Kithara Duo (Olga Amelkina-Vera and Fernand Vera) was formed in 2002, when they were graduate students at the University of North Texas, and has since performed in Europe and the Americas. Their playing has been described as “state-of-the-art” by American Record Guide and praised for its “admirably seamless level of musicality and technique” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 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. In addition to Olga’s original compositions, Fernand and Olga regularly contribute to guitar duo repertoire through their arrangements and transcriptions. Many of their arrangements are featured on their second CD, Lingua Franca, released in 2015.
Kithara Duo have been invited to perform and teach at the Guitar Foundation of America Convention and Competition, St. Louis Classical Guitar Society Great Artist Series, East Carolina University Guitar Festival, Troy University Guitar Festival, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Guitar Sarasota, Texas A&M International Guitar Symposium, Harrison School for the Arts, Lone Star Guitar Festival, Clark University, Chapman University, and many other venues. Fernand and Olga are full-time faculty at Collin College in Plano, Texas, where Fernand directs the award-winning Guitar Studies program, and Olga teaches in the guitar, music history, theory, and composition areas.
Olga Amelkina-Vera‘s works have been called “the discovery of the evening” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune ), “brilliant” (The Royal Gazette), “incandescent” and “hypnotic” (Fort Worth Star Telegram ). A guitarist and composer, she grew up in Belarus and moved to the United States in 1997. Olga holds a Bachelor of Arts degree Summa Cum Laude from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in guitar performance with a minor in music history from the University of North Texas, and a Masters degree in composition from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Her SMU thesis composition, Submerged Worlds for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, won the 2017-2018 American Prize in the instrumental chamber music division. Her comic micro-opera All That Glitters won third prize in the theater/film/opera/dance division of the same competition. Olga was chosen as the Irving Symphony Orchestra student composer-in-residence for the 2016-2017 season. Most recently, her solo guitar work The Heaven’s Hundred has been selected as one of the finalists for the 2018-2019 American Prize competition in the instrumental chamber music division.
Olga won first prize in the Japan Guitar Ensemble Composition Competition for her quartet Cattywampus Rompus (Texas Tarantella) and was interviewed in Gendai Guitar during her trip to Tokyo. She was the first prize winner of the Austin Classical Guitar Society Composition Competition in 2009 and 2012 for her guitar quartets Ninochka and Nebulae. Her compositions are published by Productions d’Oz, including two works selected for the Frank Koonce Series. Olga’s guitar works are regularly performed and recorded by Matt Palmer, Adam Holzman, Thibaut Garcia, Weimar Guitar Quartet, Quattro Palos Guitar Quartet, Kithara Duo, and many other professional and student ensembles and soloists. She is in demand as a conductor and artist-in-residence, frequently getting invitations to perform solo and conduct her music with guitar orchestras throughout the country. Most recent engagements include Indiana University Guitar Ensemble Festival and Pacific Lutheran University Guitar Ensemble Festival, as well as residencies and guitar ensemble commissions for Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland, FL and Park View High School in Sterling, VA.
Born in Houston, TX to a French mother and an Ecuadorian father, Fernand Vera is an active performer, educator, author, arranger, event organizer, and sound engineer for Kithara Duo’s two CDs, Beings and Lingua Franca. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and Masters of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in guitar performance from the University of North Texas. Since 2012, Fernand has directed the thriving Guitar Studies program at Collin College in Plano, TX. He is the Artistic Director of the annual Collin College Guitar Festival, held each spring semester. He is also the creator and director of the bi-annual Collin College Guitar Competition, the only event of its kind specifically for Texas community college and high school students.
As an educator and author, Fernand has written several guitar method books: The Beginning Guitar Method, Vol. 1, now in its sixth edition (co-written with Olga Amelkina-Vera), The Beginning Guitar Method, Vol. 2 for continuing guitar students, and Guitar Fitness: Technical Studies for the Advancing Guitarist. These publications are used as guitar studies curriculum at Collin College for class guitar and applied lessons. Fernand’s students have won prizes in solo and ensemble competitions throughout the state of Texas and beyond. He was a finalist for the Collin College 2017 Professor of the Year award. Fernand continuously contributes to the guitar ensemble repertoire through his numerous arrangements, transcriptions, and original compositions.