Gustavo López, architect from Seattle, lists his goals as “improving as a guitarist” and developing an overview of the current situation of flamenco in Spain

The Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art consolidates its recognition from the international university sphere. The school is receiving a new student from the United States’ Fulbright program during the annual flamenco course 2017/2018. Gustavo López, musician and architect from Seattle, is on an artistic studies scholarship, which will allow him to “improve as a guitarist”. In parallel, developing a research project, the goal of which is to discover through interviews the current situation of flamenco in Spain from various points of view: the development of talent, professional work, and the consequences of the recent passing of Paco de Lucia, Enrique Morente and El Lebrijano. Additionally, he intends to transcribe melodies and verses of flamenco song to facilitate communication between singers and musicians from other genres. The Academic Director of the Foundation, Pepa Sánchez, considers that it represents “a recognition of our work, of the rigour and depth of our academic program, and the quality of our teaching staff, to be in contact with the Fulbright Commission Spain-United States and act as supervisors of the research projects that are developed by its scholarship recipients interested in flamenco”. Throughout its twenty years of history, the school has received scholarship recipients from international programs such as Erasmus Plus from Europe, Conaculta from Mexico and Maruwa Foundation from Japan.     

After twenty years as a pioneering centre in regulated flamenco education, the Cristina Heeren Foundation continues to receive recognition from international university institutions. The prestigious United States program of Fulbright scholarships has once again trusted the school as destination for one of its scholarship recipients. During the annual course 2017/2018, Gustavo López, architect and musician from Seattle (Washington, United States), will study and research in the school. He studied architecture and practiced for ten years in his city, but although he loves music, “I never had the opportunity to concentrate all my energy on it”. He considers that Fulbright “is an international program that gives a lot of freedom”. In his case, the scholarship is not academic, but artistic: “It also includes research, but the priority is to improve my training as a guitarist. Of the 25 scholarship recipients in this course, I am the only artist”. But he is also developing a research project. As López explains, “I will conduct a series of interviews to research what is happening today in Spain in the world of flamenco, which will also allow me to gain more experience in music”.

Gustavo López’s project is divided into four issues: “How talent is developed, how professional work is developed, how flamenco has changed after the recent deaths of Paco de Lucia, Lebrijano and Morente and, finally, I intend to thoroughly study the singing to develop a collection of melodies and verses that musicians from other genres can share, as I think that there is a communication problem with flamenco singing and there is not an abundance of singers outside (of Spain)”. Therefore, personal interviews will be included with artists, academics, students and guitar craftsmen. “My inspiration is the book ‘Notes and tones’ from 1977 written by a jazz percussionist, Arthur Taylor, from musician to musician, specifically. And he thinks that perhaps “my interviews could be the base of a future book”.   

It’s not the first time that he has visited Spain. He was studying architecture in Barcelona in 2006 and in 2009 returned “on holiday and I was able to go to concerts”. Furthermore, he has received classes via Skype with Spanish teachers in the United States. Additionally, he considers it important in his training to have “seen concerts in Seattle and New Mexico: Paco de Lucia in Vancouver in 2011 and Vicente Amigo in Seattle in 2016”. And his subsequent destination has been Seville, city named Best in Travel 2018 by Lonely Planet. He knew about the Cristina Heeren Foundation “from friends who had studied here, such as a Colombian singer settled in Vancouver who I have known for ten years”. But the determining factor was that “to obtain the Fulbright you have to have help from an institution and the Cristina Heeren Foundation was the only one that met the right conditions for this program”. In this school, pioneering wholistic flamenco training for twenty years, he hopes to accomplish his dream: “I want to achieve a high enough level as a guitarist to be able to invite flamenco artists to the United States. And to have a good knowledge of this art is fundamental to do something like that,” he considers.

A recognition of our study plan

To once again be a destination for Fulbright represents for the Cristina Heeren Foundation “not only an honour, but also an achievement, in the opinion of Pepa Sánchez. The Academic Director is proud that “such a prestigious program takes into consideration the study plan of the school of the Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art”. As she explains, it is “a great recognition of our work, of the rigour and depth of our academic program and the quality of our teaching staff, to be in contact with the Fulbright Commission Spain-United States and act as supervisors of the research projects that are developed by its scholarship recipients interested in flamenco”. Furthermore, it is a boost to the efforts made by the Foundation to achieve the official approval of its studies by the competent authorities in education.

In addition to Fulbright, the school has received throughout its twenty years of history, scholarship students from international programs such as Conaculta in Mexico, Maruwa Ikueikai in Japan and Erasmus Plus. Fruit of this European program, the Lithuanian scholarship recipient Brigita Bublyte, researcher and teacher from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, undertook a stay in the school in 2015 to develop the practical part of her doctoral thesis, consisting of studying the links between the polyphonic songs of her country, the sutartines, and flamenco, a project from which emerged a show and a documentary.

Translation: Cathy Miller