Corey Christiansen, director of the Utah State University department of guitar studies, will bring in a group of guitarists to perform at the Swaner
Corey Christiansen, director of the Utah State University department of guitar studies, will bring in a group of guitarists to perform at the Swaner EcoCenter on Sunday. (Photo by Casey McFarland)
The sound of six-strings will fill the Swaner EcoCenter on Sunday.

An array of musicians from Utah State University's department of guitar studies will perform an eclectic mix of classical, folk, jazz and rock, said the department's director, Corey Christiansen.

"We'll get a smattering of acoustic-guitar ensembles and electric-guitar ensembles," Christiansen told The Park Record. "The electric ensemble will play some meringue and we'll also play some jazz standards."

In addition, the recital will feature some guitar-duo works from the 1920s and 1930s, and one student will play some of his own singer-songwriter works.

Christiansen picked most of the groups and repertoire for the performance.

"The acoustic-ensemble isn't led by me, but one of our adjunct professors, Austin Weyand, a great guitarist who won the Utah Fingerstyle Guitar Competition last year," Christiansen said. "I wanted them to come play in Park City and he has picked their rep."

The electric-guitar ensemble members will perform their own arrangements during the recital.

"Sometimes a student will pick tunes they will arrange for the group, so they will have a real-life feel of what its like to put a program together," Christiansen said. "I'll sometimes guide them and give them suggestions, but they are responsible for coming up with their arrangements."

The group that will perform will feature eight or nine guitarists and will include Christiansen's father, Mike.


"We're all excited to come play at the Swaner EcoCenter," Christiansen said. "It will be all guitar, but will be varied in style and should be fun for the listeners."

The EcoCenter performance will reflect the department of guitar studies philosophy, Christiansen said.

"It's a unique program, because most guitar programs at the collegiate level focus on just classical or jazz," he explained. "We, of course, have that. I am a jazz guitarist and that's my focus, and we have some fine classical guitarists who are adjunct faculty, but we want to make sure our students are prepared for the modern world."

USU's department of guitar studies has a sentimental value to Christiansen, because his father founded it in the 1970s.

"I also did my undergraduate with him up here," Christiansen said. "My dad was my major professor for four years. After that, I left the state for quite a long time, but, like an old dog, came back."

Christiansen received his masters from the University of South Florida and returned to Utah to take the position of interim director of the USU department.

"I was interim director this past year and after an international search, which ended in February, I was approached to become the permanent director, which is a tenure-track position," he said. "So it looks like my family and I will be here for quite a while."

While Christiansen was inspired by his father to pick up the guitar, there were other artists that caught his ear.

"Dad had some great records laying around the house, but the first record I got when I was 6 years old was 'Led Zeppelin I,' and the next one was 'Are You Experienced' by the Jimi Hendrix Experience," he said. "So it was the rock-guitar players from the late 1960s and early 1970s that are totally responsible for me playing the guitar."

In high school, Christiansen discovered jazz.

"I played in the jazz band and listened to other recordings that my dad gave me Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Pat Martino, John Scofield and Pat Metheny," he said. "When I heard those guys I knew that's what I wanted to do."

Still, Christiansen's love for the guitar led him to study a lot of different styles.

"Obviously, I did the rock and blues thing, which was really serious for a while, but I also played a lot of bluegrass and country music as well," he said.

However, Christiansen's honed his jazz playing and his phone started ringing for the jazz gigs.

"I liked playing that style and had a knack for it, more than any style," he said. "So it worked out and that's what I became known for."

Throughout his career as a professional musician, Christiansen has released four albums. His latest, "Lone Prairie," will be available at the EcoCenter's performance.

"It was an interesting project," Christiansen said. "It's an album of modern-jazz versions of old cowboy tunes."

The track list includes songs such as "Streets of Laredo," "In the Pines," "Stittin' on Top of the World," "El Paso" and "Chaparral," to name a few.

It features Christiansen on guitar, Steve Allee on keyboards and pianos, Zach Lapidus on keyboards, Jeremy Allen on bass, Matt Jorgensen on drums and Michael Spiro on percussion.

"It's kind of like if Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery decided to do a cowboy record with the Miles Davis Band," Christiansen said.

"Lone Prairie" was released on CD and iTunes a year ago and released on vinyl last October.

"It has turned a lot of heads around the country and it has gotten some good reviews," Christiansen said. "I'll bring some CDs and some vinyl for the audiophiles."

The Swaner EcoCenter, 1258 Center Dr. at Kimball Junction, will present Utah State University's Guitar Ensembles on Sunday, May 4, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. The event is free, but RSVPs will be appreciated. RSVP by emailing or call 435-649-1767.