of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. In 2018-19 she will guest conduct orchestras in the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Canada and across the US. Recent guest conducting highlights include performances with the National Symphony at Wolf Trap, the RTE Concert Orchestra (Dublin), the New Japan Philharmonic, the Mexico Symphony Philharmonic, the National Orchestras of Peru, Columbia and Iceland, as well as debuts in Belgrade, Gothenburg, Lima, Bogotá, Helsingborg, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, a European tour with the Stuttgart Orchestra, return engagements with the Warsaw, Detroit, Phoenix, and Krakow Symphony Orchestras and a 13 city US tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra with James Galway.

Upon her appointment as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta became the first woman to lead a major American ensemble. She has since been credited with bringing the Philharmonic to a new level of national and international prominence. The orchestra has become one of the leading recording orchestras for Naxos and returned twice to Carnegie Hall, first in 2004 after a 20-year absence, and again in 2013 as part of the Spring for Music Festival. In 2018, the BPO made their first international tour in three decades, to perform at Warsaw’s prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival where Falletta made history as the first American women conductor to lead an orchestra at the Festival. She and the BPO have been honored with numerous ASCAP awards, including the top award for Adventurous Programming, Other accomplishments include the establishment of the orchestra’s Beau Fleuve label, the founding of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition in partnership with WNED, and the national and international broadcast of concerts on NPR’s Performance Today, SymphonyCast and the European Broadcasting Union.

With a discography of 115 titles, JoAnn is a leading recording artist for Naxos. Her discs have won two GRAMMY® Awards and received ten nominations. In 2018, Naxos released four recordings with JoAnn, Wagner, Music from the Ring with the BPO, music of Franz Schreker with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Kodaly, Concerto for Orchestra with the BPO, and her fifth world premiere recording of music of Kenneth Fuchs with the London Symphony. Upcoming albums include Respighi’s Rome Trilogy with the BPO to be released by Naxos in February 2019.

Falletta is a member of the esteemed American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has served as a Member of the National Council on the Arts, and is the recipient of many of the most prestigious conducting awards. She has introduced over 500 works by American composers, including well over 100 world premieres.

Ms. Falletta has held the positions of principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra and The Women’s Philharmonic.

She received her undergraduate degree from the Mannes School of Music, and her master’s and doctorate degrees from The Juilliard School. When not on the podium, JoAnn enjoys writing, cycling and yoga, and is an avid reader.

Thank you to the Friends of Falletta who make this event possible!

We applaud your generous support in 2020!





Benefits of Membership include:

Diamond Level – $1,250 Membership Fee

  • Four prime, reserved seats for each of the semifinals in the WNED/WBFO Studios.
  • Four prime, reserved seats for the finals round at Kleinhans Music Hall.
  • Admittance to the post-concert VIP reception immediately following the finals. You and your guests will mingle with JoAnn, the competitors and judges while you enjoy beverages and dessert at this special gathering.
  • As a souvenir of this event, you will receive a commemorative Competition poster signed by JoAnn and all eight semifinalists.
  • Four copies of the BPO double-disc recording Stars of the Guitar.
  • A special Friends thank you will appear in the Competition program and on the website.

Platinum Level – $600 Membership Fee

  • Two reserved seats for each of the semifinals in the WNED/WBFO Studios.
  • Two reserved seats for the finals round at Kleinhans Music Hall.
  • Admittance to the post-concert VIP reception immediately following the finals. You will mingle with JoAnn, the competitors and judges while you enjoy beverages and dessert at this special gathering.
  • As a souvenir of this event, you will receive a commemorative Competition poster signed by JoAnn and all eight semifinalists.
  • A special Friends thank you will appear in the Competition program and on the website.

Gold Level – $300 Membership Fee

  • Two reserved seats for each of the semifinals in the WNED/WBFO Studios.
  • A commemorative Competition poster signed by JoAnn and all eight semifinalists.
  • A special Friends thank you will appear in the Competition program and on the website.

Silver Level – $100 + Membership Fee

  •  You will receive a commemorative Competition poster signed by JoAnn and all eight semifinalists. A special Friends thank you will appear in the Competition program and on the website.