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Hill Country Classical Guitar Ensemble Festival and Competition


2022 Hill Country Guitar Ensemble Festival and Competition

April 1st & 2nd

This festival will be held at the beautiful Texas State University – San Marcos campus. This is a national competition and is open to guitar ensembles of middle school, high school, college level and independent studios to bring like-minded individuals together to celebrate guitar and strive for excellence in performance. These performances will be adjudicated by Tony Morris (Classical Guitar Alive), Jeremy Garcia (Solero Flamenco) and Michael Keplinger (TLU professor of guitar).

On the evening of April 1st, festival director Mark Anthony Cruz will perform a program of original compositions and will be followed by Solero Flamenco featuring Jeremy Garcia, guitar; Irma La Paloma, vocals and Andrés Felix, percussion.

Saturday, April 2nd, will be the day of the competition. Also on this day, there will be a vendor fair, masterclasses by Alejandro Montiel, Olga Amelkina-Vera and Fernand Vera and a composition forum presented by Mark Cruz and Olga Almelkina-Vera.

Closing the festival on the evening of the 2nd, Kithara Duo featuring Olga Amelkina-Vera and Fernand Vera, will perform original compositions by Olga, followed by Duo Fortis featuring Isaac Bustos and Alejandro Montiel who will grace our ears with brilliant music, musicality and virtuosity. We will announce the winners of the competition during intermission on this night.

Registration will open on Saturday morning at 8:00 am (April 2) and remain open until 9:30 am. Competition performances will begin at 9:00 am and continue throughout the day until 5:00 pm with a break for lunch.

Twenty-five institutions will be accepted. No more institutions will be accepted after twenty-five. If we reach this limit, we will notify on this website.

Pricing and deadlines for registration and masterclasses are located on the registration form. See below.


  • There are no set pieces for the competition, although, programming with contrasting works are expected and will be one of the facets to be evaluated – along with tuning, unified time, tone quality, balance, mix, interpretation, dynamics, musicality, presentation, etc.

  • Middle school students must prepare a program of six to nine minutes (must not exceed. Include any change of chair configuration into your time, if applicable).

  • High school students must prepare a program of seven to ten minutes (must not exceed. Include any change of chair configuration into your time, if applicable).

  • College students must prepare a program of twelve to fifteen minutes (must not exceed. Include any change of chair configuration into your time, if applicable).

  • Performances will be timed. Time begins at the first note of the first piece. Competitors will be cut off should program exceed their respective time limit.

  • There are no penalties for exceeding the time limit, but we encourage participants to remain within the boundaries of these time limits.

  • Ten points will be deducted (per judge) should the director perform with students. There is no penalty for directors conducting for their students.

  • Only classical guitars are permitted to be used. Upper or lower ranged instruments such as a requinto and/or acoustic bass may also be used as long as the strings are nylon. No electric or steel-string instruments.

Competition Registration Form:

(click here to download)

Registration forms must be received by March 21st to receive the $30.00 per participant charge. Late registrants will be charged $50.00 per participant. No registration forms will be accepted on or following March 28th. We encourage all participants to arrive in San Marcos on Friday, March 8 by 6:00 pm so that all participants can enjoy our opening concert at 8:00 pm.

For Vendors: Vendor Application:

(click here to download)




Mark Anthony Cruz

Mark Cruz
Mark Cruz

As a composer and arranger, Mark Anthony Cruz is published by Mel Bay, Clearnote, Shawnee Press and Soundboard. He was the first prize-winner of the Austin Classical Guitar sponsored composition competition in 2006, '07, ’08, ’10 and ‘17. He has received several commissions from large institutions, DMA students and private artists. Mr. Cruz’s Triptych No. 1 for solo guitar has been performed internationally by guitar virtuoso, Adam Holzman. Such notable artists as Presti Trio, Texas Guitar Quartet, Kossler Duo and the Hanser/McClellan Duo have also performed his work in addition to numerous high schools and universities across the country and abroad. As a performer, Cruz placed 1st in the 2013 Winfield International Fingerstyle Competition. He has been a feature artist at many important guitar festivals across Texas as a performer, teacher and lecturer. Five of Cruz's CDs have been featured on the nationally syndicated radio program, Classical Guitar Alive. Two of his all-original Cds received positive reviews in the scholarly periodical, Soundboard. Mr. Cruz has been professor of guitar at Texas State University – San Marcos since 1999 and resides in San Marcos, TX with his family.


