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Guitar Heroes: Pre-College Students Star in New Music Video

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Twenty SFCM Pre-College students star in a Virtual Guitar Orchestra performance of "Pacific Coast Highway" by Andrew York.

June 20, 2024 by Mark Taylor


It has been a pretty sweet 16 so far for Aanya Guthala. The teenager is one of 20 Pre-College students starring in a new performance video of Pacific Coast Highway by Andrew York.

"I'm very happy with the end product," Aanya said of her playing alongside other students in the SFCM Youth Guitar Orchestra. "It's always an amazing feeling watching the performance come together," she added.


It's the latest in a string of collaborations with the Virtual Guitar Orchestra (VGO), all organized by SFCM Pre-College Guitar Chair Scott Cmiel. The VGO was originally conceived as a response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, but has grown into a leading advocate for guitar education in the U.S. "The SFCM Pre-College guitar program has long had a national reputation for excellence with students," Cmiel said. The collaboration with the VGO first started in June, 2022. "VGO asked me if the SFCM Pre-College guitar would like to participate in some of their videos again and I enthusiastically agreed," he added. The video premiered May 31st and has already garnered thousands of views.

In addition to the performance opportunity, Cmiel adds there is a valuable lesson to be learned for students. "Guitar is best known as a solo instrument but playing in ensembles provides some of the most gratifying and transformative experiences in a young musician's development," he said. "These performances foster collaboration between peers, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and enhanced awareness of rhythm, intonation, and musicianship."

It's a lesson not lost on Aanya. "After playing by yourself for a while, it's incredible to hear where your part fits into the larger picture," she said.  "The biggest thing I learned was the value of larger guitar ensembles. It can be tough to get such a large group of guitarists in sync, and this performance showed that it's not only possible, but that large guitar ensembles have a unique quality of togetherness to it that many guitarists often don't experience enough." Aanya has been part of the SFCM Pre-College since 2017.

SFCM Youth Guitar Orchestra

SFCM's Scott Cmiel (center) conducts in the VGO performance video.

The Pre-College top talent was also noticed by the music's composer, Andrew York. "I'm very pleased to see young performers playing my music with such aplomb," York said. " It's always a pleasure to see what Scott Cmiel is cooking up with his ensembles, and he has been very kind to often include my compositions. It's a beautiful video." 

"The biggest thing I learned recording the piece was that successful group work depends on every individual sounding good on their own!" Emilia 
Diaz Delgado said. Emilia is a 15-year-old guitar player who has been with the Pre-College program since 2018. For Emilia, she left feeling like they all accomplished something very special. "When you’re rehearsing together every week, it’s easy to forget that making the music sound cohesive depends on everyone being right on time. Participating in the recording was a moving reminder of how much work goes into ensemble performance!" Emilia added.

While this was not the first collaboration between SFCM and the VGO, it certainly won't be the last. "Working with Scott Cmiel and the Pre-College students of SFCM is always a pleasure and an honor for us," said producer Uroš Barič, adding that SFCM students' music skills "showcase exceptional musicianship and performing ability, enabling us to create a high-quality final video." The video was also made thanks to a partnership with VGO and The Augustine Foundation. 

Learn more about SFCM's Pre-College.