Music into emotion: Professional classical guitarist performs in Shawnee OK

By April Wilkerson – The Oklahoman
November 2, 2007

Jankovic brings a wealth of musical and life experiences to the stage from his childhood in war-torn Yugoslavia, to his stint as a street musician in Europe, to his current position as college professor and performer. But daily practice and public performances are still the essence of who he is. Each time he picks up his guitar, he’s seeking to make an emotional connection with those who are listening.

“I try really intently to start feeling certain things when I play, and if I can impress that on an audience, I think that’s a successful connection,” Jankovic said in a recent phone interview. “After all, art is an emotional connection between the artist and the person on the other end.”

Although the phenomenon of musical expressiveness may be difficult to explain, its effect on the listener is profound. Jankovic describes the guitar as a delicate instrument whose sounds command the listener’s attention.

“The instrument itself, from the first note, forces the audience to listen to it. It’s a smaller sound than the piano or an orchestra,” he said. “Segovia (Andrs Segovia, Spanish classical guitarist) said the guitar speaks more with the silence between the notes than with the notes themselves.

“It’s a very expressive instrument. You’re producing the sounds with your fingers. There is no bow or other mechanism. The smallest nuances are heard.”

Jankovic’s journey toward becoming a professional guitarist has been compelling. He began studying guitar at age 8 in his native Yugoslavia, and he later earned a degree in classical guitar from the Music Academy in Belgrade. But it was a troublesome time in his war-torn country, and it became hard to survive financially, he said. Inflation was unbelievable, he said, and it was difficult to earn enough money to survive a whole day, let alone a whole month.

So Jankovic decided to go to Europe and become a street musician. In addition to giving him a glimpse into Renaissance musical times, that period developed Jankovic into a better performer with a better perspective, he said.

“When you play on the street, you are an entertainer, first and foremost,” he said. “It contributed to some toughness that I needed. The term ‘street smarts,’ I literally used.   “But it also helped me understand the role of an artist. Sometimes an artist starts thinking too much of himself, and the arts are connected to higher social levels. But the very core of the arts is entertaining and inspiring people for everyday life. That was the good that I took from it. It gave me a better perspective of understanding quite well what the role of the artist is.”
Classical guitarist Petar Jankovic will perform Tuesday evening in Shawnee. He plays 30-50 concerts a year.

Jankovic’s career soon progressed from street musician to acceptance into the master’s degree program at the Indiana University School of Music in America. In the mid-1990s, the IU School of Music invited Jankovic to pursue the esteemed Artist Diploma Degree under the guidance of Maestro Ernesto Bitetti. Since then, he has developed a guitar program at Franklin College in Indiana, in 1997, and he is currently a faculty member at the Indiana University School of Music. He said he has the best of both worlds performing 30 to 50 concerts a year and sharing with college students his own passion and experience with the guitar.

This will be Jankovic’s first time to perform in Oklahoma, he said. The first part of his concert will be devoted to classical guitar works, while the second half will feature newer works, including a French composer’s piece dedicated to the heart doctor who saved his life. The music will speak to variety, from the romantic Latin American sounds to his concluding piece, a tango.

The pieces he’s performing on tour now will likely make their way to his third CD, which he’ll record soon, he said. His other two CDs are “Romantico,” focusing on the sounds of the Spanish and Latino-American world, and “Bogdanovic, Brouwer, Dyens,” featuring works by the most prominent classical guitar composers.

Dr. Paul Hammond, dean of OBU’s College of Fine Arts, said both college students and the public will enjoy Jankovic’s performance and conversation.

“We are pleased to present an artist of Mr. Jankovic’s stature,” Hammond said. “He is a faculty member at one of the world’s finest music schools, and his program will be a delight for our students and community patrons.”

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