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Tallahassee guitarist has international appeal

A Tallahassee guitarist has his sights set on a six-string career.  But, as Tom Flanigan tells us, reaching the heights of technical mastery and international acclaim is a long, hard climb.

From his first childhood memories, Silviu Ciulei  recalls his parents urging him to play sports.

“But during this whole time I had this guitar that my parents had got for my brother and was riding it as a motorcycle just like as a kid in the house.  So my parents were like, ‘Well nothing else works.  Maybe we should try with this guitar thing.  He’s six years old; he’s getting pretty old and he’s not doing anything with sports, but he’s riding that guitar.”

That’s when Ciulei’s life-long love affair really began…

“I started playing guitar when I was six.  I started taking lessons and went to this school – sort of a vocational school – in Romania where I’m from.”

Ciulei says it was a program that layered a big musical emphasis on top of the standard academic fare…

“In the morning we would have music classes and in the afternoon and then we’d have general education like any other school.  And then I got done with that after completing twelfth grade and passing the baccalaureate exam, then I came to the United States to study guitar.”

That led to a bachelor of music degree from Middle Tennessee State University.  His recent Master of Music in Guitar Performance came from Florida State University’s College of Music.  The school awarded him a graduate teaching assistantship and graduate dean’s fellowship, an extremely rare double honor for an FSU guitar student.  Now Ciulei is pursuing a doctorate.  Since his U.S. arrival in 2004, he’s picked up an impressive collection of prizes from a bunch of prestigious competitions.  He’s also performed in master classes conducted by some of the world’s greatest classical guitar superstars.  Along the way, he also became fascinated with the very different tradition and technique of Flamenco guitar and now doesn’t prefer one over the other…

“Classical guitar does take more knowledge and it does take more of that tedious work making sure that everything is perfect.  In Flamenco, it’s more folk than anything else and it’s very, very energetic and there are techniques in Flamenco that I apply to my classical repertoire and I think that doing both, which is my case, both classical guitar and Flamenco guitar can help one and the other.”

Knowing both styles of guitar also gives Ciulei a better commercial outlet for his music.  Because, as any musician in Tallahassee, Florida will tell you, making a musical living in the Capital City is tough…

“I have been studying classical guitar so I have some things to do for school when it comes to that, so that has been my main focus.  But I still play Flamenco guitar any time I get the chance and I play gigs around town and I have a group called the ‘Maharaja Flamenco Trio’ in town and we do a lot of gigs and it’s great.  It’s a lot of fun.”

It can be a grueling and, shall we say, “fiscally-challenged existence”.  But Ciulei keeps plugging along, confident that a brighter future awaits…

“You have to stay busy and right now, indeed, it’s not one job.  I do like multiple jobs to make up this one big job if you want to think about it like that.  But it’s not a real job until I hopefully will be teaching at a university or something like that, so that will be my day job.”

Although it seems probable that Professor Ciulei will do at least an occasional gig at whatever nearby restaurant or bar needs a bit of Flamenco fire to spice up their patrons’ evenings.