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John Harris Donates His Unique Collection Of Guitars

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The full collection will be available to all SFCM guitar studio faculty, students and ensembles.

John Harris Donates His Unique Collection Of Guitars

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) announces that L. John Harris and the Bay Area-based Harris Guitar Foundation have donated the entirety of both his personal and the Foundation's unique collection of 40 vintage classical and flamenco guitars from the 19th and 20th centuries to SFCM for use by the students and faculty of its guitar program. The full collection will be available to all SFCM guitar studio faculty, students and ensembles, and will be used to enhance and deepen the teaching of period repertoire specific to those instruments. SFCM will also expand recording, performance, and scholarship projects with the Harris guitars.

In addition, SFCM announces the appointments of two distinguished artists to its guitar faculty beginning in the Fall of 2021: Sérgio Assad and Meng Su.

Sérgio Assad is recognized worldwide for his work as a soloist and as part of a duo with his brother Odair; he has also earned renown as a composer and arranger, as well as a teacher. Assad served previously on the faculty of SFCM from 2008-2016, and he returns in 2021 as a Professor of Guitar and Artist in Residence. He will lead a two-week residency each semester with a focus on performance, composition, and arranging for guitar, as well as coach weekly online private lessons in guitar performance. Assad is the first musician from Opus 3 Artists to join the SFCM faculty since the school acquired the company earlier this year.

Meng Su has also earned widespread acclaim as a soloist and as a founding member of the Beijing Guitar Duo, with which she appears as soloist with orchestras and in recital. Su has won numerous competitions, including the 2015 Parkening International Guitar Competition. Her duo's debut recording received a Latin Grammy nomination, and includes works written for the duo by Sérgio Assad.

"The Harris Collection will provide an unparalleled resource for exploring repertoire on exceptional period instruments while inspiring the next generation of artists to expand both their understanding and creation of new works for these guitars," said SFCM President David Stull. By coupling this opportunity with the appointment of our brilliant friend Sergio Assad, as well as Meng Su, the foremost guitarist of her generation, we will provide our students with an unmatched experience unique to SFCM. We are deeply grateful to John for his tremendous generosity and belief in our mission."

"The gift of this collection to SFCM is the fulfillment of a dream I've had since 2004 when SFCM's first Guitarrada event showcased several guitars from the collection on stage with Pepe Romero, Richard Bruné, Marc Teicholz, and David Tanenbaum," said L. John Harris, a Berkeley-based writer and artist, and the Foundation's founder. "After creating the Harris Guitar Foundation in 2012 and subsequently leading regular sessions with SFCM students using instruments from the collection, I'm so pleased to be able to give these fine instruments a home at SFCM and look forward to helping shape their new life there. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my grandfather, Sol Harris, who launched an interior textile company, S. Harris Company, in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. It was his success that made it possible for me to invest in my lifelong passion for the classical guitar, so I dedicate this gift to him. I'm sure he would approve of the Harris Collection's permanent home at SFCM."

David Tanenbaum, Chair of SFCM's Guitar Department, said "We are very excited that the great guitarist/composer/arranger Sérgio Assad, an artist at the peak of his powers, will be rejoining us, while the internationally renowned Chinese guitarist Meng Su will also join the faculty. At the same time, we are so grateful to receive the full Harris Guitar Collection, a unique celebration of the guitar's heritage, which includes playable, mint condition instruments from a key century of classical guitar history. Our students are the real recipients of this tremendous gift, and we are all eager to see this SFCM guitar department continue to grow and thrive with this wonderful addition."

Harris' collection focuses on the pivotal century-from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s-of modern guitar making, and includes work from the major luthiers from the period when the classical (or Spanish) guitar with six strings emerged in southern Spain, through its adoption in Europe, Great Britain, South America and Asia by the mid-20th Century. Harris will serve as the first-ever curator of the Harris Guitar Collection at SFCM, where portions of the collection have been housed on rotating display since 2012.


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