Aspen Music Festival And School

Lead Guitar



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Program Overview 

Lead Guitar is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization and an affiliate program of the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts' family of outreach programs.  Founded by master guitarist Brad Richter, Lead Guitar is proudly offered here in the Roaring Fork Valley in collaboration with the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Lead Guitar students learn classical guitar technique, music reading, theory, performance skills and ensemble playing in twice-weekly group classes, through which they develop their self-discipline, self-esteem and ability to work as a team - attributes that help them realize success throughout their lives!  The Lead Guitar curriculum emphasizes music reading, allowing students to become independent musicians, capable of taking their guitar skills to any style of playing. 

The program is designed for students in grades 4 and up (preference in the program is given to students in grades 5 and up; responsible 4th-graders are welcome to apply but will only be accepted on a space-available basis and only if students are able to function independently and maturely in a class setting with older, middle-school students).  We typically see students have the most success in this program when they start class in 5th/6th grades or older.  High school students (and expert-level middle school players) are eligible to participate in the Lead Guitar Chamber Music program.


2020-2021 School Year Details 

For the 2020-2021 school year, Lead Guitar will begin in a distance learning model through Winter Break, with hopes of transitioning to our typical, in-person model if and when schools are fully open and community partners are able to utilize school space. We are closely monitoring the directives of local school districts and public health officials. In the meantime, we are able to outline the following Lead Guitar learning models: Distance Learning and In-Person Learning. 

Registration opens September 1, and classes begin the week of October 5, 2020.


  • Distance Learning:

    • Small cohorts of students, grouped by classical guitar experience and grade level
    • Increased individualized attention due to lower student/teacher ratio
    • Structured online lesson format with clear objectives and access to Lead Guitar online learning modules
    • Virtual performance opportunities through Lead Guitar national and by school


  • In-Person Learning:

    • Larger group classes with increased social interaction
    • Experience playing together as a class-based ensemble
    • Structured lesson format with clear objectives and at-home practice guidelines
    • Live performance opportunities at the Solo Recital and Spring Showcase Concert



  • In a Distance Learning model (October through December):  Lead Guitar will run during a variety of after-school class times, with students assigned to small cohorts based on classical guitar experience/ability and grade level.  Students will meet with their assigned teacher for a 45-minute Zoom class, twice per week. Small cohorts will allow for a smaller student to teacher ratio, which will increase the amount of personal attention that each student receives. These in-depth sessions are designed to engage students in dynamic instruction and will include a warm-up routine, weekly lesson objective, and clear practice strategies as students move through the thoughtfully designed Lead Guitar curriculum, supported by the Lead Guitar teacher assigned to their cohort.  Access to a robust system of intuitive online learning modules designed by the Lead Guitar national team will be available for use during online classes.  Students will have the opportunity to perform for one another and socialize in occasional performance classes via Zoom.

  • If/When an In-Person Learning model is available (hopefully starting in January):  Lead Guitar will run during the after-school class times, organized by school. Classes are 45-minutes in length, twice per week. Larger class sizes allow for more social interaction and the development of ensemble performance skills. Each in-person class will include a warm-up routine, weekly lesson objective, and clear practice strategies as students move through the thoughtfully designed Lead Guitar curriculum, supported by the Lead Guitar teacher at their school. Assuming large group gatherings are allowed, students will perform in a final Showcase Concert in April, and select students are invited to participate in an optional Solo Recital in February.




During Distance Learning:  Students in their first year of Lead Guitar instruction participate in a Beginning class virtual cohort.  For students who are new to Lead Guitar and classical guitar study, we strongly suggest that a parent or older sibling be present for the first few virtual Lead Guitar classes, particularly for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. Students in their second or third year of Lead Guitar instruction participate in an Intermediate class virtual cohort.  Students in their fourth year of Lead Guitar or beyond participate in an Advanced class virtual cohort.

While we are in a Distance Learning model for Lead Guitar, we will assign students to small cohorts based on classical guitar experience, ability, and grade level, plus student availability.    Students will meet with their assigned teacher for a 45-minute Zoom class, twice per week.  Distance Learning classes might not be at the same time or on the same day as your In-Person classes at your chosen Lead Guitar school.


