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Wofford professor brings Segovia’s Sandburg work to life

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – “For my dear Sandburg, to teach his fingers as if they were little children.” This phrase was penned by classical guitarist Andrés Segovia more than 50 years ago while dining with Hazel Buchbinder, a friend of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sandburg. The two met by chance in a hotel in Havana, and Buchbinder convinced Segovia to be her guest.

During the course of the meal, she relayed that Sandburg still desired lessons from Segovia even 12 years after their first meeting. Segovia immediately composed a piece on hotel stationery, and Sandburg treasured it for the rest of his life.

This spring, Dr. Jhon C. Akers, associate professor in foreign languages and assistant director of Career Services at Wofford College, celebrated the publication of this piece that he was lucky enough to happen upon while visiting the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, N.C., in May 2000.

Segovia, who considered himself “the apostle of the guitar,” was the “most significant 20th century figure tied to the classical guitar… [and] was the key to bringing the guitar to concert stage,” says Akers, himself an accomplished classical guitarist and performer.

The manuscript is especially rare because “over the 75 years of his career, Segovia composed surprisingly little. His commitment was to recitals, transcriptions and teaching,” Akers says.

When Akers found the piece, he immediately recognized the importance of it and knew that “somebody would like to see it published.”

He proceeded to contact Columbia Music Co., located in Chapel Hill, N.C., and recognized as the “oldest publisher of classical guitar music in the United States.” They were interested, but told Akers to request permission from Segovia’s widow. After verifying a faxed copy, his widow supported the venture.

Columbia Music Co. asked Akers to transcribe the piece as “the original was written out very quickly; some of (Segovia’s) writing is a little bit hard to figure out.” Akers followed through with this and “For Carl Sandburg” is now being distributed by Theodore Presser Co.

Akers’ interest in the relationship between Carl Sandburg and his guitar will be further represented with the publication of his book “A Small Friend, Carl Sandburg’s Guitar.” The book will be distributed by the Bold Strummer of Westport, Conn., and is projected to be out in September of this year.

A respected classical guitarist himself, Akers will give a “short performance of Sandburg and the classical guitar” at 2 p.m. on Oct. 16 in Barnet Park as part of the Spartanburg International Festival.

Akers has performed at universities, Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston and at the North Carolina School of the Arts. In 2000, Akers’ compact disc titled “The Story of Carl Sandburg and Andrés Segovia, Classical Guitar and Guitar Writings of Carl Sandburg” became available.

The disc is available at Carl Sandburg Home as well as through email with Akers at akersjc@wofford.edu. The project was funded by The Western North Carolina Arts Council and was produced with recording assistance by Martin Aigner, an information technology specialist at Wofford.

Akers has been featured at Carl Sandburg Home in the annual Poetry Celebration and has performed in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Winterthur, Switzerland. Akers heads up the Troubadour Series, a classical guitar series featuring local and regional artists, presented on Wofford’s campus.

This article was written by Wofford College student Kristin Sams.