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Guitarist Serrano to Play at Pierce College

When the clock strikes the hour in the town square of Cordoba, Spain, it is not a bell or chime that announces the time, it is the strum of the guitar of Juan Serrano. Serrano, who performs tonight at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, is among Spain’s most famous and respected flamenco guitarists.

The son of a Spanish celebrity couple--guitarist Antonio Serrano and singer Nina de la Serra--Juan Serrano, who was born in Cordoba, started playing the guitar at age 9. By the time he was 11 he had made his performance debut, and he recorded his first album before he turned 15.

Ed Sullivan introduced Serrano to American audiences in the 1950s and from then on he was an international sensation. Even President John F. Kennedy was a fan; in 1963, Serrano performed before the Kennedys at the State Department.

“I’ve been around forever,” Serrano said, laughing. “That’s why so many people think I’m very, very old. (He is a youthful 52.) They don’t realize how young I was when I started.”

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There was a time, however, when Serrano forsook his career and the guitar. “I was young and at the height of my career when my first wife died,” he said. Devastated, he did not perform or even practice for several years. A woman who would become his second wife persuaded him to perform again.

Serrano performs several concerts each year in Spain and across the United States, and he teaches music at Fresno State University. “I always play the guitar for my students,” Serrano said. “Explanation and theory are fine, but how can they discover what they can play in the future if I don’t show them what is possible?”

When he traveled to Cordoba this summer to teach a master class at the city’s guitar festival, more than 60 students came from around the world, including Japan, France and the United States.

Even Serrano’s concert audiences get a dose of instruction when he plays. “I talk about what region each piece comes from, who the author was and sometimes even what mood the author was in when he wrote” the song, he said.

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Juan Serrano plays at Guitar Arts ’88 tonight at 8 p.m. in the Performing Arts Theater at Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave. in Woodland Hills. It is a benefit for the Guitar Foundation of America and the public radio and TV series “Soundboard.” Also on the bill are classical guitarist Dr. John Schneider, Latin stylist Ron Freshman, and the CSUN guitar quartet. Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door; they are also available at Ticketmaster, May Co and Music Plus. For ticket information, call (818) 345-8800 or (818) 348-4016.


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