Flamenco guitarist ready to light musical spark at GHS, Lerner Theatre

September 09, 2016

Robert Michaels recalled his initial encounter with a musical instrument that would later affect the course of his life: a friend’s guitar.

“As soon as he picked it up, I knew that’s what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life,” Michaels said Thursday. “I went home and asked my parents for a guitar and they were reluctant because they thought it would affect my schooling.”

“Out of frustration, I went into the basement and built my own guitar.”

Since then, Michaels has carved an award-winning career by playing guitar. He showcased his skills Friday at Goshen High School during two sessions for students and faculty.

On Saturday, Michaels, the owner of multiple gold and platinum albums, will open the 2016 Elkhart County Symphony Association series with a 7:30 p.m. performance at the Lerner Theatre.

Michaels said his style consists of flamenco, intertwined with Cuban and Italian influences – he spent his infancy in Italy with his parents, and as an adult, lived five years in Cuba.

“It’s not strictly a pure flamenco show,” Michaels said of Saturday's show entitled, “Flamenco Fire."

But first things first.

At GHS, Michaels and his daughter, Melanie Buttarazzi, who also dances as part of his shows, performed for students and took time to answer questions about his musical culture and background. He began his school drop-in sessions a few years ago in California.

Michaels said he revels in the opportunity to share his gifts as well as those of Melanie, who followed her dreams and traveled to Los Angeles to become a dancer. They freely discuss the origins of flamenco and share about life experiences while traveling on the road.

“I find it’s a great way to show kids the life of an artist, a musician,” Michaels said. “Some of them may have that dream.

“Sometimes, it just sparks a light with them. It shows them that there’s possibilities to go after your dreams in life as opposed to the conventional jobs out there.”