Duffys fund endowment to bring classical guitar to Amp stage

RUBY WALLAU | Staff Photographer
Arthur and Shirley Duffy, pictured here on their front porch, have funded an endowment to help bring classical guitar performances to Chautauqua Institution.

Arthur Duffy proves the saying “an old dog can’t learn new tricks” is just a myth. He learned the classical guitar at 82.

Duffy said his love of the instrument was eloquently expressed by Carl Sandburg’s poem, “The Guitar,” honoring the eminent guitarist Andrés Segovia:

A portable companion always ready to go where you go/

a small friend weighing less than a fresh born infant/

to be shared with few or many/

just the two of you in sweet meditation.

“We think the Chautauqua is such an enriching experience,” said Duffy in the spring edition of Chautauqua Foundation’s Pillars newsletter. “The programming is outstanding. … I think Carl Sandburg got it right in that poem.”

Duffy, a metallurgical researcher turned real estate investor, and his wife Shirley, a former teacher, have been coming to Chautauqua from Cleveland for some 20 years.

The seed of Duffy’s love of the guitar, he said, was one planted in his younger days, but he gave it up to pursue his career.

“I became acquainted with it maybe 30 years ago,” Duffy said. “I think it’s just a beautiful instrument, with a good repertoire of music that is easily appreciated by many, many people. We wanted to give back to the Chautauqua community some of the enrichment we’ve gotten [here].”

Thanks to the Duffys’ love of the arts and generosity of their endowment, Grammy-winning American guitarist Sharon Isbin will perform at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

“We are familiar with her music through the CDs that she’s produced,” Duffy said. “We are just so excited that she’s going to be the premiere event for this endowment.”

Isbin, who will experience Chautauqua for the first time, said she is excited to perform here and that she was delighted to learn of the Duffys’ support.

In addition to Isbin, another important guest will come to Chautauqua this season thanks to the Duffys. Duffy’s guitar tutor, James Marron, who is a faculty member at the University of Akron’s School of Music, will teach a Special Studies class in Week Seven.

Duffy called the Cleveland Guitar Society last year and found Marron. He asked Marron to teach him, and the pair has been working together ever since.

The Duffys said they’ll show Marron and his wife the Institution when they visit to see Isbin perform.

“We appreciate the initiative taken by the Duffys to bring this opportunity to all of us,” said Geof Follansbee, CEO of the Chautauqua Foundation, in the spring Pillars. “We look forward to supplementing musical programming in subsequent years by inviting classical guitarists to play with the Music School Festival Orchestra, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, and other opportunities as they rise.”