My name is Michael Ferris and I would like to share this piece of my life with you. It is
the story of how I went to Europe to get my Master of the Arts degree in Music having
had a world renowned artist as a teacher. I haven't become famous, but that doesn't and
shouldn't ever bother any player. A player should play because he loves music. I feel,
that in telling my story, it could encourage others to try to realize their dreams. The
question is, how have I been able to turn my dreams into reality? The most important
thing that I have learned is to never give up.
I had only started playing guitar when I was 17. My father has a music store in a small
town in Michigan and I actually started so I could demonstrate the guitars in order to
sell them. I started playing chords and singing a bit to them using song books that my
father had lying around. Although my father was a professional guitarist in a rock band,
he refused to teach me a thing. He did not want me to end up being a musician. My very
first song was American Pie by Don McClean and after only 4 weeks, having been able
to finally change between chords, I felt I was already ready to go to a local café to sing
and play at an open-mic night. This turned into a complete disaster. I was the youngest
person there in the midst of people that had been playing for several decades and on
the day of my first performance, in front of all those people, my string broke...
After another four weeks, I went back and played again. At first, the director of the
open-mic night, a guitarist herself, didn't even want to let me play. I crazily insisted and
she let me try. I played... Everyone stood up and applauded. It was just fabulous!
With the will to become better, I knew I had to find someone to help me. At my Dad's
store, there was a guitar teacher named Dan. He studied at the Guitar Institute of
Technology in California. I wanted to learn to play and seeing that he was the only
guitar teacher that I knew in our small town, I started up lessons with him. Everyone at
my dad's store had told me how much improvement I had made. I still remember that
he, having been a rock player and a fan of guitar-technique, told me to buy a copy of
"Eliot Fisk's 24 Cappricci by Nicolo Paganini". I remember exactly how he told me, "It
is the most amazing guitar technique on Earth." I had never heard of the guy, but went
out and bought it anyhow. Turning on that CD and hitting play was also the very first
time that I had ever heard classical guitar in my whole life. I have to say, it was just
incredible. I had never believed that guitar could be played so beautifully! From this
point on, I wanted to know how the guitar could be played like that!!
Dan told me, "You have to be really good to play that style." At this point in my life,
after only a few months of playing, a new goal had been found. I wanted to play
classical guitar. I called Lake Michigan College only to find out that I was to too young
to attend courses. In desperation, I called Andrew's University, a local Seventh Day
Adventist University and was able to contact their guitar teacher personally. He told me
that, if I really was so determined, he would be able to take me on as a personal
student. That is when I met Samuel Kaligithi, my first classical guitar teacher, whom I
consider to have been one of the best I have ever had. More than just teaching me
about the instrument, he taught me how to love it to the fullest extent, which is, in my
opinion, one of the hardest challenges any teacher has. I thought the absolute world of
him. As far as I was concerned, I thought he was the best guitarist on Earth. Through
him, I got to see the classical guitar played live for the first time and was enthralled. I
had so much fun learning and made tons of improvement, practicing many hours a day,
sometimes ten to twelve. It was just so much fun!!
Every time I played something for a customer at my father's music store, I got so many
compliments on my improvement that I just wanted to practice more and more!
I was just about to graduate from High School and everybody in the senior class was
thinking about what they would do afterwards. I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to
go to the "Chicago Conservatory of Music". It was the nearest place I was able to
think of. My teacher said that maybe I should consider going to where he had studied.
He, namely, had studied at the Academy for Music and Applied Art in Vienna, Austria.
Well, I said, "OK, where is that?" I did not even know where Austria was. Sam had
given me the idea, and seeing that I don't come from a very wealthy family, my parents
were very angry at the idea he had put into my head. Sam had impressed upon the fact
that living and studying abroad would broaden my horizons in general, learning not only
music, but also another language and culture.
Sam wasn't just full of ideas, he even helped me make it all happen. He also assured me
that studying in Europe was not expensive and he had connections to put me up with
room and board. It was his idea as well for me to play a solo concert before going and
he helped me prepare the programme for that. I had a little under a year to go before
the big trip. It was at this time that he said that it was imperative that I learn German. I
told him, "Why do I have to learn German?!?"
At the time, I had never even been to Chicago alone by myself. Yet, still I was
determined to go to Austria. Following the teacher's orders once again, I called the
college, this time of age, wanting to take a German course and Music Theory 101.
Everything was falling into place.
In the programme of my solo concert, which by this time had gone wonderfully, I had
written that it was my wish to study in Vienna under Konrad Ragossnig. Sam, my
teacher, had studied under him and wanted me to as well.
Vienna, Austria, home to great composers and musical master-minds and there I was
amidst this great city in June of 1996 not even know how to get from the airport into the
|The Story of How My
Dreams Came True