Unveiling the Soul of Flamenco: An Exclusive Interview with Guitar Virtuoso Juanito Pascual

Share With Friends:

About Us

The Guitar Masters Festival, founded by Charles Carlini, annually celebrates and elevates the art of guitar playing, uniting enthusiasts from diverse musical backgrounds. Taking place from April 26 to 29 in iconic New York City venues, this harmonious convergence of extraordinary guitar talent invites musicians and fans alike to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of guitar music, recognizing the profound impact of this instrument on the musical landscape.

Juanito Pascual is renowned for his mastery of Flamenco guitar, blending traditional Flamenco with elements of jazz, classical, and world music. With a career spanning decades, Pascual has captivated audiences worldwide with his virtuosity and innovation. From his early encounters with Flamenco’s raw emotion to his expansive exploration of musical fusion, Pascual’s journey embodies a profound dedication to both tradition and evolution in the realm of Flamenco.

Flamenco, with its intricate rhythms and rich cultural heritage, captured Pascual’s heart from an early age, drawing him into its captivating world of passion and expression. Over the years, his journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of musical excellence and a deepening appreciation for the nuanced complexities of Flamenco. As he ventured into collaborations with diverse musicians and explored the intersections of Flamenco with other genres, Pascual’s artistry blossomed, offering audiences a transcendent experience that bridges cultures and defies boundaries.

We had the privilege to sit down with Pascual and delve into his remarkable musical journey and career. From his humble beginnings to his current status as a revered figure in the world of Flamenco, Pascual shared insights into the transformative power of music, the challenges of preserving tradition in a rapidly changing world, and the boundless possibilities that arise from embracing diversity and collaboration in artistic expression. Join us as we explore the depths of Pascual’s passion for Flamenco and the profound impact of his innovative approach on the global music scene.

Guitar Masters: Your music embodies the passionate spirit of Flamenco. Can you share with us the journey that led you to embrace this genre, and how it has influenced your artistic expression over the years?

Juanito Pascual: My passion for the guitar began as far back as my memory stretches. I pestered my parents for a guitar at the tender age of 3, but it wasn’t until I turned 11 that I finally got my hands on one.  From that moment on, I was consumed by a voracious hunger to play, eagerly tackling any genre imaginable. Initially, my lessons were a mix of classical and rock, thanks to the guidance of my versatile teacher, Cliff Suchy. However, it was a pivotal moment at the age of 14 when Cliff casually strummed some flamenco chords before a recital that truly ignited my passion. Those chords resonated deep within me, stirring emotions I couldn’t quite articulate. Soon after, I crossed paths with a classmate whose father Scott “Mateo” Davies, is a flamenco guitarist. Mateo’s son Mikhail had been learning flamenco since the age of 5 from his dad and proceeded to show me several things and we formed a trio with another classmate, playing Gypsy Kings, Paco/John/Al stuff plus some of our own compositions. We had regular weekly gigs by the end of 10th grade. I then quickly started taking lessons from Mateo and under Mateo’s guidance, I embarked on a journey to Spain at the age of 16, an experience that would shape the trajectory of my musical career forever.

Following my transformative year in Spain, I pursued formal education at the New England Conservatory, enrolling in their Contemporary Improvisation program. Here, I had the opportunity to infuse flamenco into every facet of my studies, alongside esteemed mentors such as classical guitarists Eliot Fisk and David Leisner, as well as jazz virtuoso Gene Bertoncini. Flamenco became my artistic anchor, providing both technical prowess and emotional depth as I ventured into blending it with a diverse array of influences, including jazz, classical, rock, and blues. This fusion of styles has not only enriched my musical expression but also solidified flamenco as my musical home base, a constant source of inspiration and innovation.

GM: As a master of Flamenco guitar, you’ve undoubtedly encountered numerous challenges and triumphs throughout your career. Could you tell us about a particularly memorable moment or experience that has shaped you as a musician?

JP: There are so many formative things, but perhaps curiously, one of the most defining elements of my whole process over the years has been the fact that when  I was 20, I developed a problem in my right hand, from playing with slightly improper technique. I had to stop playing completely for about 6 months and gradually built my playing back up over another 6 months. Before that, I had been playing as much as 10 hours a day but evidently didn’t have the proper technical and conceptual foundations to do that sustainably. 

Throughout my twenties, alongside regular practice, I dedicated myself to the arduous task of reworking my technique. This journey was enriched by the guidance of remarkable mentors such as David Leisner and Dima Goryachev. Despite the initial fear and uncertainty surrounding the injury, I remained steadfast in my belief that a solution was attainable. Remarkably, with each improvement or resolution of an aspect related to the injury, the music emanating from the guitar took on new dimensions of richness and expression. This healing process not only restored my playing but also unveiled previously undiscovered layers of musical and sonic possibilities within the instrument. As a serendipitous outcome, I have developed a specialization in hand healing, allowing me to assist numerous individuals facing similar challenges as a teacher.

