Stan State Guitar Student Studies, Performs in South Korea

October 20, 2019

Adrian Vega with guitar outdoors

The first time Stanislaus State student Adrian Vega contemplated studying abroad, he spent his freshman year planning and saving for it.

He went to Spain, studied Spanish and took a surfing class in San Sebastian.

This time, when offered another chance to study abroad, it only took him a matter of days to decide to join guitar teacher David Chapman at South Korea’s Chonnam National University in Gwangju during the summer.

“One of the big things was David proposed we play a concert there at the university,” Vega said.

Vega took a music appreciation class and a Korean language class and was able to continue his guitar lessons with Chapman. He also got to perform. Vega accompanied another Stan State student studying abroad, Mariela Arteaga, singing “Flow, My Tears” by John Dowland and he had a solo turn playing a work by Chapman’s friend Stepan Rak called “Czech Romance.”

Back at Stan State, Vega’s performing continued in September when he played a piece called “The Hummingbird” at the Guitar Studio Recital. Music Department performances continue in October with a full schedule.

Vega’s journey to South Korea, and to becoming a music major, was circuitous.

He arrived at Stan State in fall 2017, the same semester Chapman arrived from Modesto Junior College to launch a guitar program. A first-generation college student, Vega was a liberal studies major, planning to become an elementary school teacher.

“When I was registering for classes I wondered if they had a guitar class,” Vega said. “I found out they did, and I just registered for (Chapman’s) class. He was actually the first professor I met on my first day of school. It’s crazy to think I would join his program in the end.”

Vega, a Modesto native, had played violin in the school orchestra from fifth through eighth grades, and taught himself to play piano well enough to play during his church’s youth service. As a high school senior, his girlfriend bought a guitar at the flea market, and Vega began trying to play it.

He took the instrument to Chapman’s guitar class, and the world-renowned guitarist called the instrument “firewood.”

“It’s a classic flea market guitar,” Vega said.

No matter its quality, the guitar served to launch Vega’s interest in the instrument and forged his friendship with Chapman. He took more classes in the Music Department, and when he ran out of courses for non-majors, he added a music minor.

That enabled him to take one-on-one lessons with Chapman and after much thought, Vega switched his major from liberal studies to music, with an emphasis in performance.

“I met so many people from the Music Department,” Vega said. “It’s a small little community. It’s just amazing. It’s really like a family. You get to know everybody. It’s something I really enjoyed and I realized after a while, I think I should be here.”

He may yet become a teacher, but as he enters his second full year in the music program, he’s focused on performance.

“He was skeptical about his ability to pursue a music major as it is a tough career to make a living on,” Chapman said. “As he and I worked, he simply soaked it all in and became — according to one of my peers, Daniel Davies — my best student that semester during a jury performance.”

Vega had the chance to shadow one of Chapman’s former students, Grace Davis High School music teacher Mark Davila, who showed the young student how it is possible to make a living in music by performing and teaching.

“Adrian is a brilliant student, an outstanding guitarist and a fantastic human being. I am sure he will go very far in life,” Chapman said.