The Pacifica String Quartet will perform in the Friends of Music series. From left: Austin Hartman, violin; Guy Ben-Ziony, viola; Simin Ganatra, violin; and Brandon Vamos, cello.

When Sharon Isbin was 14, she had a unique opportunity to take lessons with the celebrated Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia. Although the lessons were few, they had a lasting impact on her.

“The most memorable part of that was being just a few inches away from him when he would demonstrate,” recalled Isbin who started playing guitar at the age of 9. “He had such a beautiful tone, a diamondlike sound that stayed in my ear as a model to aspire to.”

Not only did Isbin aspire to her former mentor’s example, she is now being compared to him. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “She gets nuances out of the classical guitar that few guitarists since Segovia have matched.”

New Orleans audiences will have an opportunity to hear this 2010 Grammy Award winner on Tuesday when she performs with the Pacifica Quartet on three pieces for guitar and strings by Italian composers in Tulane University’s Dixon Hall. The performance will open the 63rd season of New Orleans Friends of Music.

Isbin and the quartet will perform Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s “Guitar Quintet in F major,” Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto in D major for Guitar and Strings” and Luigi Boccherini’s “Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major.”

The Boccherini piece contains the Fandango movement, familiar to many followers of the lively, centuries-old Spanish dance style.

Haydn’s “Quartet in G major” and Puccini’s “I Crisantemi” (The Chrysanthemums) round out the program.

Isbin, whose mentors also included Italian guitarist Oscar Ghiglia and the late pianist and renowned Bach interpreter Rosalyn Tureck, recently released a collaboration album with multiple-Grammy-winning Argentinian-American vocalist Isabel Leonard. The recording includes 12 world premiere arrangements by Isbin.

The Pacifica Quartet, founded in 1994, still includes two of its original members, Simin Ganatra on violin and Brandon Vamos on cello. The other two members are Austin Hartman on violin and Guy Ben-Ziony on viola.

“It is definitely an experience for a string quartet to play with a guitar,” Ganatra said. “It is a rare thing we get to do, and you have to have just the right guitarist. Sharon is certainly that."

For 28-year-old Benjamin Karp, the newly elected president of New Orleans Friends of Music, this will be the first concert of his tenure. As a longtime concertgoer, he hopes to bring some youthful ideas and innovations to the presenting organization that was founded in 1955.

Karp aims to improve the design and function of the concert programs to make them more visually appealing and informative. He also hopes to make Q&A sessions between the audience and the performing artists a standard feature for all FOM concerts, as well as seeking new ways to make more people aware of the organization and the art form it promotes, largely through social media.

“When people think of New Orleans they don’t necessarily think of chamber music,” Karp said. “They’ll think jazz or other styles, but the caliber of musicians that we get are the ones that the top recording labels attract. That makes us unique ... We want to get that message across.”


Pacifica Quartet with Sharon Isbin, Guitar

Presented by New Orleans Friends of Music

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17

WHERE: Dixon Hall, Tulane University

TICKETS: $35. $18 Under 35 years old. Students with ID free

INFO: (504) 895-0960.

New Orleans Friends of Music

2017-2018 Season

Pacifica Quartet with Sharon Isbin, Guitar

Oct. 17, 2017

Finckel/Sussmann/Neubauer String Trio

Nov. 6, 2017

Brown/Urioste/Canellakis Piano Trio

Dec. 5, 2017

Lisa de la Salle, Piano

Feb. 20, 2018

Venice Baroque Orchestra

March 7, 2018

Miro Quartet with Steven Cohen, Clarinet

April 9, 2018