GuitarFest 2024 Artists

Dr. Adam Kossler, Artistic Director

 Dr. Adam Kossler“Virtuoso technique, beautiful sound and a sincere musicality” are terms music critics are using to describe American guitarist Adam Kossler.   In addition to performing regularly as a solo artist, Adam joins his father William and brother John in both duo and trio concerts.

Adam Kossler is a top prizewinner in a number of national and international guitar competitions including the Boston Guitarfest, Columbus Guitar Symposium, East Carolina Guitar Competition, MANC Guitar Competition, Texas International Guitar Competition, and the Music Teacher National Association Competition.  Kossler’s international performance career has taken him throughout the US, Canada, Central America and Asia.  He has been a featured artist with numerous concert series including the John E. Marlow Guitar Series (Bethesda, MD), Isle Newell Concert Series (Appalachicola, FL), and the Seven Hills Guitar Series (Tallahassee, FL) among many others. In 2015, his Marlow Guitar Series performance was aired in its entirety on Classical WETA’s weekly program, “Front Row Washington”.  Recently he performed at Carnegie Hall, premiering new works by Chilean composer Javier Farias.

In addition to his performance career, Kossler is also in demand as a teacher and clinician.  Recent engagements include The Denver Guitar Summit (Denver, CO), Festival Internacional Suzuki (Guatemala City, Guatemala), University of Alaska Guitar Festival (Anchorage, AK) Rantucci Guitar Festival (Buffalo, NY), and in 2015 Kossler was the featured Artist in Residence for Utah Classical Guitar (Salt Lake City, UT).

In 2014, Kossler released his first solo recording, Guitar Recital.  The album was received with enthusiasm by critics and audiences and was featured Tom Cole’s show, “The G String,” on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington D.C. In 2015 Kossler released his second solo record.  Ekloge, an album of 20th-century music, includes works by Joaquin Rodrigo, Manuel Maria Ponce and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, as well as his own new transcriptions of music by Jean Sibelius.

Adam Kossler began his musical studies with his father William Kossler.  He went on to earn his BM degree at East Carolina University with Dr. Elliot Frank, his MM degree at Appalachian State University as a teaching assistant to Dr. Douglas James, and completed a DMA in Guitar Performance at Florida State University where he served as a teaching assistant to Bruce Holzman.  Dr. Kossler currently directs the guitar program at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. 

René Izquierdo

rene_izquierdo_400.jpgCuban-born René Izquierdo is a unique artist and passionate educator whose career has been dedicated to inspiring individuals and connecting communities. Whether passionately performing on stage, devotedly mentoring his students, fundraising, or leading community outreach, René’s multi-faceted approach endeavors to continue creating experiences that enrich people’s lives and add beauty to our world.

Through his “unforgettable versatility, sensitivity and sublime musicianship” (Classical Guitar Magazine), René has firmly established himself as one of the world’s classical guitar virtuosos. He is celebrated for his ability to weave an unparalleled technical command of his instrument with his gift of storytelling, accomplishing an intimate musical experience with his audience. 

With over seventy engagements per year, whether as a solo performer, chamber musician, or as a guest soloist with orchestras, he has performed to critical acclaim touring extensively throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. He is frequently invited by renowned festivals and institutions, having played at stages such as Carnegie Hall in New York, Manaus Opera House in Brazil, and National Recital Hall in Taiwan. 

Self-described as a lifelong learner and explorer, his recording projects reflect his wide-ranging interests. Through his discography, René seeks to expand the guitar repertoire frequently performing new arrangements, lesser-known music of the 20th century as well as world premieres of concertos and new compositions.

As an educator, René is passionate about engaging the mind and the heart. Through his teachings all around the world, he shares his belief that the greatest musicians not only have the technical mastery to communicate effectively but also are deeply curious, and equally adept at analytical and emotional modes of thought.

