the 21st century guitar

Interdisciplinary perspectives on performance and pedagogy

Image: Fundamentals of Guitar - Miles Okazaki


The University of Ottawa Piano Pedagogy Research Lab, in collaboration with the International Guitar Research Centre (University of Surrey), the Canadian Music Centre, and the Ottawa Guitar Society will host an international interdisciplinary conference on 21st century guitar composition, performance and pedagogy between August 22nd and 25th, 2019 at The University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The goal of this conference is to examine guitar skill acquisition and guitar pedagogy from an empirical perspective. Do current practices in guitar pedagogy reflect the underlying motor, neurological and cognitive processes that govern skill acquisition and expertise? What do we already know about those underlying processes for guitar performance? What avenues remain unexplored? 

The conference will bring together researchers, academics, composers and practitioners from different fields who are interested in guitar performance, pedagogy, and contemporary composition for guitar and technology. Concerts featuring new works for guitar duo, guitar orchestra and technology (surround video projection, 8-channel sound) will be highlighted in special performances.

Key questions for the conference include:

1. What is the 21st century guitar from a performance and composition standpoint?

2. Does guitar pedagogy reflect current knowledge in skill acquisition from cognitive, neuroscience and motor learning fields?

3. How does scientific inquiry contribute to understanding guitar skill acquisition and guitar expertise?

4. What current research is underway? What techniques can be used to study guitar expertise and guitar skill acquisition?

5. Do neuroplastic changes or cognitive behaviour in guitarists exhibit instrument-specificity?


Registration for conference attendees and presenters is now open.

ENGLISH                 FRENCH

Cost is $42 plus taxes (14%).

Registration is open to the public and allows attendance to all concerts, lectures and events throughout the conference. Orchestra performers will not need to pay the registration fee. All concerts are free for seniors and students. The Canadian Marathon Concert on Thursday, August 22nd is free and open to the public. Limited numbers of single concert (Fri., Sat., Sun.) tickets will be available for purchase at the door ($20, cash only).

Download our app

This app will be the ONLY place to view program notes, bios, abstracts and other information. Photos slide left and right, tap on the bottom of each photo to bring up info including bio, program notes and abstracts.

Basic information including schedules and programs will still be available on the website.

Available on Google Play (Android) and via developer AppyPie (IOS-Apple).

IOS (iPhone, iPad) Google Play



Paper sessions & round-tables.

50 University Avenue, Ottawa ON


Venue for concerts and keynotes.

Perez Building, room 121


Gala concert venue.

355 Cooper Street, Ottawa ON

20 minute walk from Perez Building


August 23, 2019

Freiman Hall


Classical guitarist
Bridget Mermikides

August 24, 2019

Freiman Hall


Jazz guitarist
Miles Okazaki

August 25, 2019

Freiman Hall


JUNO- award winning oudist/guitarist
Gordon Grdina


August 22, 2019

Freiman Hall


Canadian Music Marathon:
Guitar & Electroacoustic Music

Full Program

Works by:

Andrew Staniland, Nicole Lizée, R. Murray Schafer, Kristi Allik, John Oliver, Jason Noble, Tim Brady, Amy Brandon, rd wraggett,  Steven Naylor, Joseph Donaghey, Roddy Ellias, Bekah Simms, Alex Eddington, Julia Mermelstein, Derek Charke, Bob Bauer, William Beauvais, John Armstrong, Andrew Noseworthy, Clark Ross, James Lowrie, David Jaeger, Derek Charke, Julian Hoff, Kim Farris-Manning, Michal Seta, Jason Doell, Eugene Astapov, Tim Brady, Maren Lisac, Alexander Wright, Sundar Subramanian, Cory Harper-Latkovich, Daryl Jamieson, Cameron O'Connor, Marc Hyland, and others

with performers

Steve Cowan, Adam Cicchillitti, Emily Shaw, Andrew Noseworthy, Sam Wilson, Daniel Ramjattan, Sylvie Proulx, Brian Abbott, Duo46, The Sudbury Guitar Trio, Joseph Ehrenpreis, Michal Seta, Liam Jaeger and John Testar, Ben Diamond, An-Laurence Higgins, James Lowrie, Wayne Eagles, Tim Brady, Andrew Mah, Cameron O'Connor, Angel M. Blanco, Trevor Babb, Jesse Alexander Luciani, Alexander Wright, Louis Trepanier, Sundar Subramanian, Cory Harper-Latkovich, Matthew Karas and others

August 23, 2019



Cowan-Cicchillitti Duo x
Iceberg New Music

Full Program

Ensemble works by:

Jordan Nobles
Christopher Mayo
John Oliver
Jason Noble

and solo/d
uo works by:


Drake Andersen
Stephanie Ann Boyd
Alex Burtzos
Yu-Chun Chien
Derek Cooper
Max Grafe
Will Healy
Jonathan Russ
Harry Stafylakis

for guitarists 
Steve Cowan and Adam Cicchillitti

Projections by Kurt Laurenz Theinert and Lukas Pearse, and 8-channel surround sound.

