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Stranded in La Jolla due to coronavirus: Spanish-guitar star Pablo Sainz Villegas to perform online concerts for La Jolla Music Society

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The coronavirus has stranded Pablo Sainz Villegas La Jolla — since Spain is under a nationwide lock-down — so he will instead perform free, online concerts.
(Hayne Palmour IV / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Spanish classical music virtuoso, who also is La Jolla Music Society’s education ambassador, will perform three livestream concerts from La Jolla

Because of the coronavirus, classical guitar star Pablo Sainz Villegas is stranded in La Jolla. That puts him almost 6,000 miles away from his wife, Valeria, at their home in Madrid, which — like all of Spain — is now under a nationwide lock-down.

His March concert tour of Germany has been canceled, along with his April tour of Japan. The May recording of his new album in Los Angeles is on hold. So is pretty much everything else on his schedule, although he is currently brainstorming ideas to take his duties as the La Jolla Music Society’s first education ambassador online.

Yet, while Villegas misses his wife, his parents — who live in the northern Spanish province of La Rioja — and the performances around the world that fuel his career, he also sees an unexpected opportunity the pandemic has provided.

“It is more challenging being away from my family. But it is in these moments of solitude where I can also find answers,” Villegas, 42, said in a Wednesday phone interview.

“And it is a good time for reflection for all of us, not just me, or my family and my wife. For everyone, it is our choice whether to be distracted by spending 10 hours a day in front of the TV, or to also spend time with yourself reflecting on everything going on, and how our condition now has happened at other times in history and united us.

“Through this difficult moment, we will get stronger and also, I think, a little bit wiser. We’ll have a different perception of the world, and each other, and have a better sense of the universality of who we are as humans. We’ll also better be able to value many things that sometimes we take for granted.

“It is difficult and there is a lot of time of solitude. Happily, I have my guitar, which is a wonderful companion.”

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Because of the coronavirus, classical guitar star and La Jolla Music Society education ambassador Pablo Sainz Villegas is stranded in San Diego. His wife and parents are in his native Spain, which is under a national lockdown as it battles the global pandemic.

Picking online alternatives

Villegas will share his six-string companion, and the music of his homeland, at noon on Friday, March 27. He will perform a free solo guitar recital, which will be livestreamed on La Jolla Music Society’s Facebook page and the performance can also be viewed anytime afterward there.

His repertoire will include two pieces by Francisco Tárrega, “Jota” and “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (“Memories of Alhambra”). He will also perform the 19th century classic “Romance,” which is also known as “Romance Anónimo” (“Anonymous Romance”) and whose composer remains a matter of dispute.

“We’ll be doing the livestream concert here at my friend’s home in La Jolla. They have a nice, ample living room with very good acoustics,” said Villegas, who warmly thanked the publicity-shy La Jolla Music Society supporter who invited him to be their guest while the guitarist is stranded here.

“This is a beautiful opportunity for me and LJMS to do outreach to all the people who — because of the coronavirus — cannot come to the concert hall,” he continued. “Music can still be a part of their lives and we will go into their their homes and living rooms, which is wonderful.

“Because we have the responsibility, as musicians, to share our voice, our music and our values, and give a message of hope and personal responsibility; a message of being united. This is the moment when the music and arts uplift out spirits to make this situation more bearable.”

Villegas became the society’s first education ambassador last year. But he first made an impact here as a champion of music and the guitar from 2006 to 2012 as a key force in Music Without Borders, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing music to public school students in San Diego and Tijuana.

“For six years, I crossed the border dozens of times and did outreach to thousands of young people,” said Villegas, who now heads a similar music education organization in his native Spain.

“I told them stories, just me and my guitar. Those stories create images that stay in their mind and are very powerful. And those stories are related to learning, so the music sealed those values into their minds. I reached more than 25,000 kids, on both side of the border, also created connections with institutions on both sides.

“For example, the Youth Orchestra of Tijuana and the San Diego Youth Orchestra didn’t know of each other at the time. I put them in touch and they collaborated and exchanged musicians. That evolved into some private funding from and I was able to finance seven music programs with seven local music teachers in Tijuana. So it was a great way to develop that musical outreach.”

For now, the majority of Villegas’ musical outreach will be strictly online, starting with Friday’s noon concert.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, March 27, he will perform as part of Music Never Sleeps, a 24-hour live stream marathon concert. And at 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 29, he will debut a weekly live stream performance on his website, pablosainzvillegas.com, and on his social media pages: Facebook.com/PabloVillegasGuitar; twitter.com/PVillegasGuitar; instagram.com/pablospanishguitar; and youtube.com/PabloSainzVillegas

Anyone who misses the livestream concerts can still watch the free performances anytime afterward at the respective online sites.

“In the past, I’ve done just a few online performances and mainly when I was playing a concert,” said the guitarist, whose biggest gig to date was for 85,000 people at a stadium in Barcelona with opera superstar Placido Domingo.

“But this is different and I’m learning on the go how to do livestreams and how to communicate with everyone on social media during live performances. The best thing we can do is to adapt to the circumstances and maximize doing so. There is always a good side to everything. Despite the challenges right now, there are also good aspects of what we are experiencing and going through together.”


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