Sharon Isbin

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Sharon Isbin
Sharon Isbin in 2011
Sharon Isbin in 2011
Background information
BornSt. Louis Park, Minnesota, U.S.
GenresClassical, folk
Instrument(s)Classical guitar
Years active1970–present
LabelsSony Classics, Warner Classics, Cedille Records, Bridge Records, Zoho Music, Concord Records, Video Artists International

Sharon Isbin (born in Minneapolis)[1] is a classical guitarist and the founding director of the guitar department at the Juilliard School.[2]

Personal life and education[edit]

Sharon Isbin was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to attorney Katherine Brudnoy[3] and Herbert S. Isbin,[4] a nuclear scientist and professor at the University of Minnesota.[5] She began her guitar studies at age nine with Aldo Minella in Varese, Italy.[6] 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 landmark first performance editions of the Bach lute suites for guitar, published by G Schirmer, and recorded by Isbin as Complete Bach Lute Suites on Warner Classics.[7] Isbin created and directs the guitar departments at the Aspen Music Festival and the Juilliard School.

She began practicing Transcendental Meditation at age 17.[8] She received a B.A. cum laude from Yale University and a Master of Music (M.M.) from the Yale School of Music.

In 1995 Isbin came out as a lesbian in a profile by Out magazine. She wanted to come out a year earlier but her manager told her not to, only changing their mind after k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge found success as out musicians the following year.[9]

Music career[edit]

Performing and recording[edit]

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.[10]

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

In 2005, Isbin performed a world premiere of Blossom Suite along with the composer, rock guitarist Steve Vai. Her earliest crossover collaborations began with Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida and jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. In 2014, she performed a 20-city Guitar Passions tour with jazz musicians Stanley Jordan and Romero Lubambo.

Other composers who have written for Isbin include Joan Tower, David Diamond, Ned Rorem, Howard Shore, John Duarte, Leo Brouwer, and Bruce MacCombie. New York's Carnegie Hall and Chicago's Harris Theater commissioned composer Richard Danielpour to write a song cycle for Isbin and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Carnegie Hall.[11] She has premiered over 80 works by world-renowned composers.

Isbin's catalogue of over 35 recordings has sold nearly one million copies and ranges from Baroque music, Spanish/Latin, and 20th century to crossover and jazz fusion. Her most recent releases are AFFINITY: World Premiere Recordings, and STRINGS FOR PEACE: Premieres for Guitar & Sarod with Amjad Ali Khan, both of which were named Best of 2020 by NPR, SiriusXM and multiple media. Her Souvenirs of Spain & Italy (Cedille) with the Pacifica Quartet debuted at number two on the Billboard charts and at number one 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 won the 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award.[12][13][14] In October 2014, Warner Classics released a 5-CD box set of her most popular albums titled Sharon Isbin: 5 Classic Albums. Her 2011 release, Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions (Sony), became a bestseller on, and includes guest artists Steve Vai, Stanley Jordan, Nancy Wilson, Steve Morse, Romero Lubambo, Rosa Passos, Thiago de Mello, and Paul Winter.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Boston magazine called Isbin "the pre-eminent guitarist of our time".[11] She was the winner of Guitar Player magazine's Best Classical Guitarist award. Isbin has also won the following awards:

  • First Prize at the Toronto Guitar '75 competition
  • Winner Munich ARD International Music Competition, 1976
  • The Madrid Queen Sofia
  • Concert Artists Guild 2013 Virtuoso Award
  • Germany's Echo Klassik Award

Isbin also won Musical America’s 2020 Instrumentalist of the Year, becoming the first guitarist in their 59 award year history to receive the award.[15] She was the first guitarist to win the Munich ARD International Competition.

Isbin won a Grammy Award 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 a Grammy in 2002. In 2010, Isbin won another Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist for her CD Journey to the New World (Sony), which includes guests Joan Baez and Mark O'Connor. The album spent 63 consecutive weeks on the top of the Billboard charts and was ranked as the number one bestselling classical CD on and iTunes during that time.

She received a 2005 Latin Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Album" and a 2006 GLAAD Media Award nomination for "Outstanding Music Artist" for her recording of Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez with the New York Philharmonic. The recording also featured concertos by Mexican composer Manuel Ponce and Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos. Isbin was the first guitar soloist to perform with the New York Philharmonic in 26 years, and the recording was also the New York Philharmonic's first-ever recording with guitar.

Her album Journey to the Amazon received a 1999 Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Crossover Album", and the album on which she appeared playing Aaron Jay Kernis' Double Concerto with violinist Cho-Liang Lin and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra received a 2000 Grammy nomination for "Best Contemporary Classical Composition" for Kernis' Air for Violin.

On September 11, 2002, Isbin's performance for the memorial tribute at Ground Zero was televised live throughout the world.

In November 2009, Isbin performed a concert at the White House by invitation of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.[16]

Teaching and other work[edit]

In 1989, Isbin created the Master of Music degree, Graduate Diploma and Artist Diploma for classical guitar at the Juilliard School, and becoming the founding director of their 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.[17]

Isbin is the author of the Classical Guitar Answer Book, and is director of the Guitar Department at the Aspen Music Festival.[18]

On November 5, 2015, the David Lynch Foundation organized 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.[19]



  • 1999: Grammy nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album, Journey to the Amazon
  • 2000: Grammy nomination, Kernis: Double Concerto for Violin and Guitar with Cho-Liang Lin and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
  • 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

Other awards[edit]

  • Toronto Guitar competition, first prize, 1975
  • Winner Munich ARD International Music Competition, 1976
  • Madrid Queen Sofia International Competition, 1979
  • Echo Klassik Award, Winner 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


Compact Discs (CDs)
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
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
2020 AFFINITY: World Premiere Recordings ZOHO Music ZM 202005 1 CD Guest artists: Maryland Symphony Orchestra & conductor Elizabeth Schulze; Isabel Leonard, voice; Colin Davin, guitar
2020 STRINGS FOR PEACE: Premieres for Guitar & Sarod ZOHO Music ZM 202004 1 CD Sharon Isbin with Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan & Ayaan Ali Bangash, sarods; Amit Kavthekar, tabla


  1. ^ "Sharon Isbin Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Katherine (Brudnoy) Isbin Obituary".
  4. ^ "Herbert S. Isbin obituary".
  5. ^ Herbert S. Isbin (1963). Introductory Nuclear Reactor Theory (1963).
  6. ^ "Musos Magazine, Nov. 2011" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Sharon Isbin – Publications".
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ DiGuglielmo, Joey (March 14, 2013). "The classics and beyond". Washington Blade. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  10. ^ "Concerti written for Sharon Isbin".
  11. ^ a b "Sharon Isbin – Biography".
  12. ^ "Press highlights, Sharon Isbin: Troubadour".
  13. ^ Broadcast dates, Sharon Isbin: Troubadour
  14. ^ "EuroArts, Sharon Isbin: Troubadour".
  15. ^ "Official Biography".
  16. ^ "White House Music Series: Classical". The White House. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  17. ^ "Juilliard Guitar Department".
  18. ^ Aspen Music Festival and School. "Artist Faculty, Sharon Isbin".
  19. ^ 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. Archived from the original on November 20, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2015.

External links[edit]