Virtual Cohorts:  Links below for class calendars, through Winter Break

Method Book 1:  Level 1 - Beginning students (with no prior classical guitar experience):


Method Book 1:  Level 1+ and 2 - Students with at least one year of prior classical guitar experience


Method Book 1:  Level 3 and 3+ - Intermediate/Advanced students


Method Book 1:  Level 4 and 4+ - Advanced students


Method Book 2:  Advanced High School


During In-Person Learning:  Students in their first year of Lead Guitar instruction participate in the Beginning class at their schools. Students in their third year of Lead Guitar or beyond (who achieved at least intermediate-level ability in playing in the past) participate in the Advanced class at their schools.  Students in their second year of Lead Guitar instruction should attend both the Beginning and Advanced class for the first week of In-Person learning, until the instructor determines whether that student should be in the Beginning or Advanced class (unless you already have word from your Lead Guitar instructor as to which class is best for you).  All students will be reassessed during the first week of In-Person class to ensure they are placed into the correct level of class.

High School and Very Advanced Players:  Are you in high school or a very advanced middle school player?  We have an option for you!  While we know that most Lead Guitar students are in middle school, we have created a Lead Guitar Chamber Music program for our older and more advanced students.  This small group of hand-picked older or more-advanced players will work with Lead Guitar Regional Director Nick Lenio and other master teachers on small ensemble performance, extended technique, and advanced repertoire, with only one or two students to a part.  During Distance Learning, students will be assigned to the same virtual cohort.  During In-Person Learning, students will meet in a central location, based on shared availability.




If and when we can move to an In-Person Learning model, the Lead Guitar program will run as an after-school program at five schools during the 2020-2021 school year.

All Roaring Fork Valley students (regardless of what school they attend during the school year) are welcome to participate in an after-school Lead Guitar class at any hosting school and while in the Distance Learning model.

In-person class days and times are subject to change, based on school reopening schedules, student release times (may be staggered), and classroom availability.

Meet the AfterWorks Teachers

Aspen Middle School

  • Class days and times TBD

Basalt Middle School

  • Mondays and Wednesdays
  • Mondays:
    • 3:45-4:30 PM for Beginning Students
    • 4:30-5:15 PM for Advanced Students
  • Wednesdays:
    • 2:15-3:00 PM for Beginning Students
    • 3:00-3:45 PM for Advanced Students
  • Taught by Nick Lenio
  • *** We know that Basalt MS classes have been on Tuesdays and Thursdays in past school years.  Reach out to us directly if you are unable to participate in classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Carbondale Community School

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • 3:20-4:05 PM for Beginning Students
  • 4:10-4:55 for Advanced Students
  • Taught by Mateo Sandate

Carbondale Middle School

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • 3:30-4:15 PM for Beginning Students
  • 4:20-5:05 PM for Advanced Students
  • Taught by Rodrigo Arreguin
  • *** Instruction in this class can be given in either English or Spanish.   La instrucción en esta clase se puede dar en inglés o en español.


Two Rivers Community School

  • Mondays and Thursdays
  • 4:00-4:45 PM for Beginning Students
  • 4:50-5:35 PM for Advanced Students
  • Taught by Ashton Taufer




  • February 26, 2021 – AfterWorks Solo Recital  |  Select students invited to perform  |  Harris Concert Hall (Aspen)  |  6:00 PM
  • April 15, 2021 – Lead Guitar Showcase  |  Harris Concert Hall (Aspen)  |  6:30 PM

* Performances will only take place if large-group gatherings are allowed by local health officials.
* Lead Guitar classes end after the April 15 Lead Guitar Showcase.



Students in Lead Guitar classes are required to have their own classical, nylon-string guitar. All students should have a guitar ready for the first day of Lead Guitar class.  In order to procure a guitar, students have several options:

1. * Purchase a guitar through the AMFS at a heavily discounted Lead Guitar-student rate.  There are three guitar options for purchase:

  • Yamaha CGS103A Guitar (3/4-size guitar - for our youngest/smallest Lead Guitar students only), electronic tuner, and soft case:  Lead Guitar price = $127
    • Yamaha CGS103AII classical guitar is a great instrument for small students learning the ins and outs of classical guitar technique. The guitars feature a spruce top, Mercanti back and sides, a nato neck, and a rosewood bridge and fingerboard. Yamaha is famous for producing great-sounding budget classical guitars, and the CGS instruments will reward the learner with years of musical pleasure.
    • This 3/4-size guitar is for our youngest or smallest Lead Guitar students only. Typically some 4th and 5th-grade students require a 3/4-size guitar.
    • MSRP: $299
  • Yamaha C40 Full Size Guitar, electronic tuner, and soft case: Lead Guitar price = $131
    • Beginners will appreciate the level of quality found in the C4011 classical guitar. This quality instrument delivers outstanding cost performance with exceptional playability and superb tone. The C40II might be one of Yamaha's most inexpensive full-size classical models, but its quality and tone are outstanding. A real bargain for beginners.
    • MSRP: $319
  • Yamaha CG102 Guitar, electronic tuner, and soft case: Lead Guitar price = $166
    • Drawing upon the vast knowledge and techniques of our master craftsmen, the CG series nylon string guitars where developed to deliver top level sound quality, performance and playability. Yamaha's most reasonably priced classical guitar offers a rich tone that beginners will find inspiring. This is a full-size classical guitar with a spruce top and nato back and sides. It features a rosewood fingerboard and a 52 mm nut width for traditional classical play. This would make an excellent choice for the young guitarist seeking to improve his or her nylon-string skills or even for the seasoned player looking for an inexpensive guitar to always have within reach.
    • MSRP: $410