Solero Flamenco

Solero Flamenco

Jeremy Garcia has performed all over the United States. He has collaborated as a soloist with the Houston Grand Opera, as a soloist and composer with the Helena Symphony in Montana, the Fort Bend Symphony, and Brazosport Symphony.  He has performed in numerous festivals as a soloist and collaborated with many top flamenco artists.
He has recorded two CDs, García y Reyna’s Baile del Sol and Café Khytaro’s Distancia. In 2009 Garcia co-founded Solero Flamenco, Houston’s premier flamenco performance company, along with Irma La Paloma; the two subsequently co-founded and directed the Houston Spanish and Flamenco Festival (2011-2016).
As an educator, Garcia served as Director of Guitar Studies at San Jacinto College for 20 years. He currently serves as the Associate Artistic Director of the Houston Classical Guitar Festival and Competition. He has a Bachelor of Music degree in Classical Guitar Performance from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi and a Master of Music degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Irma La Paloma is a flamenco artist, singer, and choreographer.  She is Co-Founder/Artistic Director of Houston’s Premier Flamenco Performance Company, Solero Flamenco (2009). Irma performs and collaborates with local and international artists delivering Cante (Flamenco song) with sincerity and passion.  She is a strong ambassador of flamenco arts and education in the City of Houston.   

Borne of Spanish descent in Havana, Cuba, she began her flamenco training with Spain’s Olga Bustamante at Concepción Arenal and with María Asela Bermúdez at Escuela de Baile Monterroso y Antas de Ulla.  She performed Flamenco and Spanish Regional Dances in Havana’s Centro Gallego and Teatro García Lorca.  Her family later established residence in Madrid where she was further embraced by her heritage.  Her love of poetry and lyrics led her to concentrated study of cante and dance accompaniment.   

Recognized for her artistry and work ethic, La Paloma is a sought after collaborator.  Irma served as Choreographer for Houston Grand Opera’s digital production, "Suite Española - Explorando Iberia” (2021).  She performed and recorded her original work, ”El Corazón Manda” in Kathak-Flamenco - A Celebration of Cultures (2019).  In 2017, she performed selections from Manuel de Falla’s “El Amor Brujo” with the Helena Symphony in Montana, Allan R. Scott, Conductor.  She also composed and recorded vocals in Cafe Khytaro’s “Distancia" (2008).  Irma keeps a busy performing schedule and enjoys composing and developing new works.

Andrés Felix was tuned to flamenco music at an early age.  His Spanish heritage and music were ever present in his childhood.  He developed musicality and rhythm for guitar and percussion, the flamenco disciplines of his choice.  Andrés received guitar instruction at the Festival Flamenco de Albuquerque and from flamenco guitarist Jeremy García.  He also received cajón instruction from the late Maestro Timo Lozano and participated in the Houston Spanish and Flamenco Festival workshops with percussionists Enrique el Peru and Chris Howard.  (2011 - 2016).  Since 2011, Andrés performs professionally, providing percussive accompaniment for cante, guitar, and baile (song, guitar, and dance) in Houston and the region.


Kithara Duo

Kithara Duo

Acclaimed for its “touching musicality, elegant presentation, and seamless coordination” by Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, Kithara Duo (Olga Amelkina-Vera and Fernand Vera) are celebrating 20 years of playing together.  The duo has performed in Europe, South America, and throughout the US since their founding in 2002. Their playing has been described as “state-of-the-art” by American Record Guide, which also stated “if you haven’t discovered them, you should.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune praised the ensemble for its “admirably seamless level of musicality and technique.” 