Elliott Frank

elliot_frank_pr_photo_400_0.pngApplauded by critics and audiences for his unique blend of powerful virtuosity, beautiful tone, and natural musicianship, Elliot Frank is a frequent guest performer and teacher at guitar festivals, as concerto soloist and on concert series throughout the Americas and Europe. Most recently he has appeared at the El Llanto de la Guitarra International Guitar Festival in Ragusa,  Sicily, Tiempo de Guitarras at the Palazzo Francica Nava in Siracusa, Sicily, for Tidewater Classic Guitar,  the Florida Guitar Festival, the Utah Classical Guitar Society, Great Guitarists at Stetson, as concerto soloist with the McClean Orchestra, and at the Queens University Guitar Symposium, Guitar Sarasota, the Southwest Guitar Symposium in San Antonio, and the Columbus State University Guitar Symposium. Other highlights include performances for the Mediterranean Guitar Festival in Cervo, Italy, the Sea and Guitars Festival in Vrsar, Croatia, the inaugural Encuentro Internacional de Guitarra Villa Caletas in Herradura, Costa Rica, Sauble Beach Festival of the Classic Guitar in Sauble Beach, Ontario and at the Sixth Guitar Festival of the Dominican Republic.

He has also been a featured performer at the 2006 Guitar Foundation of America Festival, Appalachian GuitarFest, the Alexandria Guitar Festival, the Festival Lachine in Montreal, Canada, and at the 2003 Southwest Guitar Festival in San Antonio. He has also performed for the North Carolina Bach Festival, and the Tennessee Guitar Festival. His first compact disc, South American Guitar Music, has been praised as being “eloquent” and “delightful.”  An aficionado of guitar music of Hispanic cultures, he has performed lecture/recitals pertaining to the music of Antonio Lauro for the Guitar Foundation of America at international festivals in Pasadena and New Orleans. He has premiered a number of works for guitar including Concerto da Camera for guitar and chamber orchestra by Mark Taggart and the E Sonata by Andrew Zohn..

Elliot Frank is also a prizewinner in national and international competitions including the Concurso Internacional de la Casa de España in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Elliot Frank was selected to initiate the guitar studies program for East Carolina University where he has held the title of Professor of Guitar for the past 35 years. He will be retiring from college teaching this year, but will continue to maintain an active concert schedule. His students and alumni, continue to distinguish themselves with an impressive array of first prizes in national and international competitions, on the concert stage, and they hold teaching positions at universities across the United States, including Dr. Adam Kossler at Appalachian State University. Elliot Frank is the founder and artistic director of the ECU Summer Guitar Festival, one of the most well-known events and well-loved events of the summer for the past 27 years.

Stephen Bondy

stephen_bondy.pngStephen Bondy (B. Mus., M. M.) has been teaching Suzuki Guitar for twenty plus years in Denver, Colorado and is a sought-after teacher, clinician and performer. Mr. Bondy is energized and excited to work with students from all over and is humbled to get to work with young musicians and their parents. He has been a featured clinician at institutes in his home state of Colorado, as well as in Texas, Utah, New York and North Carolina. Very committed to guitar in ensemble, two of his student ensembles have won slots in the GFA ensemble spotlight.  When not teaching guitar, he is a music director at the Washington Park United Methodist Church.  He and his wife run Twinkle Together which has offered the Music Together curriculum to thousands of families in the area since 1997.

Andy Page

andy_page.pngJazz guitarist Andy Page maintains an active schedule in the Southeast with a variety of jazz and rock ensembles. He has performed internationally at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Japan’s Muroran Jazz Cruise, and for jazz workshops in Friburg, Germany. Andy worked in the cruise ship industry in the South Pacific, Mediterranean and Caribbean seas and also traveled with a nationally touring theatrical production. In recent years he has performed at Asheville’s Django Reinhardt Celebration and the Dizzy Gillespie Jazzfest in South Carolina, and has been a featured composer at the Jazz Composers Forum based in Asheville, NC. Andy has performed private engagements for former President Bill Clinton and poet Maya Angelou, and has performed with jazz artists such as Phil Woods, Jamey Aebersold, Tony Monaco, Matt Wilson, and many others.   Andy has worked as a session player on numerous recordings, and has a released a recording of gypsy waltzes entitled “Souvenir de Django” with the trio Musette Guitars.  Andy has a Masters degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from University of North Carolina-Wilmington.  He has studied privately with renowned jazz educators Jerry Coker and Donald Brown and with guitarists Mark Boling, Bob Russell, and Robert Nathanson. Andy currently is on the music faculty at Appalachian State University where, in addition to Applied Jazz Guitar, he also teaches History of Rock Music, Jazz in American Society, and Jazz/Pop Theory. 

