Sharon Isbin

Sharon Isbin

Sharon Isbin in 2011
Background information
Born St. Louis Park, Minnesota, U.S.
Genres Classical, folk
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Classical guitar
Years active 1970present
Labels Sony Classics, Warner Classics, Video Artists International

Sharon Isbin is an American Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist and the founding director of the Guitar Department at Juilliard.

Early life and education

Sharon Isbin was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Katherine Isbin[1] and Herbert S. Isbin, a nuclear scientist and professor at the University of Minnesota and author of Introductory Nuclear Reactor Theory (1963).[2] She began her guitar studies at age nine with Aldo Minella in Varese, Italy, where her father had been hired as a consultant.[3] She later studied with Jeffrey Van, Sophocles Papas, Andrés Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia, Alirio Díaz, and for ten years with the noted keyboard artist and Bach scholar Rosalyn Tureck. Isbin collaborated with Tureck in preparing and recording landmark first performance editions of the Bach lute suites for guitar.[4]

She began practicing Transcendental Meditation at age 17.[5] She received a B.A. cum laude from Yale University and a Master of Music from the Yale School of Music.

Music career

Cantabile (Paganini)
Joshua Bell and Isbin perform Niccolò Paganini's Cantabile at the White House Evening of Classical Music on November 4, 2009.

[[:File:20091104 Joshua Bell and Sharon Isbin - Paganini's Cantabile.ogg|]]

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Performing and recording

Isbin has appeared as soloist with over 170 orchestras, and has commissioned more concerti than any other guitarist, including concerti by John Corigliano, Tan Dun, Aaron Jay Kernis, Joseph Schwantner, Lukas Foss, Chris Brubeck, and Christopher Rouse.[6]

In 2015, she performed with Josh Groban on the Billy Joel: Gershwin Prize concert broadcast nationally on PBS, and in February 2015 she was featured on the Tavis Smiley PBS television series.

Isbin gave the world premiere of Blossom Suite, composed by and performed with rock guitarist Steve Vai during a week of concerts she performed at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in 2005. Her earliest crossover collaborations began with Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida and jazz guitarist Larry Coryell with whom she recorded and performed for five years. In 2014, she performed a 20-city Guitar Passions tour with jazz musicians Stanley Jordan and Romero Lubambo.

Other composers who have written for her include Joan Tower, David Diamond, Ned Rorem, Howard Shore, John Duarte, Leo Brouwer, Bruce MacCombie, Steve Vai, and Richard Danielpour who was commissioned to write a song cycle for her and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard by New York's Carnegie Hall for their 125th anniversary and by Chicago's Harris Theater.[7]

Isbin's catalogue of over 25 recordings ranges from baroque, Spanish/Latin and 20th century to crossover and jazz fusion. In October 2014, Warner Classics released a 5-CD box set of her most popular albums on the label, titled Sharon Isbin: 5 Classic Albums. Her 2011 release Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions (Sony) became a no. 1 best seller on, and includes guests Steve Vai, Stanley Jordan, Nancy Wilson, Steve Morse, Romero Lubambo, Rosa Passos, Thiago de Mello, and Paul Winter.

Awards and honors

Boston magazine called Isbin "the pre-eminent guitarist of our time".[8] She is the winner of Guitar Player magazine's Best Classical Guitarist award, First Prize winner of the Toronto Guitar '75 competition, a winner of the Madrid Queen Sofia, the first guitarist to win the Munich ARD International Competition, the winner of Concert Artists Guild 2013 Virtuoso Award and Germany's Echo Klassik Award.[9]

She won the 2010 Grammy Award for "Best Instrumental Soloist" for her CD Journey to the New World (Sony), which includes guests Joan Baez and Mark O'Connor, and she was the only classical artist to perform at the Grammys that year. Ranked as a no. 1 bestselling classical CD on and iTunes, it spent 63 consecutive weeks on the top of the Billboard charts.

She won a Grammy in 2001 for Dreams of a World: Folk-Inspired Music for Guitar (Warner Classics) for "Best Instrumental Soloist", becoming the first classical guitarist to win a Grammy in 28 years.

Her world premiere recording of concerti written for her by Christopher Rouse and Tan Dun won another Grammy in 2002, and she won Germany's prestigious Echo Klassik Award for "Best Concert Recording".