August 24, 2019



new music for
double-guitar orchestra 

Works by:

Ben Wylie
Elizabeth Knudson
Anselm McDonnell
Blake DeGraw
Julian Bertino
Jason Noble
Amelia Kaplan
Amy Brandon
Milton Mermikides


Tim Brady and Craig Visser


Projections by Kurt Laurenz Theinert and
Lukas Pearse, and 8-channel surround sound.

Guitarists! Join our orchestra.

Amateur and professional electric, acoustic and classical guitarists are invited to join our double-guitar orchestra for performances on August 23 and 24, 2019 at 9pm at Dominion-Chalmers. No music reading ability is required.

Rehearsals for Ottawa residents will be Saturdays from 7-9pm, July 6-August 17  in room 109, Pérez Hall, 50 University Private, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5.

Tech/dress rehearsals (all guitarists including conference attendees):

Thursday, August 22nd @ 930am-1230pm

Friday, August 23rd @ 530-8pm

Saturday, August 24th @ 530-8pm

Email or contact Amy at to sign up!

Email us to sign up!


Jonathan De Souza

Dr. Jonathan De Souza (University of Western Ontario) is a music theorist with interests in psychology and philosophy. He directs Western's Music, Cognition, and the Brain Initiative, which brings together music theory and music education, cognitive neuroscience, audiology, and related fields, and he is an Associate Member of the university's Brain and Mind Institute. De Souza's book, Music at Hand: Instruments, Bodies, and Cognition (Oxford, 2017), asks how instruments affect music's sounding organization and players' experience. He has also published guitar-related research in the edited volume Watching Jazz (Oxford, 2016) and the Journal of Music Theory

Guitar Thinking: Perspectives from Music Theory and Cognitive Science

Playing the guitar develops manual habits but also habits of thought. For example, guitarists often conceptualize chords as two-dimensional shapes—an approach that is foreign to pianists. What does it mean, then, to think like a guitarist? This presentation approaches “guitar thinking” from music theory and cognitive science. Recent work in transformational theory examines fretboard space, formalizing physical patterns instead of sounding ones. Yet the guitar is both an object of music-theoretical inquiry and also a music-theoretical tool. From the late sixteenth century to the present, guitars have been used in the production of musical knowledge and discourse. Epistemic aspects of the guitar, moreover, can be illuminated through psychological research. For example, experiments help reveal visual and tactile aspects of guitar thinking. This sensorimotor interplay can be theorized in terms of grounded cognition, and it points to the role of technology and technique in musical experience

Jonathan Leathwood

Dr. Jonathan Leathwood (University of Denver) is considered one of the world's foremost guitar educators and an expert on Alexander Technique. One of the few guitarists to perform on six-string and ten-string guitars, some of his recent recitals include appearances at the Festival di Cervo in Italy, the International Festival of the Classical Guitar at West Dean in the UK, the Nürtingen Festival in Germany, the D. Marin Festival in Turkey, London's Wigmore Hall (with flautist William Bennett), the Almeida Festival, the Cheltenham Festival and the Aldeburgh Festival. Jonathan is equally known as a collaborator with both performers and composers. He has recorded two albums with the legendary flautist William Bennett, and has commissioned composers such as Param Vir, Stephen Goss, Robert Keeley and Chris Malloy who have pushed the boundaries of both six and ten-string guitars.


Miles Okazaki is a NYC based guitarist originally from Port Townsend, a small seaside town in Washington State. His approach to the guitar is described by the New York Times as “utterly contemporary, free from the expectations of what it means to play a guitar in a group setting — not just in jazz, but any kind.” His sideman experience over the last two decades covers a broad spectrum of approaches (Kenny Barron, John Zorn, Stanley Turrentine, Dan Weiss, Matt Mitchell, Jonathan Finlayson, Jane Monheit, Amir ElSaffar, Darcy James Argue, and many others). He was seen prominently with Steve Coleman and Five Elements from 2009-2017. As a leader Okazaki has released four albums of original compositions over the last 12 years and is an artist on the Pi Recordings label. He has also released a six album recording of the complete compositions of Thelonious Monk for solo guitar, published a book Fundamentals of Guitar with Mel Bay, has taught guitar and rhythmic theory at the University of Michigan for five years, and holds degrees from Harvard University, Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School.

Stephen Goss

Dr. Steve Goss is one of the world's foremost composers for guitar, having written for classical guitar  luminaries including John Williams, David Russell and Xuifei Yang. Stephen Goss's music receives hundreds of performances worldwide each year and has been recorded on over 70 CDs by more than a dozen record labels, including EMI, Decca, Telarc, Virgin Classics, Naxos, and Deutsche Grammophon. His varied output includes orchestral and choral works, chamber music, and solo pieces.

