On a mission to realize his dream
Many, if not most, 12-year-old boys are likely to be found playing football or video games after school. Not so Thomas Pfefer. He is most likely to be found with his hands on his guitar, making beautiful music.
The talented Bethlehem youngster has studied classical guitar at the Moravian College Music Institute—which offers individual and group music lessons to community members—weekly for three years, with guitar instructor John Arnold. Before he signed up at MCMI, Pfefer studied Suzuki guitar, beginning at age 6.
“Thomas is an incredibly hard worker and amazingly talented,” says Arnold, who, as an award-winning guitarist who performs around the country both solo and with various groups, knows what that means.
Pfefer is seemingly well on his way to realizing his dream of being a professional classical guitarist, and has the prizes and accolades to prove it. At age 10, he won the Lehigh Valley’s Friends of Music Competition, a remarkable achievement, especially given that he was up against some guitarists almost twice his age.
Pfefer then teamed with Emmaus high-school student and violinist Greg Genaro to win first place in the Satori Chamber Music competition at Symphony Hall in Allentown. And just this summer, Pfefer won first place in his age group (12-14) in the Guitar Foundation of America Competition, held this year in Columbus, Ga.
“This is a global competition, and he was up against kids from all over the world, winning in the junior division,” explains Arnold. “Some of your most well-known classical guitarists won this award,” he continues, including Jason Vieaux, who won at age 18 in 1992. Vieaux has since gone on to become one of the top three classical guitarists in the world, according to Arnold, and has just started a classical guitar program at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Pfefer recently began to study with Vieaux, in addition to his work here in the Lehigh Valley.
Perhaps Pfefer’s most exciting achievement to date has been his live performances on NPR’s program for young musicians, From the Top, with pianist-host Chris O’Reilly. Aspiring young musicians submit DVDs of their performances, and those who are chosen go on to perform on the air. Pfefer’s first performance with From the Top was at Zoellner Arts Center last year, where he played Julia Florida by Agustin Barrios Mangore.
“He is on a mission,” Arnold says. “And he is very bright, very warm and has a great personality. He’s willing to sacrifice for his dream, and he has an incredibly supportive family, which helps a lot.”
Arnold, who performs around the area regularly as half of the flute-guitar duo, Two Part Invention, even invites Pfefer to play with him on occasion in his guitar ensemble, the youngest guitarist to receive that invitation.