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Sharon Isbin remembers Julian Bream / TIDAL

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The classical eminence Julian Bream died in his native England on August 14 at age 87. A towering influence in the history of the guitar and lute, Bream expanded the classical guitar's possibilities in performance and repertoire, and became an admired, dignified public face for his instrument. To pay tribute to his life and work, we asked another of the classical guitar's most transformative figures, Sharon Isbin, to reflect on Bream, one of her heroes and mentors. – Ed.

from Sharon isbin - I started guitar at age 9 in Italy, but became serious about it at 14. By then I was passionate about science, so my father used to bribe me to practice by saying, "You have to put in an hour on your guitar before you can launch your model rockets!" That kept me going. But at 14 I won a competition, and the award was to play as soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra for 10,000 people. It was a lightbulb moment, even more exciting than sending my worms and grasshoppers up into space, so I decided to become a guitarist.

That year, Julian Bream came to Minneapolis, where I was growing up, to perform a solo recital. Through a connection my parents made with the presenters, he offered to give me a lesson on the day of his concert. We met him at the hall. I even remember the piece I played: the Prelude from Bach's 3rd Cello Suite. He was very gracious and kind, with an engaging smile - that big Julian smile. He said, "That's lovely, but did you notice, Sharon, you hardly ever use the third finger, the ring finger, on your right hand when you're playing? It would be a lot easier for you if you used all four fingers."

Oddly enough, no one had pointed that out to me before. He said, "You need to include that finger whenever it's appropriate." Believe it or not, that one little lesson, that one moment of advice, probably made the entire difference in my life. I will always be grateful to him for that. I took it to heart and started to reexamine and re-finger everything I was doing. It was a turning point. And though I had no idea at the time I would become a professional guitarist, it made the journey much more informed.

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