Sharon Isbin to perform ‘The Departed’ and more at Aspen Music Festival
If You Go …
Who: Sharon Isbin
Where: Harris Concert Hall
When: Saturday, Aug. 5, 8 p.m.
How much: $75
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House and Harris Hall box offices; www.aspenmusicfestival.com
More info: The program will include Howard Shore’s “Billy’s Theme” from “The Departed,” Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity” concerto for guitar and orchestra and Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.
Sharon Isbin has performed on the Grammys and for the Obamas at the White House. She’s released more than 25 albums and soloed with nearly 200 orchestras. She’s blazed a trail for women in the world of classical guitar and is generally regarded as the instrument’s best living practitioner.
Her musical journey began in Aspen, where she first arrived as an Aspen Music Festival and School student in the 1970s, and where she has been running the school’s guitar program for 27 years.
The Minnesota native’s time as a teen here, studying under Aspen guitar program founder Oscar Ghiglia, began a career-long relationship with the school. The Aspen experience has shaped her musical sensibilities and her adventurous guitar forays across genres and cultures.
“There’s really no place like it in the world where you can have such focused concentration on your area of study plus an exposure to amazing musicians from the orchestral world, the vocal world, from chamber music, not to mention the forays into jazz and bluegrass, in a setting that is breathtaking,” Isbin told the Aspen Times last summer. “People are lured by the mountains as much as they are by the beautiful music. That’s inspiring to everyone who is playing. You look out at that and you say, ‘I’m going to play great music.’”
During her first summer here, Isbin was one of just two girls among 50 guitar students.
Isbin’s annual summer recitals are reliably a season highlight in Aspen. Her 2017 recital, at Harris Concert Hall on Saturday, includes Howard Shore’s “Billy’s Theme” from Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” Chris Brubeck’s “Affinity” concerto for guitar and orchestra and Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Scott Terrell will conduct.
In July Isbin released released a new record, “Alma Espanola,” with fellow Grammy winner Isabel Leonard. Isbin and the mezzo-soprano dueted for the first time in Aspen two summers ago.
In 2014, Isbin was the subject of PBS’s “Sharon Isbin: Troubadour,” an hour-long documentary. The film, now available on DVD and Blu-ray, tracks Isbin’s singular career, portraying her persistence in convincing composers to write guitar concertos and include the instrument on the classical stage and her fearlessness as a woman in the male-dominated guitar field.
“In the guitar world, I always had to fight as a woman,” she says in the film, “and in the music world I always had to fight as a guitarist.”
“Troubadour” also touches on the wide pop cultural range she covers, and relationships with people outside of the classical universe, from Martina Navratilova to Garrison Keillor to David Hyde Pierce. It also shows her with students in Aspen and at Juillard (where she founded the guitar program in 1989), capturing her attentive, uncompromising pedagogical style.
Producer Susan Dangel and her crew followed Isbin for five years to make the film, an arrangement that took some getting used to for the musician but proved well worth it.
“She made it something that’s appealing not only to musicians but to people who have no connection to the music world,” Isbin said. “It’s inspiring because it’s about nurturing a dream and a passion. And that’s a universal story.”
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