The accidental classical guitarist: Isbin to grace Amp stage for recital tonight

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Sharon Isbin will perform in the tonight at 8:15 p.m. in the Amphitheater



Guitarist Sharon Isbin’s classical melodies have proved to the world guitar isn’t just for rock ’n’ roll.

Isbin, a renowned musician who paved the way for female classical guitarists, has won multiple Grammys and has appeared as a soloist with more than 170 orchestras. She has more than 25 recordings, and her latest record, Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions, became a best-seller on Amazon. She will join the Chautauqua community to share her talent at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

Isbin overcame numerous obstacles, fighting as a woman in the guitar world and fighting as a guitarist in the music industry, especially as a teen attending master classes for her art.

“As a woman I had to forge a path, because most leaders were men,” she said. “As a teen in master class out of 50 students there were maybe only two girls, but for me that was positively motivating.”

Isbin said she accidentally became a classical guitarist. At the age of 9, her family lived in Italy, and her brother signed up for guitar lessons. He soon learned the genre was classical guitar.

“He said he wanted be Elvis, so he quit and I took his place,” she said. “That is where it all began.”

Originally, she had aspirations to become a rocket scientist. Her father told her in order to go outside and launch her model rockets, she must play an hour of guitar every day.

Her practice paid off as she received a B.A. from Yale University and a master’s degree from the Yale School of Music. No stranger to great academia, she is the creator and director of the first guitar department at Juilliard.

She even has her own documentary, “Sharon Isbin: Troubadour,” which follows her journey to becoming a successful musician.

“It has taken a lot of pioneering effort in this profession; I was the first guitarist to do a recording with the [New York] Philharmonic,” she said. “Winning a Grammy in 2001 made me the first classical guitarist to win in 28 years.”

Her scheduled program for Chautauqua is inspired by Spanish and Latin American melodies, and will include styles sampled from countries such as Brazil, Venezuela and Spain. 

“I will perform a piece Tan Dun wrote for me titled ‘7 Desires for Guitar,’ which is inspired by the duality of Chinese folk music and Spanish music,” she said.

After performing at Chautauqua, Isbin will wrap up her 2015 tour in August at the Aspen Music Festival.