June 11 - 16, 2018 at Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas

History and Curriculum

"Classical Minds" International Guitar Festival & Competition: June 11-16, 2018

2018 marks the 14th Anniversary of this 6-day educational event held every June for those who play or appreciate classical guitar. Renowned concert artists and educators come from throughout the world to teach, coach and perform in concerts and recitals. The festival is open to all ages from middle school thru college and graduate school plus adults who study privately or just enjoy playing.

Guest Artists/Faculty

This year’s guest artists include Adam Holzman, Kithara Duo (Olga Amelkina-Vera & Fernand Vera), the guitar/piano duo of Jay Kacherski and Lina Morita, and Jesus Serrano Huitron (2017 First Prize winner of the CM Performance Competition). Joining them are faculty members: Eddie Healy, Leonardo García, Andrea Ricci Cannon, Clara McLain, Jordan Taylor and flamenco guitarist Jeremy García. The concert tours of these distinguished artists have taken them to: Boston; Montreal; Mexico City; Madrid; Accra, Ghana; and Belarus.


CM offers private lessons, master classes, guitar ensemble, technique and theory classes and workshops. Theory classes are designed for both beginners and for intermediate/advanced students. Two group guitar classes, beginner/middle-school and high school/adults focus on ensemble, technique, and sight-reading. Leonardo García will conduct the large ensemble for intermediate/advanced high school and adult students. Clara McLain will direct a guitar orchestra for middle school students. Both ensembles will appear in a recital at the end of the week along with students performing solo. This event is free and open to the public.

Concert Series

The festival Concert Series provides the opportunity for the greater Houston community to hear these renowned concert guitarists and learn more about the CM Festival. Tickets are sold at the door. Student recitals and the final round of the Performance Competition are free and open to the public.

Performance & Composition Competitions

An international, open-division performance competition is a very well respected event nationwide. Students who participate gain not only extra on-stage presence, but they can list a prestigious event on applications to university music programs and conservatories. Being selected to compete is an honor. The competition includes guitarists of all ages, up to 30 years old and it is open to all international players. The final round is free and open to the public.

A new feature in 2018 is a international level Composition Competition with submissions due in December 2018 and the winner is announced in February 2019. The winning composition will be performed at the 2019 CM Festival.


They Come Back

Many students return each year and renew old friendships and build new ones. They thrive under the instruction and tutelage of world-class instructors. "Classical Minds" Guitar Festival & Competition strives to give individual attention to these talented students. Our greatest source of joy is to watch them become even more accomplished on their instrument as they improve in knowledge and technique.


Valérie Hartzell founded Classical Minds Guitar Festival in 2004 as an Institute of the Immanual and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival at the University of Houston. The goal was to educate the Houston community about classical guitar and to enhance knowledge of the instrument. As both festivals grew, it became necessary to seek a new venue with more space. In 2016, Classical Minds moved to the beautiful campus of Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas, which is centrally located only 2 miles south of Houston’s famed Galleria. This affordable, high-quality fine arts program for aspiring guitarists has continued to expand each year.

In 2016 we incorporated as Classical Minds Guitar Festival, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation whose project is the “Classical Minds” Guitar Festival & Competition.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Classical Minds Guitar Festival, Inc. is to promote fine arts and education, to foster creativity and artistic growth, and to create a sense of community through the classical guitar for guitarists and aficionados alike.

Core Values

• Educational excellence

Artistic excellence

Organizational excellence and financial stewardship



Scholarship Program: Classical Minds Guitar Festival Inc. offers individual tuition assistance to students needing financial help to attend the festival. Age, skill level and finances are not impediments to those desiring to enhance their abilities and pursue their interests

Classroom Visits: Throughout the year, members of the CM board and staff visit with classical guitar students of 18 Houston ISD schools to supplement their studies and support the school’s curriculum.

Retirement Home Concerts: Classical Minds staff and volunteers perform at many retirement facilities, bringing beautiful music to those who find it difficult to go out to fine arts events. They always have lots of questions at the end of the program and interacting with them is a delight.

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