Category Archives: Reviews

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.”


By: Shannon Witter October 3, 2007 Wheaton Wire

The Wheaton community was treated to the musical talents of classical guitarist, Petar Jankovic, on Thursday, September 27. The performance was held in Mary Lyon Hall, an intimate setting in which nearly forty guests, encompassing a range of ages, had the opportunity to form a close connection with the artist. The tiny room, complete with couches and paintings, was the perfect setting for such a recital; every note reverberated off the walls with melodic entirety, ringing long after a piece was completed.

Jankovic played an array of traditional classical guitar selections, often pausing in between numbers to tune his guitar amongst the echoes of the room. Throughout the performance, Jankovic remained completely immersed in his music, captivating the audience with his intricate finger work and remarkable grasp of rhythm.

The most extraordinary aspect of the performance was how, by paying careful attention to the volume and speed of each piece, Jankovic was able to convey a wide spectrum of emotion through his music. Some songs were upbeat and celebratory, with a Spanish sound and deep staccato rhythms, whereas other songs were rather supernatural, an effect Jankovic achieved by vibrating his hand over the neck of the guitar.

Many of these pieces were like soothing lullabies that gently assisted the audience in escaping from a hectic day. One selection entitled “Libra Sonatine,” by Roland Dyens, was Jankovic’s most modern piece, and was composed in 1986. Dedicated to Dyen’s heart surgeon, the song follows the course of the composer’s surgery after suffering a heart attack. It begins slow and melancholy, as the patient slips under anesthesia, and then suddenly becomes intense as the first incision is made. The last movement, “Fuoco,” meaning “Fighter,” is characterized by melodic pulses signifying the beating of a heart and blood throbbing through veins.

Jankovic, who is originally from Yugoslavia, began his guitar studies at age eight. He graduated from the renowned Music Academy in Belgrade and pursued a prestigious Artist Diploma Degree at the Indiana University School of Music, where he is currently a faculty member. Since the beginning of his professional music career, Jankovic has been honored with many esteemed awards, including two gold medals from the National Music Competition and an Indiana University Graduate Top Strings Award. He now plays over thirty concerts a season and has received global acclaim for his talents. Those who attented Jankovic’s performance were sure to feel truly lucky that they had the oppourtunity to partake in this musical show.

“It was such a great pleasure having you here at Holyoke Community College as a guest artist.  Our students were just mesmerized during your performance. Even with the early hour!, the recital just went beautifully.  We also really enjoyed your spoken introductions to the pieces, which enhanced the program and gave everyone something to listen for.  People were talking about it long after you left.  We are always happy to host a musician of your caliber.  We hope that you can return in the future; we’d love to have you back.”

Dr. Elissa Brill Pashkin
Chair/Professor, Music Department
Holyoke Community College
Holyoke, MA

I wanted to thank you for your visit to Worcester and for sharing your obviously prodigious talent with us on Monday night.  My wife and I don’t get out often with three children at home, and we were glad that we chose your performance to hire a babysitter and make a night of it.

We both thought it was an excellent program.  I wish I could tell you there was one piece we liked more than the others, but as a classical guitar student -I knew your program pretty well, with the exception of Dyens, and really enjoyed it throughout.  But if I had to choose, I liked Moreno-Torrobba best, and really appreciated your introduction to Dyens’ Libra Sonatine, in part, because it made me listen for things in music with which I was not familiar.

I hope you will visit Massachusetts again.

David Hennessy, Patron
Worcester, MA


Borislav Hlozan, Music critic, Dnevnik, Novi Sad, Serbia

Our prominent guitarist Petar Jankovic, a native of Belgrade who has been successfully building a performing career in the US for more than a decade, played a concert as part of the Novi Sad Summer Concert Series. It is not surprising that this recital drew a large audience, who had a great opportunity to enjoy an outstanding musical performance.

…Jankovic’s recital was a stunning guitar performance charged with extraordinary artistic energy. The concert revealed unique performing qualities of this outstanding soloist-his interpretations were characterized by musically powerful performing abilities, refined and spontaneous expressiveness, as well as a full-bodied, rich, and brilliant sound, which kept the audience spellbound despite somewhat dubious acoustic quality of the concert hall.

…Jankovic’s measured, subtly nuanced interpretation of the famous Villa-Lobos’ preludes sounded intimate and exciting, with its complex intermingling of translucent, highly poetic passages and virtuosic, playful sections, full of rhythm typical of Brazilian folk dances. What followed was F. M. Torroba’s melodious Mediterranean sonatina, which Jankovic performed in a vehement artistic manner, so  that it sounded refreshing and sharply articulated. This block was concluded with Albeniz’s captivating, mellifluous Mallorca.

…Jankovic’s introduction gave Dyens’ composition a new dramatic dimension and a suggestive immediacy, which he then translated into a brilliant, virtuosically precise interpretation.