Douglas James

douglas_james.pngDouglas James has performed as a classical guitarist throughout the United States and Europe for over 40 years. He has been a featured recitalist for such notable venues as the Guitar Foundation of America annual convention, Guitar-Festival Iserlohn, Stetson International Guitar Workshop, Oberlin Conservatory, New York's Carnegie and Merkin Halls, and many more. He has won the top prize in the Arturo Toscanini Solo Guitar Competition (Italy), and twice has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist Fellowship. James often features authentic 19th century instruments in his performances of the Classical and Romantic literature, and is one half of the Rucco-James Duo, featuring 19th c. period guitars with the Italian guitarist Pasquale Rucco.

James has recorded three critically acclaimed CD's for the Cala Vista label. The first, Italian Romantic Music of the Early 19th century, featuring 19th century solo guitar music on period guitars, was followed by two in duo with Pasquale Rucco, Early Romantic Music for Two Guitars, and A Night at the Opera. Gitarr och Luta (Sweden) notes that "Douglas James' playing on the record is for my taste totally splendid. His enthusiasm to explore the early guitar repertoire is obvious, and he has an ability to use the old instruments to their full capacity, with all of their timbral possibilities. He plays intensely and sensitively with flow, ease and elegance." Classical Guitar (England) states, "Douglas James clearly has a great deal of sympathy for this repertoire and a carefully worked out approach to its interpretation ... everything is animated by concern for the life of the music on its own terms and in its own time. This is a welcome addition to the choice of 19th century repertoire played on genuine instruments of the time."

In addition to his work as a classical guitarist, James has in recent years expanded his musical horizons to return to his earliest roots playing electric guitar in various contemporary styles, and to playing Baroque music on the theorbo. (For him there’s a strong connection in the improvisational playing of contemporary electric guitar, and the improvisation involved in  realizing continuo in Baroque music.) James plays theorbo with Harmonia Baroque and Corde Cantanti, and is the electric guitarist for the Junaluska Gospel Choir, the Harrows, and the Extraordinaires.  

Douglas James holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Arizona where he studied with Thomas Patterson. Dr. James is a past member of the Advisory Board and Board of Trustees of the Guitar Foundation of America. He was Professor of Guitar at the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University for 27 years before retiring in 2022. 

You can view more about Douglas James at his professional web site

Billie Feather

Guitarist Billie FeatherBillie Feather is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, banjoist, and bassist who originally hails from Johnstown, PA. Raised in the beautiful Pennsylvania mountains and surrounded by a family of avid music lovers, Billie’s love of performing music in all forms was fostered.

Saying goodbye to their ancestral home in the Allegheny mountains, Billie’s family relocated during her elementary school years to North Carolina, where she found herself surrounded by the rich musical landscape that flourishes in the Tarheel State - from the old traditional mountain music of the Appalachians to the Piedmont’s rich blues and jazz traditions.

Jason Pickard

jason_pickard_photo.jpegJason Pickard holds a Masters Degree in music performance from East Carolina University. His classical guitar performances have earned him top prizes in numerous competitions, including the Music Teachers National Association, National Federation of Music Clubs, and The Appalachian State University Guitar Festival. He has performed extensively throughout the Southeast as a soloist as well as an ensemble musician, and competed in the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America solo competition in 1999. He was twice awarded the East Carolina Friends of the School of Music Scholarship, and the St.Cecilia Guitar Scholarship for outstanding musical and academic performance.

As an educator, Mr. Pickard has served as a faculty member for East Carolina University (as a graduate assistant), Barton College, Catawba College, and Central Piedmont Community College as well as a private instructor in the greater Charlotte community. He retains memberships in the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, Golden Key National Honor Society, Phi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society, and The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

In October 2000, Mr. Pickard brought his experience as a music performer and educator to the business world when he was hired as Director of Education for MARS Music, Inc. in Charlotte, NC. Under the management of Mr. Pickard, the Learning Center of the Charlotte Mars branch achieved top 5 in the country title several times in 2002 when ranked with other learning centers in view of student enrollment, gross profit margins, and community involvement. Throughout his employment with MARS Music, Mr. Pickard volunteered as a board member with the Charlotte Blues Society (director of the Blues in Schools program), and routinely conducted musical programs at MARS Music for the Metrolina Association for the Blind, Charlotte/Mecklenburg public schools, and the Boy Scouts of America.

Currently, Jason Pickard resides in Concord, North Carolina and remains active in the music community in charlotte area as an educator, performer, and classical guitar builder at Guitars n' Cars in Kannapolis, NC.

