According to Classical Guitar Magazine of England, Mesut Özgen is a “highly accomplished and exciting player who gets the most out of the music he plays” and whose works show the deep influence of traditional Turkish music. Critically acclaimed as “stunningly versatile and expressive” by Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Özgen has been busy with concertizing, recording, composing, conducting, and teaching.
Dr. Özgen joined the faculty of Florida International University in the fall of 2013 as director of guitar studies and the FIU Guitar Ensemble. He has performed and taught master classes throughout the United States, Spain, and Turkey and was the director of guitar studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 1998-2013.
What brought you to FIU?
I have been on a journey since I decided to change my professional carrier from medicine to music. So, it started in my native Turkey and arrived to Miami through Cordoba, Spain; New Haven, Connecticut; Tempe, Arizona; and Santa Cruz, California. I really enjoyed working as a doctor, but my heart was in music. I spent the last fifteen years building a reputable guitar program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, but when I visited Miami in March 2013, I met several great musicians, including Orlando Garcia, Rafael Padron, Carlos Molina, and Carlos Rafael Rivera at the FIU School of Music. I was very impressed with the variety of opportunities offered to music students and I was already familiar with the reputation of the wonderful music faculty.
What is your experience so far working with FIU students and faculty?
I am impressed with music students’ dedication to learning all the intricacies of their art, and was not only impressed with the incredibly high qualities of the music faculty, but also their support and interest in the collaborations. I already scheduled a concert to perform some of my music with great faculty musicians such as the Amernet String Quartet members (violinists Misha Vitenson and Marcia Littley, violist Michael Klotz, and cellist Jason Calloway), tenor Robert B. Dundas, pianist Kemal Gekic, and flutist Elissa Lakofsky next year. I feel also extremely lucky to be working with Dr. David Dolata, who directs the early music ensemble, the FIU Collegium Musicum. I feel very thankful to all faculty members for their support for me personally and for their contribution to music in general. Each one of them has uniquely wonderful qualities.
What is your primary goal at FIU?
Well, building a strong guitar program is my primary goal. Accomplishing this requires mainly a dedication to students, as well as attracting quality students dedicated to music. I think current guitar students have been responding to my high level expectations very positively so far. Besides, I have already received applications from very accomplished students to study with me at FIU. I have also plans to involve high school guitar students and amateur guitar players from the community in the guitar orchestra activities.
This brings us to the FIU Miami Guitar Orchestra. It looks like you have ambitious plans for your next concert. What would you like to tell us about the guitar orchestra?
Yes, this is an important part of building a full-fledged guitar program. I have had great success with my previous guitar orchestra in Santa Cruz, California. We were invited to play concerts in various venues and festivals. To my surprise, the guitar students at FIU already adapted their playing in a large ensemble very successfully. During the spring 2014 semester, I began to expand the ensemble with the addition of other instruments, such as saxophone and voice. There will even be further additions next year, so we can explore a wider range of repertoire. I already have a great number of compositions in the repertoire, including new works for the guitar orchestra that I commissioned from renowned composers such as Benjamin Verdery, Jack Vees, Phil Collins, and Christopher Pratorius. I will direct the FIU Guitar Miami Guitar Orchestra in an exciting performance at the Herbert and Nicole Performing Arts Center Concert Hall on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 7:30pm.
To read more about Mesut Özgen, click here.