Perseverance and practice paid off for 12-year-old Los Altos resident Ashwin Krishna as he picked and strummed his way to second place at the VI International Youth Competition of the Guitar Foundation of America last month.
“I competed against people from all over the world,” Ashwin said.
Approximately 40 of the best young – 14 and under – classical guitarists in the world competed June 26 and 27 in Austin, Texas, according to Ashwin’s instructor, Scott Gossage of the Silicon Valley Classical Guitar School in Sunnyvale. Ashwin has studied the Suzuki Method of classical guitar under Gossage since he was 4 years old.
“I’m very proud of Ashwin,” Gossage said. “He chose his pieces well and practiced hard.”
Responsible in large part for choosing works that would appeal to judges is Ashwin’s father, Kris Harikrishnan, a big influence and guiding force behind Ashwin’s success. A blues guitarist himself, Harikrishnan said he studied classical guitar for four years so he could understand the genre to be able to guide his son.
“Now if (Ashwin) makes a mistake while practicing, I can tell,” Harikrishnan said.
Guidance and encouragement notwithstanding, Ashwin’s success in the competition was due purely to his own hard work and practice, Harikrishnan said.
Ashwin practiced two to three hours every day to prepare for the competition, which involved two rounds with participants playing two pieces per round. Competition officials assigned the first piece – a composition by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Ashwin played Villa-Lobos’ “Prelude 1.” For his second piece, Harikrishnan and Ashwin chose a more challenging and versatile composition, “Sevilla” by Spanish composer Isaac AlbÃ©niz.
“Sevilla” combines many facets of guitar playing, according to Gossage, which Ashwin very competently and confidently demonstrated at the performance. Gossage said he encourages Ashwin to learn the songs and sing along to the music so he can express emotion while he plays.
Some pieces show off your guitar-playing skills, while others – like “Sevilla” – bring out the musician in the player, Gossage said. Ashwin played before approximately 400 people – including renowned classical guitarists, teachers and judges.
Selected as a finalist along with three others, Ashwin moved to the second round and played “Sakura Variations” by Yuquijiro Yocoh, then repeated “Sevilla” as his second piece.
Ashwin placed second and received a plaque and a set of guitar strings in recognition of his achievement.
Under Gossage’s tutelage, Ashwin has performed in numerous recitals and talent shows and has recently entered competitions. He won the Carmel Classic Guitar contest in the open category in May, earned a Bronze Medal in the United States Open Music Competition in the open instrumental category and won first place in the 2009 Sierra Nevada Guitar Society’s youth guitar competition and first place in the Olympiad of the Arts competition. He performed as a soloist at the International Suzuki Festival in Turin, Italy, in 2006 and at the International Suzuki Guitar Showcase Concert in Santa Clara in 2008.
As time-consuming as his guitar playing is, Ashwin – entering seventh grade in the fall at Egan Junior High School – is an avid Boy Scout, participates in soccer and track and field and likes to play video games.
Even with all the accolades he has earned, Ashwin said he’s going to try harder to win first place at next year’s competition, won this year by Huaicong Mu from China.