The Ten Very Best Colleges for Classical Guitar Performance

 Bill Zuckerman  September 30, 2014


  1. The Hartt School- Hartford, CT

Notable FacultyRichard Provost, Christopher Ladd

A school with a rich history of guitar performance instruction, the Hartt School currently holds one of the oldest classical guitar programs in the nation, having been founded in 1968. Their students have won prestigious academic appointments throughout the nation, including faculty appointments at prestigious music schools such as the New England Conservatory and the Longy School of Music. The school also hosts collaborative performance opportunities with the Connecticut Guitar Society.

Check Out the Faculty: Here is a classic 90’s text by Richard Provost entitled Art & Technique of Practice.

  1. Cleveland Institute of Music – Cleveland, OH

Notable FacultyJason Vieaux

In addition to his work as a teacher at Curtis, teacher and artist Jason Vieaux also takes on students in a select studio at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he heads the guitar program. CIM is often cited as one of the top schools in the nation for classical guitar performance.

Listen to the Faculty: Check Out Jason Vieaux performing Bach’s Lute Works

  1. Manhattan School of Music – New York, NY

Notable FacultyDavid Leisner, David Starobin

A program headed by several prominent classical guitarists, including David Leisner, who is known not only for his famous performance anxiety conquering 1995 article Six Golden Rules, but also for curing himself of the debilitating hand and forearm disease focal dystonia. Leisner is an important musician outside of teaching, not only because of his leading expert advice on treating the disease that has halted the careers of many musicians, including Peabody faculty pianist Leon Fleisher, but also for playing a role in reviving the works of previously unknown 18th-century composers of the guitar. Another guitar teacher at MSM, David Starobin, is a superb classical guitarist who holds a joint appointment with the very recently created Curtis Institute of Music guitar department. Over 350 new compositions have been dedicated to Starobin.

Below is a video of Leisner explaining his relationship to music to a group of children.

  1. San Francisco Conservatory of Music – San Francisco, CA

Notable FacultyDavid Tanenbaum, Sergio Assad, Lawrence Ferrara

California seems to be a hotspot for top guitar teachers, and there is no exception when it comes to the San Francisco Conservatory. Boasting an impressive faculty of many of the most popular guitarists in the entire world, including Sergio Assad, who has been an active pedagogue and clinician throughout the US, Europe, Latin America, etc. Assad, who commonly performs with his brother Odair Assad in the guitar duet Duo Assad. Other teachers included David Tanenbaum, who is a noted champion of modern classical guitar repertoire.

Listen to the Faculty: Check out the recording entitled Sergio & Odair Assad Play Piazolla.

  1. New England Conservatory – Boston, MA

Notable FacultyEliot Fisk

Voted “Best Classical Guitarist” in the readers poll of Guitar Player magazine, the last student of the legendary Andres Segovia leads a program of the top classical guitar students in the nation. In addition to his work at NEC, Eliot Fisk also teaches a course at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. A noted virtuoso, his students have advanced through concerto competitions, solo careers, and professorships throughout the nation.

Listen to the Faculty: Check Out Eliot Fisk’s arrangement of Paganini’s 24 Caprices.

  1. Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins – Baltimore, MD

Notable FacultyManuel Barrueco, Julian Gray

Led by legendary guitarist Manuel Barrueco and eminent performer Julian Gray, the Peabody Institute guitar program is an elite-level classical guitar program. Barrueco, who has performed with the likes of tenor Placido Domingo and prominent fusion guitarist Al Di Meola, heads an impressive studio of accomplished students; his students’ biographies for the 2012-2013 school year are available to view online here. Guitarist Julian Gray, Chair of the Classical Guitar program at Peabody, will be holding a dual appointment with the rising Shenandoah Conservatory this coming fall.

Listen to the Faculty: Check Out virtuoso guitarist Manuel Barrueco and his classic recording entitled 300 Years of Guitar Masterpieces

  1. Curtis Institute of Music – Philadelphia, PA

Notable FacultyJason Vieaux, David Starobin

Launched in the 2011-2012 school year, this new department at the Curtis Institute of Music features the talents of guitarists David Starobin, who has been an ardent and passionate commissioner of new classical guitar music since the 1970s, as well as Jason Vieaux, a young guitarist with a very busy performance schedule in a number of national and international engagements yearly. Taking on a very select and small student base, the guitarists at the Curtis Institute are among the most gifted in the world.

Listen to the Faculty: Check Out David Starobin performing music By Giuliani

  1. The University of Southern California Thornton School of Music – Los Angeles, CA

Notable FacultyPepe Romero, Scott Tennant

When Pepe Romero, acclaimed soloist and member of the esteemed Romero ‘classical guitar family,’ joins a faculty that includes Scott Tennant, member and founder of the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, you have one of the most impressive classical guitar faculties at any school in the nation. Their students go on to form solo and chamber music careers of impressive versatility, performing music of Spanish, modern, and classical vernacular languages with graceful ease. USCs classical guitar department has long been considered one of the most esteemed guitar departments in the nation since its founding in 1967 by then-sophomore Christopher Parkening.

Listen to the Faculty: Check out Pepe Romero’s classic solo guitar text below.

  1. The Juilliard School – New York, NY

Notable FacultySharon Isbin

Founder of the classical guitar department at Juilliard, Sharon Isbin has created a niche in the Juilliard School that has risen to a level of outstanding prestige in the academic world of classical guitar. Soloist in more than 160 orchestral performances, director of the guitar department at the Aspen Music Festival, and author of the widely used text Classical Guitar Answer Book, Sharon Isbin is a master teacher and performer of her instrument. One of the most accomplished string musicians of her generation, an opportunity to hear her play and study under her tutelage is a rare chance at classical guitar mastery.

Listen to the Faculty: Check Out Sharon Isbin on her critically acclaimed CD Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions

  1. Pepperdine University – Malibu, CA

Notable FacultyChristopher Parkening

One of the most successful and widely-known classical guitarists in the entire world, Christopher Parkening has written the premiere texts on classical guitar technique, has recorded Grammy-nominated albums for the top record labels, and has been featured in the most prestigious concert venues throughout the country. His students have concertized frequently throughout the US, and many of them have gone onto respectable teaching careers. Parkening himself started the guitar department at the University of Southern California in the late 1960s when he was just a sophomore! An active and internationally known master of his instrument, Parkening accepts only the most advanced talent for his studio.

Check Out the Faculty: Here is a copy of Parkening’s Guitar Method book, a universally used and praised guitar text.






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