Aaron Prillaman

Classic guitarist Aaron Prillaman will perform May 30 at the Davie County Public Library in Mocksville.

Classical guitarist Aaron Prillaman plays mostly at events, such as weddings and corporate gatherings, and monthly at Tre Nonne, an Italian restaurant on Jonestown Road. Those performances can be difficult for some folks to attend.

To rectify that, he has begun to perform a solo concert each spring. His next one will be May 30 at Davie County Public Library.

Prillaman grew up in Fayetteville, and moved to Davie County in 2012, where his wife grew up. While taking piano lessons when he was 15, he went to a classical guitar workshop.

“I thought, “I could do that.’ So I bought a guitar,” Prillaman said.

He studied music at Appalachian State University and has a doctorate in musical art from Arizona State University.

Q: How would you describe your art?

Answer: I am an instrumental classical guitarist. I try to find pieces of music, mostly in the classical genre, that speak to me. I then try to learn them and interpret them, finding my own voice in my interpretation of them. I act as a curator, finding special music from the vast repertoire of classical guitar music that I think audiences will enjoy and that I think I can add something to in my interpretation.

Q: How have you evolved as an artist?

Answer: Years ago, my main objective was to play all of the most difficult music that I could find, and play it as well as I could. I never really achieved this and ultimately it left me frustrated and drained. Now I try to find music that speaks in a special way, and I try to let my own voice be heard through those pieces. If a piece pulls me into a special place musically, and I find myself drawn to it for some reason, I will play it whether it is easy or hard.

Q: Who has influenced your art?

Answer: I have been inspired by the great classical guitarists: Julian Bream, Andres Segovia, John Williams and others. Some more recent guitarists would be Andrew York and Judicael Perroy. I also have a great appreciation for some guitarists outside of that sphere. Pat Metheny is one of my favorite guitarists to see live and to listen to his recordings. I also enjoy listening to John Scofield. Some non-guitar influences would be Herbie Hancock, Itzhak Perlman and Victor Wooten. While I don’t think I’ll ever achieve the level of technical mastery and musical expression of these fantastic musicians, they are inspirational and offer something to strive for. Another huge influence is my father, Glen Prillaman. He is an excellent pianist and has filled my life with music as I have grown up. I also always had access to musical instruments as a kid, having the ability to experiment on them and learn on my own, as well as from him. He will be joining me in this upcoming concert on a movement from a very beautiful piece that features both instruments equally.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Answer: My biggest challenge is to balance life with art. I have four kids, work some part-time jobs, and also do freelance work. It can be difficult sometimes to devote the necessary time and energy to maintaining the technical proficiency that is necessary as a classical guitarist. This may be part of the reason why I have started focusing on music that I like and I have stopped judging music based on its complexity and technical difficulty. If I like it, it doesn’t really matter why. I don’t need to defend myself anymore.

Q: What does art do for you?

Answer: Art allows me to express myself in a deeper way to the world. It can be difficult for me to express myself verbally to another person in a conversation, or for me to relate to people on a personable level, but I can connect through music. It is immensely satisfying to find some music that I really like, to learn it and play it for other people, and then to find that they enjoy it as much as I do. It is almost like I am telling a great story that I have heard, a secret story that not many people have heard. I may not be the one who wrote the story, but I can attempt to retell it in a compelling way, adding something of my own self in the process.

Q: Any advice for other artists?

Answer: Make sure that you focus on your enjoyment of your art form. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing you will not stick with it. That is the main goal. We try to attach other things to it like making money or putting out an album, or whatever it might be, but the main goal is to make music and enjoy it. I’m not saying that the other things can’t be enjoyable too, because they can. It can be fun to put out an album or play a concert, and those things are important, but if you look at what you are doing and realize that it is not enjoyable, it may be time to re-evaluate things. Let something go, simplify what you are trying to do, or look at your long-standing assumptions about what you are doing and see if you can find a flaw. Maybe the goal you are really trying to achieve was within arm’s reach all along, you were just putting a gulf between yourself and your goal by adding ridiculous expectations that no one else cares about.

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Lisa O’Donnell writes about artists — visual, musical, literary and more — weekly in relish. Send your story ideas to lodonnell@wsjournal.com or call 336-727-7420.

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