GM: The Guitar Masters Festival in New York City will feature a diverse lineup of incredibly talented artists. What excites you most about being a part of this inaugural event, and what can audiences expect from your performance?

JP: As an avid aficionado of the guitar, I’m perpetually thrilled by the artistry of exceptional players across all genres. It’s with great anticipation that I await the opportunity to meet and collaborate with the remarkable lineup of diverse artists featured in this upcoming event. The honor of being part of such an extraordinary gathering is truly humbling.

For my performance, I’ve curated a diverse setlist predominantly comprising original compositions, in keeping with the tradition of flamenco. However, expect a surprise or two sprinkled into the mix. Throughout the program, the flamenco guitar will showcase its versatility, serving as both a solo instrument and a captivating accompaniment to voice and dance. Joining me for certain segments of the performance will be the immensely talented percussionist and vocalist José Moreno, along with the graceful flamenco dancer Paloma Rios, adding depth and dynamism to the experience.

GM: Collaboration often plays a significant role in the world of music. Have you had any memorable collaborations that have pushed the boundaries of Flamenco and enriched your musical journey? If so, what made these collaborations special?

JP: Collaboration, to me, is one of the most enriching aspects of making music. One particularly memorable experience took place back in 2008 when I received what one might call a “lucky break” – a call from the Grammy-winning pianist Danilo Perez (known for his work with the Wayne Shorter Quartet and Dizzy Gillespie) inviting me to join him, along with bassist John Patitucci (a veteran of Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock bands) and percussionist Jamey Haddad (notable for collaborations with Paul Simon, Dave Liebman, and Paul Winter), for a concert. The original flamenco guitarist, maestro Gerardo Nunez, was unable to make it to the concert in two weeks, and they needed a substitute. The chance to rehearse and share the stage with such esteemed masters, and later to record alongside them, was an extraordinary opportunity.

Together, we curated a program that blended flamenco with jazz influences, resulting in a fascinating fusion of styles. Witnessing flamenco through their unique perspectives, hearing their questions, and experiencing their interpretations of the material was profoundly enlightening and transformative for me. This collaboration not only affirmed my intention to incorporate more jazz and world music elements into my own work but also provided invaluable mentorship and guidance from some of the best in the business. The timing of this experience was uncanny, and I couldn’t have asked for better mentors and collaborators to inspire and propel me forward on my musical journey.

GM: Flamenco is not just music; it’s a cultural phenomenon with deep roots. How do you strive to honor the tradition of Flamenco while also infusing your own unique style and innovations into your performances?

JP: Maintaining this delicate balance is a perpetual challenge. During my teenage years, as I gradually comprehended the vastness and richness of flamenco culture, I found myself increasingly drawn into its depths. From the age of 18 to 35, I was fortunate to be surrounded by extraordinary flamenco guitarists, singers, and dancers, both in Spain and through numerous opportunities to tour and collaborate with top-tier flamenco artists in the U.S. This immersion provided me with a solid foundation that I continue to nurture. However, I also recognized early on that my own life experiences and influences are equally valid and potentially enriching. In recent decades, American music has profoundly influenced flamenco, and I realized that my immersion in the tradition, coupled with my unique background, could contribute something representative yet distinctive to the art form.

An unforgettable moment occurred when I was 18, playing blues on a doorstep across from the renowned flamenco dance school, Amor de Dios, in Madrid. To my surprise, I was approached by a succession of flamenco guitarists eager to exchange licks and ideas. Word had apparently spread after a few top players stopped to listen. This unexpected validation showed me that my unique perspective had value and could be integrated into the modern tradition of flamenco. Nevertheless, I’ve come to understand that developing this blend takes years of dedication and exploration of the various facets of both traditions.

***

Juanito Pascual’s dedication to preserving the authenticity of Flamenco while embracing innovation serves as an inspiration to musicians worldwide. Through his artistry, he continues to push boundaries, bridging cultures and captivating audiences with his mesmerizing performances. Pascual’s journey from his early encounters with the raw emotion of Flamenco to his current status as a revered figure in the music industry reflects a profound commitment to both tradition and evolution within the Flamenco realm. Additionally, Pascual will be debuting and kicking off the inaugural Guitar Masters Festival with his trio featuring percussionist and vocalist José Moreno and flamenco dancer Paloma Rios on April 25, promising an unforgettable performance that embodies the essence of Flamenco’s vitality and innovation.

As we conclude our conversation, we extend our gratitude to Juanito Pascual for sharing his insights and enriching our understanding of Flamenco music. His passion for preserving Flamenco’s authenticity while embracing innovation serves as a guiding light for aspiring musicians and enthusiasts alike. With each captivating performance, Pascual reaffirms the timeless allure and universal appeal of Flamenco, leaving an indelible mark on the world of music.

About Juanito | Tickets

author avatar
Charles Carlini

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top