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Young Jazz Guitarist Wins Fans - And Benefactors - in Madrid

  • Reuters

Pedro Gonzalez poses with a guitar outside a guitar store in central Madrid, Spain, July 24, 2015.

Pedro Gonzalez poses with a guitar outside a guitar store in central Madrid, Spain, July 24, 2015.

If you're a guitar aficionado visiting the Headbanger Rare Guitar shop in Madrid, Spain, you're likely to find a teenager in a baseball cap bent over a 1955 Gibson, his nimble fingers producing jazz scales that belie his youth.

The shop, with a selection of vintage guitars carefully hung on black walls, is a second home to Pedro Gonzalez, 17, who is attracting attention in the Spanish capital for his talent playing jazz guitar.

"[His technique] seems influenced by Django Reinhardt," said Madrid-based guitarist and professor Joaquin Chacon, comparing Gonzalez to the late Belgian-born musician considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

This summer, Headbanger's owners organized a concert with a group of Spanish indie rock musicians to raise 2,000 euros ($2,138) for Gonzalez to study at the private Escuela de Musica Creativa in central Madrid under Chacon.

Gonzalez had been accepted at the school with a partial scholarship but his parents, struggling on low incomes and a stubbornly high jobless rate in Spain, could not cover the remaining fees - hence the fundraising event.

"It's sad that people can't get an education because their family doesn't have enough money. There should be public schools for music," Amaral, a popular Spanish band that played at the concert, said in a statement to Reuters.

Gonzalez started playing the piano at age seven but by 13 was increasingly drawn to the guitar, an instrument to which he feels a magnetic attraction.

When he plays at Headbanger, clients listen in awe and gather around to take pictures. His technique is based on Internet videos of guitarists like Wes Montgomery, one of his idols. He has never seen a live jazz concert.

"They're too expensive. I've only been to the ones where I play myself," Gonzalez said while taking a short break from playing the coveted Gibson on a stool at Headbanger.

Pedro Gonzalez attends a guitar class at the private music school Escuela de Musica Creativa in central Madrid, Spain, Nov. 6, 2015.

Pedro Gonzalez attends a guitar class at the private music school Escuela de Musica Creativa in central Madrid, Spain, Nov. 6, 2015.

After completing the Madrid course, Gonzalez has his sights set on Berklee College of Music in Boston or Conservatorium van Amsterdam, defying some fans' views that he already is a master.

"I've still got a lot to go. You can never stop learning," he said before getting back to his scales.

Chacon said that for students like Pedro, with natural talent and plenty of motivation, formal training is like "a high-speed highway that takes you to your destination much faster than if you tried to find the road on your own".

($1 = 0.9355 euros)

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