The john wetter scholarship

Imagine, at the age of 19, after three years of serious musical study, and at the end of months of dedicated practice - six to seven hours a day, six days a week - you find yourself in front of the legendary Andrés Segovia. John Wetter did not have to imagine this. The young man, only a year removed from graduating from West Phoenix High School, demonstrated what is possible when one commits themselves so fully to their craft.

Phoenix Classical Guitar Society (PGS) & Manual López Ramos

In the years before John’s encounter with Segovia he made a name for himself with various appearances within the community and on television. He became enmeshed with the Phoenix Classical Guitar Society and counted among his teachers prominent member George Bauman and John Tanno, the president of the society.

 

After his first year of attending Phoenix College, John would participate in a workshop arranged by PGS that brought artist Manuel López Ramos from Mexico City to Phoenix. In a move that would foreshadow John’s encounter with Segovia, Ramos invited John, after hearing him play, to return with him to Mexico in order to further his studies. John would go on to spend several months in Mexico City.

 

After returning home to Phoenix, John caught the attention of a promoter by the name of Lawrence Cummings, who described him as “amazing” and had made plans to showcase him. Meanwhile, Cummings had booked Andrés Segovia to come and perform in Phoenix. John was well aware of Segovia by this point, having performed his arrangements on at least one occasion.

The Segovia Encounter

In the week before coming to Phoenix, Andrés Segovia performed a series of concerts in California. After each performance fans would gather around back stage seeking all the sorts of things that fans do from an artist of Segovia’s stature. John, himself, who attended each of the concerts, would make his way backstage each night to simply say thank you.

 

Upon Segovia’s arrival in Phoenix, he met with the concert manager, the aforementioned Lawrence Cummings, who spoke of an exceptionally talented guitarist, and, as it turned out, a familiar face. John, the tall, blonde, respectful young man that he was, had stood out in the crowd back in California.

 

Segovia did not need to hear anymore - he agreed to allow John to audition for him. And so, only a few days removed from going to watch Segovia, John was playing for the maestro. Segovia, so impressed with John’s playing, awarded him with a scholarship to study with the maestro himself in Spain, a scholarship normally only awarded to Europeans.

Dedication Pays Off

If John had a knack for quickly impressing maestros, it was not function of luck. Rather it was his dedication to the craft of performing classical guitar that led him to each of those moments in time. And it was the dedication that allowed him to pull off his impressive feats. Recall, if you will, that in the months leading up to meeting Segovia, John was practicing several hours nearly everyday of the week.

 

Dedication, of course, means more than just the amount of time spent studying. It also means sacrifice. To so fully commit oneself means that difficult decisions have to be made about commitments to other hobbies. John was both an accomplished swimmer and weightlifter before he committed to guitar. He gave up both hobbies due to their effects on his hands and nails.

 

The sacrifices didn’t end there. His studies also had impacts on his social life. In high school his dedication lead to impasses with his friends, who were more into acting out. John thought it better to focus on perfecting his playing than worrying about whether he’d be labeled a square. Even then, he at times struggled with the isolation that came with studying abroad, away from his mother and his home city.

 

Thanks to those sacrifices, however, his dedication paid off. John was, early and often, able to impress those who witnessed his playing. In his short life he was able to study around the world. He earned his place to study under the preeminent maestro of his time. Unfortunately we never got to see what John could have done over a lifetime - his career was short-lived. Impacted first by health issues, his career was cut short with his untimely death at the age of twenty-six.

The John Wetter Scholarship

John’s dedication to playing, while effective at impressing maestro’s, was not enough to secure his education, specifically the costs associated with it. He had help along the way. His mother helped to pay his rent when he studied in Mexico City. Segovia awarded him a scholarship and PGS featured in him a recital in order to raise money for his travel to Spain.

 

PGS continues to recognize the financial burdens that can accompany an education in performance guitar. All students, regardless of their financial backgrounds, deserve the opportunity to advance their studies. We are proud to offer a scholarship, named after John in honor of his hard work and dedication, in order to help deserving artists reach their potential.

 

Each year a deserving student, who embodies the dedication of John, will be awarded the John Wetter Scholarship. The recipient will receive $1,000 that they can put towards their studies in guitar performance.

 

 

Phoenix Guitar Society sourced information pertaining to John Wetter’s life from letters he wrote, interviews with a family member and a contemporaneous peer, multiple articles from the Arizona Republic, and other assorted materials. For more information please contact the Phoenix Guitar Society @ phoenixguitarsociety@gmail.com.

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