Playing all the genres from classical to flamenco and rock

Dr. Corey Whitehead

By Payton Hartung, student news intern, University Communications

In 1974, a young boy sent in a mail order for the “10 Albums for a Penny” promotion from his TV guide. The rest is history.  

As a professional musician and professor of music at Fresno State, Dr. Corey Whitehead is deeply involved in the classical, flamenco and contemporary styles of guitar.

“What inspired this mail order purchase was listening to Elvis and Elton John on 8-Track at a neighbor’s house.” said Whitehead.

He started playing guitar seriously when he was 11 years old. He was inspired by Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and his guitar hero, Randy Rhodes. He joined Fresno State as an assistant professor of guitar performance in 2006.  

Between 2005 and 2014, Whitehead studied classical and flamenco guitar every summer in the southern provinces of Spain. He lived amongst the Gitanos, also known as the gypsies of Spain. 

Whitehead said he is considered a Payo, someone who understands and preserves the gypsy language and culture but doesn’t live in their neighborhoods. Whitehead found that immersing himself in Spanish music and culture was critical for his development as a classical and flamenco guitarist.

“Not only did I have a greater understanding of classical music, I had a greater understanding of flamenco and improvisation in their style of music,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead taught music at the Duke Ellington School of Arts and The Levine School of Music, both in Washington D.C., the Virginia Commonwealth University, Northern Virginia Community College and Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona.

Just as immersed into the classical world, Whitehead also works in the rock genre. He is the guitarist of his band Fall oF Silence, which has released two albums since 2017.

His band will play at the Fresno State Guitar Festival with English rock bassist Tony Franklin at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 in the Wahlberg Recital Hall. The festival features two recitals and public masters classes taught by the featured artists. Tickets are $15 general and $5 for students, staff and senior. 

Free music clinics will also be held with Tony Saunders, who has collaborated with Jerry Garcia; Alvin Talyor, who has collaborated with Elton John and George Harrison; and Tony Franklin, who has collaborated with Jimmy Page, throughout the day on Oct. 18.

Whitehead said he is excited to see students perform with legendary artists, learn from them and grow as musicians.

Whitehead will perform flamenco classics at 8 p.m. Saturday Oct. 19 at the Wahlberg Recital Hall. Tickets are $5.

Whitehead said appreciation for contemporary music, also called commercial music, is essential for the university because many students will only pursue music if they believe the pursuit can be economically viable.

“There are lots of ways to make money in music, but commercial music is something we can’t ignore,” Whitehead said.

“We need to profess music for the art of music but we also need to profess music for the business of music.” he said.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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