She received a 2005 Latin Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Album" and a 2006 GLAAD Media Award nomination for "Outstanding Music Artist" for her disc with the New York Philharmonic of Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and concerti by Mexican composer Manuel Ponce and Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos. This is the Philharmonic's first-ever recording with guitar, and follows their Avery Fisher Hall performances in June 2004 with Sharon Isbin as their first guitar soloist in 26 years.

Her Journey to the Amazon with Brazilian percussionist Thiago de Mello and saxophonist Paul Winter, received a 1999 Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Crossover Album."

Her CD of Aaron Jay Kernis' Double Concerto with violinist Cho-Liang Lin and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra received a 2000 Grammy nomination.

In November 1995, her CD American Landscapes and her Soloette Travel Guitar was launched in the space shuttle Atlantis and presented to Russian cosmonauts during a rendezvous with Mir.

On September 11, 2002, Isbin's performance for the memorial tribute at Ground Zero was televised live throughout the world. Isbin is featured on the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese's The Departed which won four Academy Awards in 2007, including Best Picture, and on the Grammy nominated score soundtrack CD composed by Howard Shore.

In November 2009, she performed a concert at the White House by invitation of President Obama and the First Lady.

An internationally acclaimed one-hour documentary on her titled Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, produced by Susan Dangel and presented by American Public Television, has been broadcast on over 200 public television stations throughout the United States since November 2014, and is the winner of the 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award.[10][11][12]

Teaching and other work

In 1989, she created the Master of Music degree, Graduate Diploma and Artist Diploma for classical guitar at the Juilliard School, making history by becoming their first guitar faculty and the founding director of the guitar department; she added the Bachelor of Music degree and Undergraduate Diploma to the program in 2007.[13]

Isbin is the author of the Classical Guitar Answer Book, and is director of the Guitar Department at the Aspen Music Festival[14] and the Guitar Department at the Juilliard School which she created in 1989.[15]

On November 5, 2015, the David Lynch Foundation organised a benefit concert at New York City's Carnegie Hall named "Change Begins Within", to promote transcendental meditation for stress control. Sharon Isbin participated alongside the likes of Katy Perry, Sting, Jerry Seinfeld, Angelique Kidjo and Jim James.[16]



