Classical Guitar In The California Breeze

Sep 10, 2012
Originally published on September 9, 2012 12:43 pm

Weekend Edition's series on the sounds of street music winds down with a classical guitarist: Philip Rosheger, who performs on the corner of Vine and Walnut in Berkeley, Calif. Rosheger says he was keen on music from an extremely young age — which didn't sit well with his father, a bandleader in the U.S. Air Force.

"I started asking my father for piano lessons, and he said no," Rosheger says. "And I went on for two years, asking and begging for piano lessons, and he kept saying, 'No, you don't want to become a musician. It's a difficult life. You can't make money. It's not socially respectable.' And I kind of figured, 'Well, he's probably right' — but I still wanted to do it."

Rosheger says his father eventually relented. He studied piano through his early adolescence, until, in 1962, he heard a guitar record that made a big impression.

"It was mostly flamenco, but the guy, Fernando Sirvent, played two classical pieces," Rosheger says. "I just thought, before the record was over, 'Man, I want to spend the rest of my life doing this.' We took a vacation to Japan in August of that year and I got my first guitar there. And then I couldn't stop."

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This summer, we've brought you musical postcards of street performers from around the country.

BRUCE DAY: Playing outdoors seems to be a very important part of this kind of music.

WERTHEIMER: Bruce Day and his bluegrass band in Arlington, Virginia.

DAY: It's nice to have the fresh air and the bugs biting and the birds tweeting.


WERTHEIMER: And we encountered from some unexpected performances too, like that of Michael Samson in Vermont on his didgeridoo.

MICHAEL SAMSON: It brightens people's day, kids dance, so things with rhythm that make you dance, it's just like they're healing. They're good for the public.


WERTHEIMER: There was violinist Alexis Dawdy in Lansing, Michigan.

ALEXIS DAWDY: I'm a student at MSU. I'm studying linguistics.


DAWDY: My goal is to do it debt-free, and this helps a lot. This pays for books and this pays for food.


WERTHEIMER: Today, our last stop is Berkeley, California, where we find Phillip Rosheger playing his guitar.


PHILIP ROSHEGER: When I was very, very young, I mean, my first memories are listening to music and feeling my body tingle.


ROSHEGER: My father was a bandleader in the Air Force, so I traveled all my life.


ROSHEGER: And he played cello - that was his primary instrument. So, I grew up listening to the cello suites by Bach, and then we also - I always had a piano, so he did piano trios, and I studied piano before I studied guitar.


ROSHEGER: Then I heard a guitar record in 1962 - I was 12 years old. It was mostly flamenco but the guy, Fernando Serdin(ph), played two classical pieces. And I just thought before the record was over, I want to spend the rest of my life doing this, and then I couldn't stop.


ROSHEGER: It's nice to put out some good vibrations into the ambience.


WERTHEIMER: That's Philip Rosheger performing on the streets of Berkeley, California. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.