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
Sharon Isbin was born in Minneapolis, MN, the daughter of Katherine (Brudnoy) Isbin and Herbert S. Isbin, a nuclear scientist and professor at the University of Minnesota and author of Introductory Nuclear Reactor Theory (1963). She began her guitar studies at age nine in Varese, Italy, where her father had been hired, as a consultant. She was a student of Aldo Minella, Jeffrey Van, Andrés Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia, Alirio Díaz and Rosalyn Tureck. She began practicing Transcendental Meditation at age 17. She received a B.A. cum laude from Yale University and a Master of Music from the Yale School of Music.
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 and the guitar department at The Juilliard School which she created in 1989. Isbin has been hailed by Boston Magazine as "the pre-eminent guitarist of our time". 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.
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, 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 and Steve Vai.
Isbin's catalogue of over 25 recordings ranges from Baroque, Spanish/Latin and 20th century to crossover and jazz-fusion. In November 1995, her CD American Landscapes was launched in the space shuttle Atlantis and presented to Russian cosmonauts during a rendezvous with Mir. 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. 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.
Isbin is the founder of Juilliard's guitar department. 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.
On September 11, 2002, Ms. 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. Her 2011 release Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions (Sony) includes guests Steve Vai, Stanley Jordan, Nancy Wilson, Steve Morse, Romero Lubambo, Rosa Passos, Thiago de Mello, and Paul Winter.