Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Carlos Castilla

December 5, 2023 | By John Fleming

Director and Guitar Instructor
Fayetteville (NC) School of Music

As a classical guitarist and teacher at a conservatory in Barranquilla, Colombia, Carlos Castilla had a dream. “Running a music school, having my own business, that is something I always wanted to do,” Castilla says. “I tried to do it in Colombia, but the terrible economy made it an impossible situation.”

In 2004, Castilla and his wife, Cuban pianist Amanda Virelles, and their two children emigrated from Colombia to the U.S. Since then, it has been a long and winding journey from graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he received a doctorate in musical arts (his dissertation was on Cuban composer and guitar master Leo Brouwer), to putting in time as a Nashville studio musician, to being an adjunct guitar instructor at universities in Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Now, 20 years later, Castilla’s dream has come true in Fayetteville, NC. “The road has not been easy, and sometimes I feel exhausted, but I’ve been able to build a community around music through working with students and their families.”

Castilla founded the Fayetteville School of Music in 2018, and after surviving the pandemic by doing classwork on Zoom, it has thrived. With a teaching staff of nine, enrollment averages about 180 students per semester. Along with his ownership duties, Castilla teaches guitar to a range of students from classical Suzuki Guitar Method youngsters to a 72-year-old learning arrangements of Fleetwood Mac songs.

The school’s website has a video of Castilla playing a Telemann fantasia, as well as one with his wife, in the keyboard-guitar duo Duo Guitiano. There’s also a funky guitar-percussion production of Spirits in the Material World by The Police. “If I depended solely on interest in 19th-century classical guitar, I would be out of business,” he says. “My being able to play pop and rock makes a difference with students.”




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