Interview: How Sharon Isbin Took Classical Guitar To New Heights

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9min 45sec
<p>(Photo: J. Henry Fair)</p>
<p>Guitarist Sharon Isbin</p>
Sharon Isbin
Guitarist Sharon Isbin

Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin has probably done more to advance her instrument than any other living guitarist.

She’s released more than 25 discs, played with more than 170 orchestras around the world and commissioned pieces by composers like John Corigliano, Joan Tower and Ned Rorem.

In 1989, she founded the classical guitar program at The Juilliard School. She also runs the guitar program at the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Isbin spoke with CPR Classical from Aspen, where she was preparing for a concert with jazz guitarists Stanley Jordan and Romero Lubambo.

The conversation touched on how she started playing the instrument, her musical collaborations and her work as a teacher. Click the audio link above to listen.

Interview highlights:

On perseverance as a classical guitarist

“The first composer I ever asked to write for me said, ‘No. Guitar is such a silly instrument. Why would I do that?’ But I played for him and convinced him to do it. … I think I learned that ‘no’ just means try a different way and try harder. And never give up. And certainly as a woman in the field it became very clear to me.”

On taking lessons from legendary guitarist Andres Segovia

“One of the most magical things about him was his sound. And to be able to sit just a few inches from him when he would demonstrate something on the guitar -- that beautiful gemlike, diamondlike sound, was something that became a model for me and that I really carried in my mind.”