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Ad Sales Manager and Vendor Expo Manager: Ryan Ayers
is a solo guitarist mixing together classical and fingerstyle techniques with accessible songs forms and structures. His stage show is a well-crafted blend of engaging music and interesting stories which have captivated audiences on both coasts. Ryan began playing guitar at the age of thirteen. He attended Loyola Marymount University and graduated with degrees in classical guitar performance and recording arts. He worked for nine years selling classical, flamenco, and steel string guitars at Trilogy Guitars in Playa Del Rey, CA. An active composer for over ten years, Ryan released his first record of original pieces for guitar entitled "ermita" in 2011 and he has continued writing and touring to share his music with audiences ever since. Ryan can be reached at ads@guitarfoundation.org
Education Director: Matthew Nishimoto
Matthew Nishimoto has taught the guitar classes and been the director for the guitar ensembles at Coronado High School in Henderson, Nevada since 2003.  His award-winning program has been recognized by the GFA, the Grammy Foundation, and the National Association for Music Education.   Dr. Nishimoto earned a B.A. in Music Ed from UNLV, where he also received a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and a Ph.D. in Teacher Education.  His research into the issues of new teachers led him to the topic of the role of expertise in instruction—the target of inquiry of an ongoing overarching study regarding the expert blind spot effect and guitar pedagogy.  He also publishes and lectures on the topics of teacher socialization and educational leadership roles. Matthew can be reached at education@guitarfoundation.org
Soundboard Editor: Robert Ferguson
has been active in the classical guitar community for four decades, teaching, performing, composing, arranging, writing, and broadcasting. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana University, the latter from the Jacobs School of Music, where he studied performance with Ernesto Bitetti and Thomas Binkley. Other mentors include Javier Calderon and Jeffrey Noonan. In addition to applied guitar, Bob teaches guitar history and literature at IU’s regional campus in Fort Wayne. His radio program, Guitar Showcase, has aired weekly on NPR affiliates WBNI and WBOI since 1985. He has contributed to Soundboard since the early 2000s. Bob can be reached at rferguson@guitarfoundation.org
Publications Art Director: Colleen Gates
has worked as a graphic designer, creative services manager and art director for various corporations and design studios, including Aaron Brothers Art & Framing, United Artists Theatres and Frederick’s of Hollywood. She is owner and creative director of GATES by design, a graphic design and creative services studio focused in the areas of the arts, education and non-profit organizations. Colleen has enjoyed designing several guitar-related projects connected to the Thornton School of Music and Doberman-Yppan Editions. She holds a BFA degree from the University of Denver. Colleen joined GFA in 2015 and lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, a composer, and two children. She can be reached at cgates@guitarfoundation.org
Soundboard Scholar Editor: Thomas Heck
(B.A., Univ. of Notre Dame, 1965; Ph.D., Yale University, 1970; MLS, Univ. of Southern California, 1977), was the individual most responsible for the creation of the Guitar Foundation of America, having convened its inaugural meeting in 1973 and drafted its Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. As a Fulbright fellow (Vienna, 1968-69) he did seminal research on the early classic guitar (ca. 1800) and the life and works of Giuliani. His monograph, Mauro Giuliani: Virtuoso Guitarist and Composer (Columbus, 1995, r1997), is considered the standard work in the field. For over twenty years Dr. Heck served as the GFA Archivist; he taught music research methods and bibliography and was Head of the Music & Dance Library at the Ohio State University for most of his career. In 1994-95 he was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), where he undertook research on the iconography of the performing arts, the subject of a recent book, Picturing Performance… (1999). He has served as adjudicator and lecturer at various international guitar festivals since 1980; and currently is a freelance consultant, musician, and writer/lecturer based in Santa Barbara. Dr Heck can be reached at sbs@guitarfoundation.org
Tour Director and International Ensemble Competition Director: Michael Kagan
Kagan's performances have been noted for their “remarkable poise and artistry coupled with a sharp intellectual acumen.” The young classical guitarist has found a deep passion for teaching and performing, which, for Michael, both stem from the need to share music. Michael graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Westfield State University where he received a B.A in Music Education and Classical Guitar Performance under the tutelage of Phillip de Fremery, a curator of the Segovia legacy. There, he received a departmental award for Excellence in Musical Performance among his graduating class. Most recently, Michael completed a Master of Music in Classical Guitar Performance with Dr. Stephen Mattingly, noted soloist and member of the Tantalus Quartet at the University of Louisville. A passionate educator, Michael currently holds a full-time position teaching class guitar, music theory, and music history at the Youth Performing Arts Magnet High School in Louisville, Kentucky in addition to maintaining a private and Suzuki studio. Michael can be reached at mkagan@guitarfoundation.org or ensemblecompetition@guitarfoundation.org
International Youth Competition Director: Lynn McGrath
has performed on four continents as a soloist and is a member of the acclaimed Tantalus Quartet. She earned multiple Bachelor Degrees from SUNY Potsdam (Spanish, Education, Music), where she also taught as an Associate Lecturer, and received a MM and DMA from the University of Southern California. A highly-sought after pedagogue, Lynn’s students have performed on NPR’s “From the Top,” have placed in international competitions, and have received scholarship to attend some of the most competitive guitar programs in the United States. Lynn is currently based in Albuquerque, where she established a thriving guitar program at Sandia Preparatory School and also teaches for Central New Mexico Community College and the University of New Mexico. In 2013, after serving as the GFA Tour Director for 7 years, she became the Regional Symposia Director, organizing and running three events each season in cities across the US. Lynn can be reached at iyc@guitarfoundation.org
Convention Manager: Brian Geary
is a performer and teacher in Southern California. He has received a bachelor in music, graduating summa cum laude, from SUNY Buffalo State and is currently finishing his Masters of Music in performance from California State University Fullerton. As a soloist, Brian focuses his musical efforts on performing repertoire that is infrequently performed, as well as promoting the guitar to composers, to help grow the instrument’s repertoire. He has also performed in various contemporary chamber groups like the Post Sonus Orchestra and CSUF New Music Ensemble. Brian helped found the annual Women of the Guitar Series at Buffalo State, where he received an award from the President’s Council on Equity and Campus Diversity for his efforts. He teaches privately, directs a guitar ensemble, leads an after-school ukulele program, and has taught for the Guitar Foundation of America’s Youth Guitar Summit. Brian joined the GFA Staff in 2018 and can be reached at bgeary@guitarfoundation.org
Operations Administrator: Ebaa Khamas
is a performer, and teacher. He has performed as a soloist and in several chamber settings, including the Orange County Guitar Orchestra, under the direction of David Grimes. He is currently teaching at the Orange County School of the Arts, where he teaches Classical Guitar Technique, and Chamber Guitar. He holds a Bachelor, and Master of Music degrees from Cal State University Fullerton School of Music, where he studied with Dr. Martha Masters and Andrew York. Ebaa joined the GFA Staff in 2018 and can be reached at  ekhamas@guitarfoundation.org
General Manager: Dr. Connie Sheu
is a performer, teacher, and advocate of classical guitar. Past performances have brought her to Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, 92nd StY, Merkin Hall, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, and venues in Moldova, Italy, Hungary. She performs frequently as a soloist for guitar societies and music festivals across the United States. Connie studied U.S. History and Music at Columbia University, and earned a Master of Music from the Juilliard School. She completed her Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Southern California. She teaches at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, where her students are frequent competition prizewinners. Connie joined GFA staff in 2009 and previously served as Tour and Communications Director. She can be reached at csheu@guitarfoundation.org
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