…At the end of the recital (which was, by the way, played without a pause, in the best tradition of the enormous programs of the greatest guitar players of the twentieth century), having concluded it with his energetic performance of Astor Piazzolla’s tangos, after standing ovations and repeated calls for an encore, Jankovic’s delighted audience had the final pleasure of listening to Albeniz’s famous Asturias and Jorge Cardoso’s Milonga.


September 13, 2007

Guitarist Petar Jankovic is not afraid to take on popular classical works.

“Afraid” may sound like a misnomer, but Jankovic said that some of his colleagues have asked him why he includes classical standards in his repertoire.

Musicians can develop esoteric tastes, or focus on little-known but contemporary works. In fact, Jankovic will play “Libra Sontaine” by the contemporary French composer Roland Deyen during his concert Sept. 24 at Assumption College. But also on the program will be works by the beloved Heitor Villa Lobos, the beautiful “Mallorca” by Isaac Albeniz, and “Three Tangos” by Astor Piazzolla, one of the greatest Tango composers of the 20th century.

“Sometimes it takes more courage (to play popular woks),” the Yugoslavian-born Jankovic said. “For me, it’s like an actor tackling Shakespeare. That’s how he shows what he’s made of. They’re there not because they’re easy to play. They’re there because they’re good artistic works.”

Jankovic, 38, has been showing what he is made of as a guitarist since making his professional debut at the age of 16. He has been described as a “rising star” in the classical world, with the Venezuelan composer Luis Zea calling him “a natural poet” of the guitar.

The guitarist sees himself on a mission to “expose people to art.” Playing a standard work at the beginning of a concert can “really create a very good feeling for an enjoyable evening, I hope,” he said. Then when he introduces new works “it communicates very well for the audience.

Now based in the United States, Jankovic teaches at the Indiana University School of Music.

He grew up in Belgrade and had no musical background to speak of, although he said that his late grandfather was a bishop in the Orthodox church. He started playing the guitar when he was 7, and although he picked up an electric guitar as a teenager, he continued with his classical guitar studies. But he was also a good mathematics student, and at high school was torn between pursuing math or music. “I never knew which.”

Then, “suddenly” he did. “I decided suddenly that’s what I’m going to do. They say it’s a calling. It was a brief moment during one summer. It was more of a lifestyle decision. At least that was my image of it. My family accepted that.”

He graduated from the Music Academy in Belgrade and went on to study and teach at Indiana University.

Jankovic is a full-time performer, ranging from 30 to 50 recitals a year. But he considers teaching an important part of that lifestyle. Teaching and performing “feed each other,” he said. “You see what listeners expect. You learn how a listener needs to be touched by a performer. It relaxes me when I teach, especially when the students are talented. I tell the students I’m not teaching, I’m sharing experience.”

Jankovic, who is married with two young children, feels right at home in the U.S. He did from the start. “The United States. Australia and Canada are probably the only countries where you feel at home when you land there. … No matter where you come from you are treated pretty much as equal. Europe really does not have that kind of openness. Here I really felt welcomed as soon as I arrived.”

But this summer he gave an extensive concert tour of Europe. Asked about the differences between Europe and the U.S. with regard to the classical music scene, he noted that here presenters, groups and institutions tend to be privately owned and supported by the community. “Communities organize very well. They take pride in supporting the community. In Europe it is more state driven. If the economy goes bad, things (for the arts) can go bad.”

As a solo performer in the U.S. he said he’s had experiences he probably would not have had in Europe. Here, he’s gone to perform in small towns that may have only one traffic light. Such was the case with one town he visited in Kentucky. After his recital there, Jankovic said a farmer told him he had never been to a classical concert before. “He said he heard about it on the radio and thought, ‘why not?’ ” The farmer then told Jankovic “I enjoyed it a lot.”

“I don’t think it’s happening like that in Europe,” Jankovic said.

“Our role as performing artists is to expose people to the arts. Here I still feel I’m doing pioneering work in cities and rural areas. I think art makes everyone better.”

“Petar Jankovic presented a brilliant concert of solo guitar music at Taylor Auditorium in Losekamp Hall on the campus of Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, on March 22, 2007. Mr. Jankovic performed as guest artist  in the June Pasley Morrison Memorial Recital Series. Guitarists in the audience praised his innovative programming and amazing virtuosity. All of  the audience was absorbed from beginning to end, with a program that varied widely in style and intensity. Mr. Jankovic makes the most difficult techniques seem easy. Always, musical expression is the point. Emotions covered a broad range from tender to dramatic in the course of the hour-long program. This performance was easily on par with any ever presented in Billings”.

