Robert Phillips (guitarist)

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Robert Phillips
Robert Phillips, Classical Guitarist.jpg
Background information
Birth nameRobert Michael Phillips
Born (1953-07-26) July 26, 1953 (age 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Guitarist, Guitar instructor
LabelsTPL, Mel Bay, Centaur

Robert Phillips (born July 26, 1953, New York City) is an American classical guitarist.

Early life[edit]

Born Robert Michael Phillips, he is the son of Dr. Robert Warren Phillips and Dr. Irma Phillips who lived, although only briefly, in Valley Stream, New York. A few months after his birth his parents returned to his mother's native Puerto Rico, living in San Juan. Three years later they returned to the U.S., living for two years in Brooklyn, New York and then moving to Deer Park, New York. He attended Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic school and then Seton Hall High School.

Music career[edit]


Phillips began his musical training at age 8 on the accordion. He began to teach himself the guitar at age 12. He did not work with a teacher until 1967, when he began to learn finger-style folk guitar. After taking lessons for a year, he studied classical guitar at the suggestion of his teacher.

In 1971, he entered Hofstra University as a Music Education major, studying under Stanley Solow. After graduating in 1975, Phillips began studies in New York under José Rey de la Torre. In 1976, Rey left New York for San Francisco, and Phillips worked on his own for the next two years. In 1977, after attending a three-week seminar and master class under the direction of Guido Santórsola and Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Phillips began to study on a more or less regular basis with Barbosa-Lima. In 1979, Phillips decided that a more regular regimen of study was desirable, and he studied briefly with Dennis Koster. Soon after, he returned to school at Brooklyn College in order to earn a master's degree. He studied first with David Starobin and then with Michael Cedric Smith. Phillips graduated with an master's degree 1982. Although he did play in master classes, most notably by Eduardo Fernandez, Phillips did not return to formal education until 1999, when he entered the University of Miami. Under the instruction of Rene Gonzalez, he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts. While at the University of Miami, he also had the opportunity to perform in a master class given by Sergio Assad.

Performing and recording[edit]

He made his New York recital debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on October 31, 1987.[1] In 1991 he released his first album, Guitarre Nouveau, which included works by Philip Glass, Frank Martin, Eberhard Weber, and Thelonious Monk, as well as his own compositions.[2] In 1996 he released a 2-CD set, Great Themes and Variations for Classic Guitar as a companion to his anthology of the same name. His next recording wasn't until 2014 when he released the complete solo guitar works of Miguel Llobet in a recording entitled, Lo Mestre, the Music of Miguel Llobet [3]

He performs as a solo recitalist, ensemble player, and guest soloist. He has premiered works by Alfred Giusto, Frank Brazinski, Eric Ross, as well as the "Pipedream Sonata" by Meyer Kupferman, which Phillips commissioned [4] and the Goyescana Concerto for guitar and orchestra by Michael Colina which he also commissioned and premiered in 2008.[5]

In 2016 Phillips embarked on a commissioning project, enlisting six Central Florida based composers to each create a new work for solo guitar in a dance rhythm. The composers that participated in the project were Troy Gifford, Jorge Morel, Benoit Glazer, Charles Griffin, all from Orlando, Howard J. Buss from Lakeland, Florida, and Rex Willis from Sarasota.[6]


In 1983 Phillips worked briefly as an editorial assistant on the staff of Guitar Review. In 1989 he began writing a monthly classical guitar column in the rock-oriented guitar magazine, Guitar for the Practicing Musician, and its more general sister publication, the quarterly, Guitar Extra.

In 1992 Cherry Lane Music discontinued the publication of Guitar Extra, and dropped his classical guitar column in Guitar for the Practicing Musician. Phillips went on to write several short "lessons" for Guitar Player magazine. He also contributed articles to Soundboard, the quarterly publication of the Guitar Foundation of America, and to American String Teacher, the journal of the American String Teachers Association. In 1996, he published Great Themes and Variations for Classic Guitar (Mel Bay), and released his second recording, a companion to the book.

His doctoral dissertation is entitled, The Influence of Miguel Llobet on the Pedagogy, Repertoire, and Stature of the Guitar in the Twentieth Century( 2002, OCLC 51796355). It was while researching his dissertation, and on the advice of guitar scholars Ron Purcell and Angelo Gilardino that Phillips sought and found a complete archive of Llobet. His discovery of this missing archive was documented in his article, "Barcelona, Cradle of the Modern Classical Guitar: the Llobet Archive Rediscovered", Soundboard XXVIII, no. 4, 2002.[7]


Phillips began teaching guitar, music appreciation, and music theory at All Saints' Academy in 1995, and went on to become the chair of the performing arts department until 2008. In 2008, while continuing his duties as an instructor at All Saints' Academy, he began teaching guitar at Polk State College and Southeastern University. In 2010 he left All Saints' Academy, and accepted a position teaching classical guitar at Lois Cowles Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.


In 1983 Phillips appeared in a series of instructional videos entitled "Classical Guitar Made Easy" which was broadcast on Group W Cable. Following the series, he began to produce and host a monthly talk show on Group W. The talk show, which was called "Long Island Sounds" featured interviews and performances of Long Island-based musicians. The show ran for three years, after which Phillips changed the trajectory of his efforts, not returning to video for nearly three decades.

In 2011, taking advantage of new technology and relatively inexpensive production costs, Robert produced and recorded a series of videos of himself performing standards from the classical guitar repertory. Many of these performances were recorded in interesting locations, with the settings of some being almost as much of a feature as the music. Locations included the Museum of Fine Arts (St. Petersburg, Florida), and the Frank Lloyd Wright Danforth Chapel at the Florida Southern College Child of the Sun. These videos were to be bundled together as "video albums", consisting of compositions that were thematically related. The first of these, "A Spanish Recital", consisted of works by Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, Miguel Llobet, Francisco Tárrega, and Federico Moreno Torroba.

In 2015 Phillips began to produce "A Year of the Guitar", a video diary in which he chronicled his daily relationship with the instrument. The entries include performances of pieces, study guides for learning pieces, insights into his own daily practice, and instructional materials. These videos were published on the internet in Phillips' YouTube channel with a series of instructional videos.




  1. ^ Crutchfield 1987
  2. ^ Bert 1991
  3. ^ Reinstetlethe 2014
  4. ^ Fabian
  5. ^ Gherman 2008
  6. ^ Griffin 2017
  7. ^ Phillips 2002