Listen: Grammy Winner David Russell On His Journey As A Classical Guitarist

June 11, 2020
Guitarist David RussellGuitarist David RussellHart Van Denburg/CPR
Guitarist David Russell at the CPR downtown Denver studios Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.

David Russell followed an unlikely but serendipitous path to become one of the world's most revered guitarists.

He was born in Scotland but his family moved to Spain in the late 1950s when he was 6. There, he learned to play the guitar, considered the national instrument of Spain. His father would play him albums from legendary Spanish guitarist Andre Segovia.

Pop music and the Beatles arrived later in the place where Russell grew up -- Menorca, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. He heard mostly Spanish and Mexican songs but his parents loved classical music.

“My father played a bit of classical guitar and that’s why I really started doing it,” he said.

Russell eventually discovered the popular electric guitar. “At one point, I bought an electric guitar to see what they felt like,” he said. But he stayed with classical music.

At 16, he was so good he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Music in London, where the guitar had only became an accepted instrument five years before.

In 2005, Russell won the Grammy Award for best instrumental soloist in classical music for Aire Latino. After the nomination, Russell’s wife, Maria Jesus Rodriquez, also a guitarist, suggested they travel from their home in Galicia, Spain to go to the awards in Los Angeles. Russell didn’t think he’d win, but they thought perhaps the parties would be fun.

“I was stunned really,” he said, “I mean you go there only nominated and of course, enjoy everything. But then, well, winning is better.”

Russell is in the Guitar Hall of Fame and is known worldwide for his Master Class tutorials for young guitarists. He started nonprofits in Africa and India. And he loves to golf (well, he is a SCOT).