Other awards


compact discs
date title label catalog number format total playing time notes
1978 Sharon Isbin Classical Guitar Sound Environment TR-1010 1 LP music by Brouwer, Ponce, Sor, Lauro, Albeniz
1980 Sharon Isbin Classical Guitar Vol. II Sound Environment TR-1013 1 LP music by Bach, Britten, Brouwer
1981 Sharon Isbin Spanish Works for Guitar Denon OF-7012-ND 1 LP With Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony; music by Tarrega, Sainz de la Maza, Rodrigo "Concierto de Aranjuez"
1981 Sharon Isbin Guitar Recital Denon OX-7224-ND 1 LP music by Dodgson, MacCombie, Scarlatti, Bach "Chaconne"
1984 Dances for Guitar Pro Arte CDD 343 1 CD/LP Music by Barrios Mangore, Rodrigo, Lauro, Vianna, Savio, Turina, Granados, Castelnuovo-Tedesco
1985 3 Guitars 3 Pro Arte CDD 235 1 CD/LP With Larry Coryell and Laurindo Almeida; music by Nazareth, Gnattali, de Falla, Almeida, Rodrigo, Coryell
1987 Brazil, With Love Concord CCD-4320 1 CD/LP With Carlos Barbosa-Lima; music by Jobim, Nazareth, Vianna
1988 Rhapsody in Blue/West Side Story Concord CCD-42012 1 CD/LP With Carlos Barbosa-Lima; music by Gershwin and Bernstein
1989 J.S. Bach Complete Lute Suites EMI/Virgin Classics VC 7 90712-2 1 CD (DDD) 78:45
1990 Road to the Sun EMI/Virgin Classics VC 7-59591-2 1 CD Music by Sainz de la Maza, Rodrigo, Barrios Mangore, Abreu, Jobim, Tarrega, Brouwer, Villa-Lobos, Albeniz
1991 Love Songs & Lullabies EMI/Virgin Classics VC 7-91750-2 1 CD With soprano Benita Valente, baritone Thomas Allen, organic percussionist Thiago de Mello
1991 Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez EMI/Virgin Classics 07777-59024-2 1 CD Rodrigo "Fantasia para un gentilhombre" and "Concierto de Aranjuez", Vivaldi "Concerto in D"
1994 Nightshade Rounds EMI/Virgin Classics VC 5 45024 2 1 CD (DDD) Five bagatelles/ William Walton (13:54) Nightshade rounds / Bruce MacCombie (10:06) Preludes for piano/ George Gershwin;arr. Carlos Barbosa-Lima (5:48) Clocks/ Joan Tower (9:07) Folk song from English suite : op. 31/ John W. Duarte (4:20) Nocturnal : op. 70/ Benjamin Britten (17:53).
1995 American Landscapes EMI/Angel 72435-67672-2 1 CD (DDD) With The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Hugh Wolff. World premiere recording of concerti written for Sharon Isbin by John Corigliano, Joseph Schwantner, Lukas Foss.
1995 Black Topaz New World Records 9322-80470-2 1 CD With flutist Carol Wincenc performing world premiere recording of "Snow Dreams" written for Isbin and Wincenc.
1997 Journey to the Amazon Warner Classics 0630-19899-2 1 CD With Paul Winter, and Gaudencio Thiago de Mello. Music by Almeida, Lauro, Barrios Mangore, Thiago de Mello, Montana, Savio, Brouwer, Canonico, Vianna. 1999 Grammy Nomination
1998 Wayfaring Stranger Warner Classics 3984-23419-2 1 CD With mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, music by Schubert, Seiber, Niles, Sainz de la Maza, Rodrigo, Granados, Martini, Tarrega,
1999 Kernis Double Concerto for Violin & Guitar Decca/Argo 289-460226-2 1 CD With violinist Cho-Liang Lin and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Hugh Wolff. World premiere recording of concerto for written for Sharon Isbin by Aaron Jay Kernis.
1999 Dreams of a World Warner Classics 3984-25736-2 1 CD (DDD) Folk-inspired Music for Guitar. 8 World Premieres; Music from Appalachia, Ireland, Greece, Israel, Spain, Cuba, Venezuela and Brazil. 2001 Grammy Award
2001 Rouse: Concert de Gaudí/Tan Dun: Guitar Concerto Yi2 Warner Classics 8573-81830-2 1 CD (DDD) With the Gulbenkian Orchestra conducted by Muhai Tang. World premiere recording of concerti written for Sharon Isbin. 2002 Grammy Award, Echo Klassik Award
2003 Sharon Isbin Plays Baroque Favorites for Guitar Warner Classics 0927-45312-2 1 CD With the Zurich Chamber Orchestra conducted by Howard Griffiths, music by Bach, Vivaldi, Albinoni
2004 Sharon Isbin - Artist Portrait Warner Classics 2564-61591-2 1 CD Music by Vivaldi, Bach, Rodrigo, Sainz de la Maza, Lauro, Almeida, Thiago de Mello, Niles, Tan Dun, Albinoni, Takemitsu, Tarrega, Martini, Schubert, Rouse
2005 Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Villa-Lobos: Concerto for guitar; Ponce: Concierto del sur Warner Classics 2564-60296-2 1 CD With the New York Philharmonic conducted by José Serebrier. 2005 Latin Grammy Nomination
2006 The Departed New Line 39078 1 CD Howard Shore's soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's film. 2008 Grammy Nomination
2009 Journey to the New World Sony Classical 88697-45456-2 1 CD Guest artists: folk singer Joan Baez and violinist Mark O'Connor. 2010 Grammy Award
2011 Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions Sony Classical 88697-84219-2 1 CD Guest artists: Steve Vai, Stanley Jordan, Nancy Wilson, Steve Morse, Romero Lubambo, Rosa Passos, Thiago de Mello, Paul Winter
2014 Sharon Isbin: 5 Classic Albums Warner Classics 2564-62436-4 5 CDs Journey to the Amazon, Dreams of a World, Baroque Favorites, Rouse-Tan Dun Concerti, Rodrigo/Villa-Lobos/Ponce Concerti with New York Philharmonic
2015 Sharon Isbin: Troubadour Video Artists International DVD 4580 Blu-ray 8202 Award-winning documentary presented by American Public Television. Guests include Joan Baez, First Lady Michelle Obama, Martina Navratilova, Garrison Keillor, Steve Vai, Stanley Jordan, Mark O'Connor, John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, Tan Dun, Joan Tower, Romero Lubambo, David Hyde Pierce, Janis Ian & more. Winner 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award


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