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Sharon Isbin

Sharon Isbin
Isbin in 2011
Background information
Birth name Sharon Isbin
Born (1956-08-07) August 7, 1956
St. Louis Park, Minnesota, US
Genres Classical, folk
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1970–present
Labels Sony Classics, Warner Classics, Virgin Classics

Sharon Isbin (born August 7, 1956 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota) is a widely recorded American classical guitarist, recording artist, concert performer, and the founder of the Guitar Department at the Juilliard School.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Music career 2
  • Discography 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life and education

Sharon Isbin was born in Minneapolis, MN, the daughter of Katherine (Brudnoy) 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 in Varese, Italy, where her father had been hired as a consultant.[3] She was a student of Aldo Minella, Jeffrey Van, Andrés Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia, Alirio Díaz, and the noted keyboard artist and Bach scholar Rosalyn Tureck. Isbin collaborated with Dr. Tureck in preparing and recording landmark first performance editions of the Bach lute suites for guitar (published by G. Schirmer).[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

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

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Multi-Grammy Award winner Sharon Isbin is the author of the Classical Guitar Answer Book, and is director of the Guitar Department at the Aspen Music Festival[6] and the Guitar Department at The Juilliard School which she created in 1989. Isbin has been hailed by Boston as "the pre-eminent guitarist of our time".[7] She is also 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, and the first guitarist ever to win the Munich Competition.[8]

A one-hour documentary on her titled Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, produced by Susan Dangel, was presented by American Public Television for broadcast on nearly 200 public television stations throughout the US beginning in November 2014, and the DVD/Blu-ray of the film with bonus extra performances is available on the Video Artists International label. To view the trailer, broadcast dates, and upcoming screenings, see:

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 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. 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.[9]

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. She won the 2010 Grammy Award for "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance" 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 Billboard charts. She won a Grammy Award in 2001 for her 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 Joaquin 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 was launched in the space shuttle Atlantis and presented to Russian cosmonauts during a rendezvous with Mir.

Isbin is the founder of Juilliard's Guitar Department.[10] In 1989, she created the master of music degree, graduate diploma and artist diploma, and in 2007 added the Bachelor of Music degree and undergraduate diploma.

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.

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.


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 Records CCD-4320 1 CD/LP With Carlos Barbosa-Lima; music by Jobim, Nazareth, Vianna
1988 Rhapsody in Blue/West Side Story Concord Records 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/ 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 Records 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 (Heart), 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


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lute Suites, J. S. Bach, Edited by Rosalyn Tureck/Fingering by Sharon Isbin
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Official Biography
  8. ^ Official biography
  9. ^ Official biography
  10. ^
  • Biography on

External links

  • Sharon Isbin official website
  • Multiple interviews with Sharon Isbin
  • Discography for Sharon Isbin recordings
  • Some photos of LP covers (Oviatt Library Digital Collections)
  • Classical Archives Interview
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