Grand Rapids is an area blessed with quality musical performances. At Grand Rapids Community College, the International Guitar Series has repeatedly provided audiences with displays of talent, and that continues with Robert Gruca, performing at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 14 in the Recital Hall of the GRCC Music Center, Room 200.
Gruca studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music under the direction of Jason Vieux and John Holmquist. He received his master’s degree and performed concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as many other symphony orchestras.
He has performed solo concerts across the United States. Gruca has a private studio in Ohio, where he is an instructor, but his solo tour has taken him as far as Pennsylvania, New York and Canada.
His concerto debut came with performing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with the Marquette Symphony Orchestra. Directing the Marquette Symphony Orchestra was Nuvi Mehta.
With this tour, he had the opportunity to perform in Europe and the U.S. under director Franz Welser–Most. Gruca also performed Igor Stavinsky’s Le Rossignol with Pierre Boulez, Kurt Weill’s Little Three Penny Music, and Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings Symphony with Oscar and Grammy Award-winning Howard Shore. The Lord of the Rings Symphony has been performed by many choirs and symphonies, but it is said not with the same power as the Cleveland Orchestra. Gruca performed under the direction of Howard Shore himself, who rarely conducts his own work.
Gruca’s talent has been recognized not only in his placement in orchestras but also with awards. He was a top prize winner in the Rantucci International Guitar Competition. He won first prize in the Columbus State Guitar Symposium Competition, the East Carolina University Guitar Festival Competition and the Appalachian State Guitar Festival Competition. Gruca was also a semifinalist in the Guitar Foundation of America Competition and the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, as well as the 2007 Distinguished Alumni award winner from Grand Valley State University’s Department of Music. While at Grand Valley State University, Gruca was taught by Brian Morris—now a professor at GRCC.
Morris remembers his former pupil.
“Bob has a rare combination of tremendous talent and humility that has helped him become a great professional musician,” Morris said of Gruca over the phone.
On his 2006 CD, Gruca performs solo works by the likes of Bogdanovic, Schubert and Bach. His 2010 CD features works by Handel, including a few original transcriptions
Gruca has gained international recognition and respect. Erik Mann, Director of the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society, said “Robert Gruca’s performance for the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society was outstanding in every way. Brilliant technique, incomparable musicianship, and an informed sense of style all served Mr. Gruca’s artful interpretations. He is simply one of the finest artists that we’ve ever had the pleasure to present.”
Joshua Vissers contributed to this story.