2. * Rent a guitar from the AMFS: A limited number of guitars are available to rent at the rate of $20 per month, for six months. 

3. * Apply for an instrument scholarship to use an AMFS-owned guitar for the school year: A limited number of scholarship guitars are available to students who are unable to afford the cost of purchasing a guitar or renting an AMFS-owned guitar while enrolled in Lead Guitar.

4. Bring your own guitar: Students may bring their own guitars, but they MUST be classical guitars (have nylon strings). Not sure if your guitar is classical or acoustic? Watch this video, check the strings (classical guitars have three strings that look like clear plastic [nylon] while acoustic guitars [steel string] have all metal strings), or take the guitar to Glenwood Music and have them identify it. 

* We’ll host guitar pick-up sessions outside of each Lead Guitar school prior to the first day of virtual class for students who elect to purchase a guitar, students who are renting an AMFS-owned guitar, or students who are granted an instrument scholarship to use an AMFS-owned guitar.

After-School Program Cost: $225

Cost includes twenty weeks of classes (two 45-minute classes per week!) taught by guitar specialists, performance opportunities (including Solo Recital on 2/26 and Lead Guitar Showcase Concert on 4/15, if allowed by public health orders), dinner before the final Showcase concert, and all music and digital resources.  This program is heavily subsidized by the AMFS and generous donors, and the actual program cost is more than $700 per student.  The program cost is only $5.35 per class/concert!

Please note that this is a twenty-week program and that students should commit to the entire series of classes. Obviously, some conflicts could arise, but in order for students to learn classical guitar, they need to attend class as much as possible.  If space allows at a particular school, mid-year enrollment will be permitted; the tuition amount remains the same.

The AfterWorks Refund Policy is as follows:

Once a student has registered for an AfterWorks program (Beginning Strings, Lead Guitar, or Maroon Bel Canto Choirs), the following policy will apply to tuition refunds if that student chooses to leave the AfterWorks program:

  • Before first class/rehearsal: full tuition refund
  • Between first and third class/rehearsal: half tuition refund
  • After third class/rehearsal: no refund

Late Registration Fee: $25

Students who complete the Lead Guitar registration form after 8 AM on Thursday, October 1 will be assessed a Late Registration Fee of $25 to cover late application processing and ordering of additional student supplies. 


A limited number of tuition scholarships are available to students who demonstrate significant financial need.  Additionally, a limited number of instrument scholarships are available to students who are unable to afford the cost of purchasing or renting a guitar.

10/1/2020:  No Tuition Scholarships Remain:  We are happy to set up tuition payment plans for accepted students.  Instrument scholarships are still available for students to use an AMFS-owned guitar while enrolled in the Lead Guitar program during the 2020-2021 school year.

Payment Plan

Payment plans for Lead Guitar tuition are available, if necessary, and can be requested during the acceptance process.


How to Register

Registration for Lead Guitar opens on Tuesday, September 1, 2020 and closes on Wednesday, September 30.  Late registrations will be accepted starting Thursday, October 1 and are subject to a $25 Late Registration Fee.


About AfterWorks

The Aspen Music Festival and School’s AfterWorks program offers after-school, in-school and summer programming, in collaboration with Valley schools, to support music education. These programs are designed to complement the quality music instruction students receive from schools and private instructors.


Significant underwriting of all AfterWorks programs is provided through generous contributions from Alpine Bank of Aspen, Leelee and Bill Harriman, the Meinig Family Foundation, and Anne and Chris Reyes. Additional support of AfterWorks and the ArtistYear program is provided through generous contributions from Edith Kallas and Joe Whatley, and Tita and Dan McCarty.

To learn more, please contact:
Katie Hone Wiltgen
Dean of Education and Community
970 205 5055

Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO