Evangelos & Liza
Born in Cleveland, Ohio Jerry Willard’s first teacher was his father, Jeff Willard, an accomplished guitarist in his own right. The guitar pedagogue, Sophocles Papas recognized Jerry's talent and invited him to study in Washington, D.C. Jerry Willard studied with guitarists, Richard Lurie and Alirio Diaz, who developed his musical and technical approach to the guitar. He also worked with violinist, Misha Mishakoff and cellist, Warren Downs who expanded his knowledge of musical interpretation.
Mr. Willard has performed at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall in New York City. He has concertized extensively throughout Europe and The United States. Raymond Ericson of the New York Times wrote, "The recital was exemplary. Mr. Willard took lute in hand for some pieces by Adrian Le Roy and John Dowland and turned that normally pale-sounding predecessor of the guitar into a brilliant and vivid instrument…..It was again the clarity of Mr. Willard's playing that gave special pleasure."
Willard is an accomplished player of all types of fretted instruments including the arch lute, Renaissance lute, Baroque guitar, nineteenth century guitar, and modern guitar. Well known as an ensemble player, Mr. Willard has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, The New York City Opera Company, The New York Consort of Viols, and The Queen’s Chamber Band.
Willard has published many publications for guitar including "The Complete Lute Music of J. S. Bach", “The Complete Works of Gaspar Sanz” and “Seventeen Show Tunes of George Gershwin” available through Music Sales Corporation. Mr. Willard records for Lyrichord Discs. He has recorded music for arch-lute, Baroque Guitar and Renaissance lute. He has just finished a recording of opera potpourris by Giuliani and Mertz on a Lacote guitar made in Paris in 1820. Mr. Willard resides in Elmore Vermont and is on the faculty of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The superb concerts of Evangelos Assimakopoulos and his wife Liza Zoe in Europe, United States and Canada, have made them one of the most highly regarded duo guitarists in the world today.
Not only have the two Greek musicians been acclaimed by many newspapers of repute, including the New York times, Daily Telegraph, Paris Matin, Chicago Sun, El Sol de Mexico and Los Angeles Times, but they also earned the esteem of the great Andrés Segovia himself, who wrote of them: “Since Fate cruelly deprived us of Presti-Lagoya, I no longer had the pleasure of listening to any similar duo. But lately, when the talented Greek guitarists Evangelos and Liza played for me, I felt complete satisfaction and enjoyment. I cordially wish Evangelos and Liza to conquer the high esteem of the public as they have conquered mine!”
They both began their studies of the guitar in 1953 at the National Conservatory of Athens under Dimitris Fampas. After receiving first prizes “with excellence” upon graduating, they shared the first two prizes in the International Competition in Naples, Italy. For four consecutive periods they were awarded scholarships to study with the Presti-Lagoya duo in France and with Andrés Segovia in Spain. Shortly after, they became professors at the National Conservatory in Athens.
Since their arrival on the international scene in 1967, Evangelos and Liza have carried out extensive tours all over the world and given hundreds of recitals at some of the most famous concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall, le Théâtre de la Ville, the Lincoln Center and the Herodion. They have also performed for many radio and television stations (the BBC, Paris RTVF, Brussels, Madrid, Cologne, Berlin etc.) and taken part in major festivals in, among other places, New York, Boston, Antwerp, Rome, Amsterdam and Mexico. They usually appear as duo soloists with well known symphony orchestras such as those of Montreal, Michigan, Cincinnati and Birmingham, as well as teaching seminars and holding Master-classes at universities and academies overseas including The Juilliard School, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, UCLA, Stony Brook University and Mannes College of Music.
Both Greek and foreign composers have written pieces especially for Evangelos and Liza; at the same time the two musicians have enriched a rather meagre guitar duo repertoire with transcriptions and arrangements for their own. They have produced several records and CDs of works for one or two guitars that are available on the EMI Classics label everywhere. The breadth of their repertoire, their technical skill and rich interpretations, have earned an enthusiastic reception wherever they have performed, resulting to their wholehearted acceptance by the public as one of the “most exciting husband-and-wife virtuoso duos of today’s musicdom.”