Kithara Duo’s critically acclaimed debut CD, Beings, was released by Soundset Recordings in 2011. The duo is home to an international award-winning composer, Olga Amelkina-Vera, and their first album is a world premiere recording of her music for guitar duo. Olga's works have been called “the discovery of the evening” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune), “brilliant” (The Royal Gazette), “incandescent” and “hypnotic” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram). In addition to Olga’s original compositions, Fernand and Olga have contributed to guitar duo repertoire through their arrangements and transcriptions. Their second CD, Lingua Franca (2015), features their arrangements of music from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Kithara Duo are currently signed to the LA-based Frameworks Records, and are excited about the release of Ka Ao: Works for Guitar, an album that features Olga’s recent guitar compositions performed by a star roster of artists, including three tracks recorded by Kithara Duo. 

Kithara Duo have been invited to perform and teach at numerous festivals and universities throughout the country, such as the Guitar Foundation of America Convention and Competition, St. Louis Classical Guitar Society Great Artist Series, Utah Classical Guitar Society, Seattle Classic Guitar Society, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Guitar Sarasota, Texas A&M International Guitar Symposium, Florida State University Guitar Festival, and many other venues. In addition, the ensemble enjoys outreach presentations, and has been hailed as “great communicators to both children and adults” (St. Louis Classical Guitar).  

To learn more about the duo, please visit and follow us on Instagram @kitharaduo and on


Duo Fortis

Duo Fortis

Isaac Bustos
With prizes in over 12 International competitions, classical guitarist, pedagogue and educator, Dr. Isaac Bustos, enjoys an extensive performing career that has taken him to Canada, Central America, Europe and all over the US.  He is in demand as a clinician and invited to perform in some of the most prestigious national and international guitar festivals. Bustos has premiered new music for guitar by composers Peter Askim, Frank Wallace, Peter Lieuwen and Nico Muhly. Chamber music collaborations have included performances with Grammy-Award winning artists such as the L.A. Guitar Quartet and Conspirare Singers, and, Mexican cellist Carlos Prieto. In addition, he is a founding member of and performs regularly with the Texas Guitar Quartet. Dr. Bustos currently serves on the faculty at The University of Texas-San Antonio where he is the artistic director of the Southwest Guitar Symposium and Competition, and director of guitar studies.  

Dr. Bustos is an Augustine Strings sponsored artist and plays a 2020 Martin Blackwell Double Top Guitar. 

Alejandro Montiel
Described by Soundboard Magazine as a "flawless musician, filled to the brim with polished technique," GRAMMY™-nominated guitarist, arranger, and recording artist Alejandro Montiel enjoys a performing career that has taken him throughout the United States, Mexico, China, Central America, and Europe. He holds graduate degrees from the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Texas at Austin. Alejandro is also founding member of the Texas Guitar Quartet and Duo Fortis.
A champion of new works for guitar, Alejandro has premiered pieces by Joseph V. Williams, Mark Cruz, John Truitt, Brian Herrington, and Samuel Zyman. He was part of the instrumental ensemble for the US premiere of Andy Pape's opera "Houdini The Great", collaborated with cellist Bion Tsang on a new score by Joseph Williams for the Alfred Hitchcock silent film "The Lodger", and was part of the 2015 world-premiere of Nico Muhly's new work for chamber choir and guitar ensemble titled “How Little You Are.” More recently, he gave the Houston premiere of Clarice Assad’s “Three Sketches” for two guitars and violin.
Besides being a regularly invited artist, adjudicator, and clinician for guitar festivals around the US, Dr. Montiel leads two full-time guitar studios at Sam Houston State University and Lone Star College - Montgomery. Alejandro is also a sought-after chamber musician throughout Texas -  notable collaborations include the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Conspirare, soprano Estelí Gómez, Line Upon Line percussion group, violinist Jennifer Choi, flutist Julee Kim-Walker, clarinetist Håkan Rosengren, and cellist Louis-Marie Fardet. Additionally, Dr. Montiel has been featured on multiple recordings, including the Texas Guitar Quartet's critically acclaimed debut album "RED" and its follow up, “ICON.”
 Alejandro resides in the Houston area with his family.