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Sharon Isbin in 2011
|Born||St. Louis Park, Minnesota, U.S.|
|Labels||Sony Classics, Warner Classics, Cedille Records, Bridge Records, Video Artists International|
Personal life and education
Sharon Isbin was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the daughter of Katherine 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 with Aldo Minella in Varese, Italy, where her father had been hired as a consultant. 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.
Performing and recording
Isbin has appeared as soloist with over 200 orchestras, and has commissioned more concertos than any other guitarist—including works by John Corigliano, Tan Dun, Aaron Jay Kernis, Joseph Schwantner, Lukas Foss, Chris Brubeck, and Christopher Rouse.
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, 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.
Isbin's catalogue of over 30 recordings ranges from baroque, Spanish/Latin and 20th century to crossover and jazz fusion. Her most recent release is Souvenirs of Spain & Italy (Cedille) with the Pacifica Quartet, which debuted at no. 2 on Billboard charts and at no. 1 on Amazon. Her Alma Espanola (Bridge) with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard was honored by a 2018 GRAMMY Award for Producer of the Year, Classical. The acclaimed one-hour documentary Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, winner of the 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award, has been seen by millions on over 200 PBS stations in the U.S. and abroad, and was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Video Artists International. 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 bestseller on Amazon.com, 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". 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, Germany's Echo Klassik Award, and Musical America’s 2020 Instrumentalist of the Year, becoming the first guitarist in their 59 award year history to receive the award.
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 Amazon.com 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 concertos 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 concertos 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."
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 features 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.
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, and the Doctor of Musical Arts in 2018.
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.
- 2000: Grammy nomination, Kernis: Double Concerto for Violin and Guitar with Cho-Liang Lin and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
- 1999: Grammy nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album, Journey to the Amazon
- 2001: Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist, Dreams of a World
- 2002: Grammy Award for Rouse: Concert de Gaudi
- 2005: Latin Grammy nomination for Best Classical Album, Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Villa-Lobos: Concerto for guitar; Ponce: Concierto del sur with the New York Philharmonic
- 2010: Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist, Journey to the New World
- Toronto Guitar competition, first prize, 1975
- Winner Munich ARD International Music Competition, 1976
- Madrid Queen Sofia International Competition, 1979
- Echo Klassik Award, Best Concert Recording, 2002
- Concert Artists Guild Virtuoso Award, 2013
- ASCAP Television Broadcast Award, 2015
- Little Orchestra Society's Artistic Excellence Award, 2019
- Musical America 2020 Instrumentalist of the Year Award
- Best Classical Guitarist, Guitar Player magazine
|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 concertos 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 concertos 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 Concertos, Rodrigo/Villa-Lobos/Ponce Concertos 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|
|2017||Alma Española: Isabel Leonard & Sharon Isbin||Bridge Records||9491||1 CD||Composers: Federico García Lorca, Joaquín Rodrigo, Agustín Lara, Manuel de Falla, Xavier Montsalvatge, Francisco Tárrega, Enrique Granados|
|2019||Souvenirs of Spain & Italy: Sharon Isbin & Pacifica Quartet||Cedille Records||CDR 90000 190||1 CD||Composers: Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Vivaldi, Turina, Boccherini|
- Maurice J. Summerfield: The Classical Guitar. Its Evolution, Players and Personalities Since 1800 (Blaydon-on-Tyne: Ashley Mark Publishing Co., 5th edition, 2002), p. 153–155.
- "Katherine (Brudnoy) Isbin Obituary".
- "Herbert S. Isbin obituary".
- Herbert S. Isbin. Introductory Nuclear Reactor Theory (1963).
- "Musos Magazine, Nov. 2011" (PDF).
- "Sharon Isbin – Publications". www.sharonisbin.com.
- Peterson, Diane (January 21, 2011). "Ambassador of guitar to star with SR Symphony: Sharon Isbin broke new ground, founding program at Juilliard". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, Calif. p. D.1.
- "Concerti written for Sharon Isbin".
- "Sharon Isbin – Biography". www.sharonisbin.com.
- "Official Biography".
- "Press highlights, Sharon Isbin: Troubadour".
- Broadcast dates, Sharon Isbin: Troubadour
- "EuroArts, Sharon Isbin: Troubadour".
- "Juilliard Guitar Department".
- Aspen Music Festival and School. "Artist Faculty, Sharon Isbin".
- Grow, Kory. "Katy Perry, Sting Stun at David Lynch's Meditation Benefit Concert – Jerry Seinfeld, Angelique Kidjo, Jim James and others also perform and explain relaxation technique's importance to them at New York's Carnegie Hall". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved November 14, 2015.