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Classical guitarist Kevin McCormick joins Symphony of the Hills for their Christmas concert on Dec 6. Photo by Phil Houseal

Kevin McCormick will perform with the Symphony of the Hills on Dec. 6, as part of an ensemble playing classic Christmas selections from Mannheim Steamroller. Information on his music and CDs is at www.kevin-mccormick.com.

Also of Note: Long-time local musician Johnny Schuch will celebrate his 65th birthday by throwing a free musical bash at Pat’s Hall this Sunday, Dec. 2, from 3 to 9 p.m. The event features many of his musical friends. Proceeds benefit the Chris Staats Memorial Scholarship Fund. Go to www.patshall.com for details.


webmaster: phil@fullhouseproductions.net

Strings aloud

by Phil Houseal
Nov 28, 2012


I first heard of Kevin McCormick before I actually heard him. He was recommended to us as a guitar instructor for our community ed program. It was only years later when I went to a performance by McCormick that I realized we were seriously underutilizing him.

Kevin McCormick is a world-class talent. Literally.

He has studied and performed in Europe, Asia, and the United States. He took lessons from a student of legendary virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia’s in Rome. He lived in Japan, learning the 13-string koto. In 1999 he opened his own studio in Kerrville, where he is currently Instructor of Guitar at Schreiner University.

Next week McCormick will join Symphony of Hills to perform Christmas selections from Mannheim Steamroller.

It will be a celebration of strings.

“We performed some Mannheim Steamroller at a concert a few years ago,” he said. “And I did one of the Vivaldi pieces with the Youth Orchestra. It was a little bit challenging, since strings are louder and reach the ear in a different way, but I love it.”

McCormick has been loving the guitar since he first picked one up at age 7. He played classical guitar until around the age of 16, when he succumbed to the rock and roll siren and started playing in bands through college. His muses switched from Vivaldi to British New Wave and bands like Rush and Yes.

It took a trip abroad for him to rediscover his roots in classical music.

“I did a year in Rome,” he said. “I took lessons from a teacher who had studied with Segovia. That changed my perspective. It gave me an idea about how far I needed to go to get where I wanted to be. But I was surprised at what I already had.”

Today his first love remains the sound of the acoustic guitar, but he embraces his eclectic background. “I appreciate all guitar music. I love Django Reinhardt, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.” In fact, the player is less important than the product. “For me it always comes down to musicality: Is what the player doing a service to the music, or is it about themselves?”

This observation vibrated inside. I recently asked another Kerrville musician–violinist Cathy Learoyd–how to overcome performance anxiety. Her answer? Contemplate the composer–what he had in mind, what he was trying to say with his music. Stop thinking about yourself and make music.

“When you relax, that is exactly what you do,” McCormick agreed. “But it’s easy to say; it’s hard to do. When you do relax, you know it’s more musical.”

McCormick still gets keyed up before a performance. But he has learned to use that energy. “When you sit in front of an audience of 200, there is no way to say you aren’t going to be nervous. I realize there are 200 sets of ears that are going to receive this in a slightly different way.”

I happened to catch McCormick at Rails, a small restaurant in Kerrville, with a more intimate atmosphere.

“When sitting in here,” he said, “I can communicate on a more personal level. It is more informal. It’s a conversation.”

McCormick also communicates by composing “song cycle” CDs. Writing is something he has always enjoyed, even back in the days when he was cranking out rock and roll with his brothers. But he was never satisfied just doing rock. He felt limited by what he called the “three chords and the truth” approach to music.

“Why do we have to box ourselves?” he asked rhetorically. “It is interesting if you think about it. The rock movement was all about getting out of the box, to be free, not restricted. Yet rock is some of the most restricted music.”

One of his recent works was a piece for the Symphony called Soleares, based on what he called a “mournful flamenco” style and sensibility. Writing for string ensembles has opened up a whole new world.

“It was a lot of learning but lot of fun,” he said. “All the players are skilled enough where I could give them some parts that were tricky.”

With that experience under his guitar strap, he found it easy to write for larger string groups.

“I loved writing for orchestra, actually,” he said. “When you are a smaller group, you have to assign a much larger role to each instrument. Whereas in orchestras, you can do some really intricate things.”

In addition to preparing for this concert, McCormick is working on his own Christmas record with his daughter as vocalist. He hopes to have a soft release soon, but may take the next year to polish it to his standards.

But next week he’ll be on stage with the Symphony. Of all the people in the theater, McCormick will probably be having the most fun.

“I love playing with strings.”