Miroslav Lončar sits in the middle of a large classroom at Park View High School, effortlessly filling the room with classical guitar strains the way his passion and appreciation for the art form fills his life.
On the wall behind him, a Croatian flag hangs near a portrait of blues-guitar legend B.B. King above a musical score stretching across a long chalkboard.
When Lončar landed in Loudoun County a little more than a decade ago, he found a community with hundreds of students studying guitar through middle and high school programs, but no mechanism for linking those studies to the community at-large.
Lončar and his wife, Natasha Klasinc-Lončar, formed Aguado Guitar Concerts to help bridge that gap between their classrooms and their community.
“I saw a need of more community involvement and more opportunities for the community to be exposed to guitar events,” Lončar said. “I just felt like I wasn’t finding what I wanted to see when I moved to Loudoun County, and I felt that for a county this big there was just a void when it comes to hearing guitar concerts in our community.”
The group gets its name from Dionisio Aguado, a classical Spanish guitarist and composer from the early 1800s. Aguado is Spanish for “wet” or “soaked,” and Dionisio’s surname was derived from a nickname for one of his ancestors who came back from a battle covered in mud and blood.
Lončar said he has about 80 students he teaches in groups at Park View. He said guitar is taught at the middle and high schools throughout Loudoun County Public Schools. Klasinc-Lončar is a music and guitar teacher at Sterling Middle School. The two were the driving forces behind Aguado Guitar Concerts.
“We moved here in 2007, and as soon as we moved here we started this organization,” Lončar said. “It is necessary for the students to see that the guitar is not just something they learn to play in school and then put away and go home. There should be a chance to see international artists and world-renowned guitarists that come to Loudoun County.”
Lončar said his group sponsors three concerts per year, bringing in international talent and diverse styles. The next installment is this Saturday, May 5, when his group hosts the Maharajah Flamenco Trio beginning at 7 p.m. at the Community Lutheran Church in Sterling. There is no admission cost, but donations are accepted to compensate the artists and help Aguado with its overall mission.
“That is going to be a very, very fun event, with very high-energy guitar,” Lončar said. “Most of our concerts are primarily classical, but this is one that will highlight the Flamenco tradition as well.”
The concert series fulfills one of Aguado’s main goals. The other goal – giving guitar students and artists a chance to showcase their talents – is accomplished through a variety of methods.
“We have an annual competition that is also happening in the beginning of May,” Lončar said. “This is an opportunity for those students who work hard that are interested in competing as well. It is offered strictly for students from Loudoun County schools.
“Another way to do this is through Loudoun Youth Guitars, which is an after-school ensemble that I conduct,” Lončar said. “We go to various guitar festivals and have played at the Kennedy Center. We give the kids an opportunity to take their music and their performing experience to places outside of Loudoun County.”
Lončar said Aguado also encourages and helps organize small-group, home concerts.
Lončar grew up in what was then Yugoslavia, a Soviet-controlled state behind the Iron Curtain. When the Soviet Union dissolved, long unresolved ethnic tensions boiled over into a bloody civil war that lasted more than 10 years.
“I was in the United States at that time,” Lončar said. “My mother and father were in the occupied area and they had to seek shelter every night and run to the neighbor’s basement because there were raids and there were bombings. It was a very difficult time for everybody involved and for me, too, because all of the people I knew were fighting the war.”
Peace was finally established, but not until NATO and other world powers got involved. Lončar said the urban centers have all been rebuilt, and he goes back to what is now an independent nation of Croatia every summer.
“I do an international summer school there, to which some of the kids from Loudoun County are actually going this summer,” he said.
Lončar said he hopes to see Aguado grow to where it can bring in world-class talent and expand the opportunities it can offer Loudoun County music students.
“We have to work within the budget we have and often we have to tap our friends and connections to come and play because we know them,” he said. “We would like to be in a position to get the best out there and pay them their fee, whatever that is.”