Tucson Guitar Society Orchestra


In 2004, Jeff McKee, president of the Tucson Guitar Society, started an ensemble consisting of six to eight members, of varying experience and skill, who enjoyed playing together. Requirements to join were simple: membership in the Guitar Society and the ability to read music. In 2009, Ian Stuart, the new chairman of the Guitar Society, made Gabriel Navia the orchestra’s first conductor and artistic director. The ensemble, now called the Tucson Guitar Society Orchestra (TGSO), added a few members, began rehearsing a more challenging repertoire and played its first performance at Holsclaw Hall in December, 2010. Guest soprano soloist was Valquiria Pomme, who sang the aria Cantilena from Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. When Gabriel Navia returned to Brazil in the summer of 2013, José Luis Puerta, an original member of the orchestra and a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, was asked to take over as conductor and artistic director. The TGSO performed its Winter Concert, with soloists Juan Merello, theorbo, and Kaitlyn Miller, violin, at Grace St. Paul’s Church in December, 2013. The orchestra’s first performance outside of Tucson was at the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA) regional conference at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona, in March of 2014. They also participated in the Arizona Ensemble Festival at Glendale Community College as part of an 85-player guitar ensemble! In October 2014, ten representatives of the TGSO performed the Shingo Fujii Concierto de los Angeles, with Bill Kanengiser as soloist, as part of an all-Arizona Guitar Orchestra which toured Tucson, Tempe and Flagstaff.

The Tucson Guitar Society recently began to commission music for guitar ensemble. Our first piece “Once We Moved Like the Wind” was written by Brad Richter, and it honors the life of Geronimo. The piece was premiered by the Arizona Guitar Orchestra, an ensemble formed of players from the Tucson Guitar Society as well as from Phoenix and Flagstaff. This ad hoc orchestra played in all three participating cities, under the baton of Chuck Hulihan of Glendale Community College. More recently, our collaborating group commissioned Andrew York write for us, and he created “By Chants” for guitar quartet and ensemble, a piece based on a gaming song of the Havasupai Tribe of the Grand Canyon area. It premiered in spring of 2017 with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and the Arizona Guitar Orchestra. And now we have a new piece by renowned composer Steven Goss called “Minimal Effort.” We’ll have it ready to play soon!

The Tucson Guitar Society Orchestra presents two concerts a year, one in winter and the other in spring. Our fantastic conductor, José Luis Puerta, will bring some exciting new pieces to the repertoire. We will announce the winter concert date this fall. Students of the Bolton Guitar Studies are encouraged to participate in the TGSO and can do so to fulfill their large ensemble requirements. 

For more information about the Tucson Guitar Society Orchestra contact José Luis Puerta at joseluispuertapr@gmail.com.