Steve Werpy, Ph.D.,

Director of Band Activities
Assistant Professor of Music
Rocky Mountain College
Billings, MT

“I want to write this short note to thank you for your performance with us in November 2006. It was such a nice musical experience for me and for our orchestra. Since we are a community orchestra, I appreciated the way you worked with us, demanding excellence but in a personable way, not belittling it all. I really felt the love for the music that you exuded as did the players. That was very helpful to us in learning how to internalize the music. Your command of the instrument, your expressiveness is, I’m sure, unequaled by any but the top world-class virtuosos.

I was very comfortable working with you and felt as though our collaboration brought the best out of everyone involved, and especially presented this wonderful concerto in a way the composer wanted. I received several comments and compliments from some of our patrons about how much they enjoyed hearing classical guitar with orchestra. I would certainly enjoy working with you again if the occasion presents itself.”

Gary Caldwell
Artistic Director and Conductor
Southwest Symphony Orchestra
St. George, UT

“Petar communicated confidence and mastery gained over nearly 30 years of guitar study. I found him personally one of the most gracious, thoughtful, and easily accommodated of all the artists I have worked with over the years. During the masterclass, Jankovic showed himself able to affirm student’s achievements and express appreciation of their playing while offering insight and hopeful suggestions for their future study”.

Michael O’Hare
Director of Performing Series
Benedictine College, KS

I agree with your description of Petar’s musical expression and virtuosity.  I would also add that he is one of the most accessible, down-to-earth professional musicians I have ever had the opportunity to meet!

Joseph E. Garcia,
Professor and Area Coordinator of Earth and Science-Georgraphy
Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Longwood University

“Petar Jankovic’s performance was inspiring on so many levels. He is wonderfully expressive and technically perfect.  His performance was enjoyed by all and reminded our community why we love music in the first place.”

Dan Pinkston
Music Department Chairman
Simpson University- Redding, CA

“On Sunday, Oct. 22, 2007 guitarist Petar Jankovic performed a recital as  part of Grand View College’s Nielsen Concert Series.  From the very  first chords the audience was thrilled by Jankovic’s artistry.  The  recital covered a wide range of literature and style periods.  All  throughout this range Jankovic captured the soul of each piece and  served it up beautifully to his audience.  Such strength of  interpretation and delicacy of nuance are rare to hear, but are  characteristic for Jankovic.  We at Grand View were indeed blessed by  this performance.”

Dr. Kathryn Pohlmann Duff
Music Department Chair
Grand View College- Des Moines, IA

“Mr. Jankovic performed the Rodrigo Concerto with flair, musical refinement, and expressiveness.  Every phrase was beautifully shaped andthe color he achieved was breathtaking.  He also performed with astounding virtuosity and spontaneity.  A wonderful artist!!”

Jackson Leung,

Artistic director and Conductor

Wright State University Symphony Orchestra- Dayton, Ohio

“Jankovic is a musician of a strong artistic personality, with the Infinite subtlety of expression. Apart from being very musical, Jankovic also possesses technical mastery, manifest in his precise and carefully defined way of playing. He is one of those artists capable of extraordinary musical achievements.”

Marija Ciric
Music Critic,
Politik- Belgrade, Yugoslavia

“Petar Jankovic, an absolutely splendid talent from Yugoslavia who trained at IU and now helps teach classical guitar there. Jankovic proved a facile performer with the ability to immerse himself in the music played. None of the technical demands were beyond him; they didn’t even seem close to his limits. But it was in the man-showy, dreamy Adagio that he was most memorable. The Rodrigo passages seemed to float off the strings and then hover seductively in the air”.

Peter Jacobi
Music Critic
H erald Times- Bloomington, IN

“Petar Jankovic presented himself as guitarist with talent and power. His performance showed us his skilful virtuosity as well as his beautiful cantability.”

Slobodan Turlakov
Music Critic
Politika Express-Belgrade, Serbia

“Jankovic drew from his guitar an amazing and exemplary range of dynamics… His performance can best be described as romance in sound.”

Peter Jacobi
Music Critic
Herald Times- Bloomington, IN

“Jankovic’s interpretation points to his interest in presenting the inherent beauty of the musical phrase with great care… His interpretation testifies to his artistic maturity and dedication to the essence of the musical content of the works on this CD.”

Jelena Djuric Milojkovic
Prof. of Music- Serbian Studies

“Petar Jankovic gave a wonderful concert to a sold hall. His thoughtful and musical interpretations mesmerized the audience. It was a truly delightful and exciting evening of beautiful music”.

Nancy Ypma
Music Chair
McKendry College, IL

“Students and faculty, both at our college and local high school, had nothing but praise for Petar Jankovic’s presentation on November 18 in Greenville…The evening concert was enthusiastically received both by guitarists and non-guitarists. His masterful playing caused many of us to grow in our appreciation for classical guitar”.

Chris Woods
Music Chair- Greenville, IL