Tim Brady

Known for his radiant orchestrations, his dramatic structures and his innovative guitar work, Canadian Tim  Brady is a composer and guitarist who has created music in a wide range of genres ranging from chamber and orchestral music to electroacoustic works, chamber opera, contemporary dance scores, jazz and free improvisation. He has been commissioned and performed by numerous ensembles and orchestras in North America and Europe including the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, New Music Concerts, INA-GRM (Radio-France), the English Guitar Quartet, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Esprit Orchestra (CBC), the Philadelphia-based Relâche ensemble, the Australian group Topology, and the British string ensemble The Smith Quartet. His electric guitar collective "Instruments of Happiness" presented shows for 100, 20 and 4 guitars to sold out houses across Canada in 2015 and 2016.

Milton Mermikides

Milton Mermikides PhD (University of Surrey) BSc is a composer, performer and producer in a wide range of styles and has collaborated with artists as diverse as Pat Martino, John Williams, Tod Machover, Steve Winwood, Tim Minchin and Brian Eno. In addition to Lecturer in Music at the University of Surrey, Milton is Professor of Jazz Guitar at the Royal College of Music and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and London School of Economics. Milton has given seminars and lectures at the Royal Academy of Music (London), Royal Musical Association (Guildford), Smithsonian Institute (New York), Art Researches Science Conference (Belgium), Oulu Music Festival (Finland) and The British Library and Science Museum (London). He has performed guitar for HM the Queen and has received awards for his writing, education and charity work. Milton's compositions, production and guitar-playing appears on BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, Channel 4, Discovery Channel, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, Computer Music, Total Guitar and Guitar Techniques Magazine as well as galleries, planetaria and concert halls internationally, and his theme tunes for various podcasts are heard by over 10,000 listeners a week. Milton composed the soundtrack and appears in Martino: Unstrung (2008 Sixteen Films) and - in conversation with Paul Morley - on BBC's How To Be A Composer (2009 Diverse) and his work appears in the Oxford Handbook of Computer Music (OUP 2009).


Founded by Alex Burtzos in 2016, ICEBERG New Music is a collective of ten young composers based in New York City. ICEBERG's mission is to promote the idea that substance, not surface, is the heart of music creation and perception. The collective's ten member composers hail from different schools of thought and cultivate radically different sounds – from musical theater and indie rock to avant-garde sounds and electronic installations – but their contrasting musical languages belie a shared emphasis on structure and depth of meaning. When these artists compose for the same ensemble and present their works during a joint concert, the result is a glimpse into the ever-widening possibilities of art music in the twenty-first century.

Kurt Laurenz Theinert

Kurt Laurenz Theinert is a photographer and live performing light and media artist. His 'visual piano' performances are shown all around the world in Sao Paulo, London, Sydney, Berlin, New York, Toronto and Singapore. He creates pure visual music – live, abstract and space filling by using panorama projection. There is no technical link between sound and image to enable a spontaneous dialogue between him and the musician. In his compositions and improvisations, he pries open the static properties of his projection spaces in favour of only those spatial correlations that can be perceived in the dynamics.

Cowan-Cicchillitti Duo

Guitarists Adam Cicchillitti and Steve Cowan form a dynamic ensemble that focuses on expanding the guitar repertoire through collaborations with living composers. Currently completing doctorates at McGill University with acclaimed guitarist Jérôme Ducharme, Cicchillitti (Dmus., 2022) and Cowan (Dmus., 2019) present daring programs featuring new music from prominent Canadian composers as well as their own arrangements of impressionist works from 20th-century France and Spain. Their next album, featuring exclusively Canadian works by multiple generations of celebrated Canadian composers, will be released with Analekta in the fall of 2019.

Craig Visser

Craig Visser is a composer, guitarist, and teacher based in  Ottawa, Canada. In addition to performing extensively as a classical  soloist and chamber musician throughout Canada, Craig’s versatility on the guitar has led him to perform both as a musician for theatre, and as a member of the Prime Time Big Band. When Craig is not performing, he maintains an active composition schedule with recent commissions from the Guitare Alla Grande Festival, Trio Tangere, and Duo46 among others. In 2019, two of his works will receive their recording debut from guitarists Emily Shaw and Julian Bertino. Other highlights include recently being invited to lecture on Canadian guitar music at the Guitar Foundation of America’s international convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Craig is a member of the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) and his music is published by Les Productions d’Oz. As a teacher and program coordinator, Craig directs the Ottawa Guitar Society’s community guitar ensemble, coordinates the OGS competition for young composers, and maintains a private studio in Ottawa.


Getting to the University of Ottawa:

Bus: Take bus 97 directly from the airport to the uOttawa stop for $3.50 (exact change): MAP

Taxi: A taxi to the University from the airport costs approximately $30

Uber: An Uber to the University from the airport costs approximately $22

Interested in hosting a future 21st Century Guitar conference? We are currently looking for host institutions for 2021 and 2022. Please submit a brief proposal to director Amy Brandon at