Justin Craig

justin_craig_headshot_400_2.jpgJustin Craig graduated from Radford University with a Masters in Music and concentration in classical guitar performance.  While there he studied with Valerie Hartzell and Dr. Robert Trent.  In addition to his BM and MM, he also holds a degree in Psychology

Justin has had masterclasses with renowned guitarists and educators including William Kanengiser, Nikita Koshikin, and Lily Ashfar among others. He has taught guitar and music courses at numerous universities and has maintained a thriving private studio since 1999. 

He has been the Suzuki and Classical guitar instructor at the Renaissance Music Academy in Blacksburg, Virginia since 2005. He begins students as young as four - years-old.  The “RMA” is the oldest and most prestigious non-profit music academy in Southwestern Virginia.

Justin has completed Suzuki unit training through Book 9, studying with Andrea Cannon, Mychal Gendron, Frank Longay, David Madsen, Bill Kossler & Joe Pecoraro. He recently completed the Suzuki Guitar Practicum where he worked closely with Suzuki Guitar pioneer William Kossler. He is currently working on obtaining his teacher trainer status so he can mentor and inspire other Suzuki Guitar teachers.

Justin has taught guitar and ukulele at various student Suzuki institutes including the Denver Guitar Summit, the Virginia Suzuki Institute at Emory and Henry College, Hickory, N.C. with the Suzuki School of the Arts, and Boone Suzuki Guitar Festival. 

Justin has created arrangements and transcriptions for his students that include solo, ensemble, and guitar orchestra. Many are now available at Sheet Music Plus. He is a busy regional classical guitarist, jazz performer and recording artist.  He performs often as a soloist and leads a variety of groups including a modern jazz and Brazilian group. 

Justin lives in Blacksburg, VA with his wife, Marci Craig, who also teaches music with the Renaissance Music Academy. She teaches music theory, early childhood music, and Suzuki Guitar group. While at home Justin keeps busy gardening, practicing yoga, and spending time with his wife and three daughters.

The Schaefer Center Presents: SNARKY PUPPY

Snarky Puppy will be performing in the Schaefer Center on April 20 at 7:30pm! One ticket is included with full GuitarFest registration, and additional tickets can be purchased at

Snarky Puppy

After over a decade of relentless touring and recording in all but complete obscurity, the Texas-bred quasi-collective suddenly found itself held up by the press and public as one of the major figures in the jazz world. But as the category names for all five of the band’s Grammy® Awards would indicate (Best R&B Performance in 2014, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album in 2016, 2017, 2021, and 2023), Snarky Puppy isn’t exactly a jazz band. It’s not a fusion band, and it’s definitely not a jam band. It’s probably best to take Nate Chinen of the New York Times’ advice, as stated in an online discussion about the group, to “take them for what they are, rather than judge them for what they’re not.”

Snarky Puppy is a collective of sorts with as many as 20 members in regular rotation. At its core, the band represents the convergence of both black and white American music culture with various accents from around the world. Japan, Argentina, Canada and the United Kingdom all have representation in the group’s membership. But more than the cultural diversity of the individual players, the defining characteristic of Snarky Puppy’s music is the joy of performing together in the perpetual push to grow creatively.

Their latest Grammy-winning album, Empire Central, was released in September 2022. Its sound is big and bold, chill and laid back, rooted in its native culture while reaching outward, forward bound. With 16 new compositions, the group looks fondly at where it’s come from, confident in the polished power from which its members continue to build the unique Snarky Puppy sound.

The sound now rises like a skyscraper from a 21st century orchestra comprising three guitarists, four keyboardists, two brass, two reeds, a violinist, multiple percussionists and drummers and the accomplished, yet modest, Michael League keeping it all together with his bass.

“Our soundscape has expanded dramatically over the years” says League. “When the band started, we were jazzier, brainy and music oriented. Moving into the Dallas scene we became groovier, more emotional, deeper in a sense. We focused more on communicating a clear message, understandable to a listener without dumbing things down.”  

 “Snarky Puppy has always been a band that prioritizes the sound of music” says League. “On this record, the songs ended up being a lot more direct and funkier than those on our previous records. I think it reflects the many moods of the city’s scene. … Our rule is that it can’t sound like it sounded before; the music has to feel like it’s moving somewhere.” 

And moving somewhere it most definitely is. Empire Central shouts from the rooftops how far Snarky Puppy have come since 10 friends got together at the University of North Texas in 2004. It also raises the question – where will Snarky Puppy go next? For Snarky Puppy fans, the answer to this question is a very exciting prospect.