UT Guitar Studio talents set to play at Cactus Cafe


Jonathan Garza

Classical guitarists and music students Stephen Krishnan and Robby Brown will perform back-to-back at the Cactus Café Thursday. Initially both Krishnan and Brown had no intentions of becoming professional guitarists but now hope to teach classical guitar in the future. 

Stephen Krishnan was 4 years old when he first began playing the classical guitar. Krishnan — now a UT senior pursuing his Bachelor of Music in guitar performance — met classical guitarist Robby Brown, who is pursuing the master’s degree at the Butler School of Music, when he came to UT. Brown and Krishnan perform back-to-back at the Cactus Cafe on Thursday, setting the stage for acclaimed classical guitarist Alexander Milovanov from Belarus.

As a freshman in high school, Brown began playing the electric guitar, became interested in jazz guitar and began to study jazz music in his senior year. 

“I just wanted to explore music in a deeper way and learn different styles of guitar playing,” Brown said.

Hailing from a family of artists and musicians, Brown began his undergraduate studies at The University of Southern Mississippi as a jazz studies major, learning classical guitar on the side because it was a
required elective.

“As time went on, I realized I love to play it, and I just kept on practicing and practicing, and eventually classical guitar took over,” Brown said. 

Brown switched his major to guitar performance his junior year. He later
auditioned for and joined
UT’s master’s program.

Krishnan, on the other hand, has been playing classical guitar since childhood. He began training in classical guitar with the Suzuki Program, an early childhood music program, when he
was 4.

“I never went into taking guitar lessons with the expectations of becoming a professional guitarist,” Krishnan said. “My family wanted me to learn to play a classical instrument, and it was originally going to be violin. None of us had any idea what the classical guitar was at that time, but, when we went to a music school in Connecticut and heard one of the performers play the classical guitar, my parents and I just fell in love with the
instrument instantly.” 

Krishnan continued the Suzuki Program until he was 16 years old. He knew he wanted to pursue his undergraduate studies in music, and he began applying to various schools. He finally chose UT because he wanted to train under guitar professor Adam Holzman. The classical music scene in Austin also offered him numerous opportunities to teach and learn the classical guitar, according
to Krishnan.

Both Krishnan and Brown now compete in guitar competitions. Krishnan competes as a part of the UT Guitar Quartet, an undergraduate-only ensemble, while Brown competes in solo competitions. He recently won the Classical Minds Festival and Competition held in Houston in June 2013.

Krishnan and Brown are both part of the UT Guitar Studio led by Holzman. They each spend up to six hours every day perfecting
their craft. 

“Classical music is seen as an elite form of music, but people should seek out and experience classical music for what it is,” Brown said. “Being surrounded by all the great guitar players in the studio and having a good teacher who knows how to make a guitar player sound great is a really
great motivator.”

Holzman has been working with Brown for a year and half and with Krishnan for three and a half years.

“They are both hardworking,” Holzman said. “You have to be incredibly inquisitive, talented, musical, disciplined and hardworking
to succeed.”

Krishnan has also been a volunteer at the Austin Classical Guitar society, which hosts several concert series for performers and organizes events and education outreach programs for
the community.

“He’s someone who welcomes the audience into the experience,” said Matthew Hinsley, executive director at ACG. “He’s one of the most kind, patient individuals. Outright mastery of the
subject is a critical element that’s going to make him a successful teacher.”

Brown and Krishnan both hope to become more involved in teaching classical guitar in the future. While Krishnan hopes to give more performances as part of a guitar ensemble, Brown aspires to be a concert artist and also pursue his doctorate degree in music.

“Music means a lot to me,” Brown said. “Music inspires me to live life.”