Interview With Muriel Anderson
Guitarist, Composer, and Educator

"by Paul Kucharski"
August, 2000

Muriel AndersonComposer and award winning guitarist Muriel Anderson has released six CD's in the US, three in Japan, several books and videos, and is host and originator of the renowned "Muriel Anderson's All Star Guitar Night." Her Heartstrings album traveled as far as outer space, accompanying the astronauts on a space shuttle mission. According to the Chicago Tribune: "Acoustic guitarist Muriel Anderson... has justifiably gained a reputation as one of the world's best, and most versatile, guitar instrumentalists." 

Muriel Anderson was raised in a musical family in Downers Grove, Illinois. Her mother taught piano and her grandfather had played saxophone in John Philip Sousa's band. Muriel fell in love with the guitar at an early age and learned every style available to her, culminating in classical guitar study at DePaul University.  She went on to study with classical virtuoso Christopher Parkening and with Nashville legend Chet Atkins. She has composed music since about age 6, and has written music for guitar and orchestra as well as songs, solo compositions, and her new work for guitar and cello / viola.  

Tell us about your new CD, THEME FOR TWO FRIENDS.   What inspired this project? 

I began writing for guitar and cello after hearing the music in my head; the sound of the guitar accompanied by the low, sustained voice of the cello.  With this combination, the qualities of each instrument can be enhanced, and there are many possibilities for interaction between the two instruments. I was fortunate to find cellist Julie Adams, who plays with a natural sense of phrasing and musicality that makes the music come to life.

My personal favorite CD is Hometown Live.  This collection has some exceptional guitar compositions and arrangements, how did you decide which songs to include on this CD?

Hometown Live is a recording of a live concert.  In my shows, I choose music from a wide range of styles, to express different emotions; love, humor, pathos... and occasionally surprise the audience.

How old were you when you began to play? What was your first performance?

My first performance was for my third grade class - I guess that means I was eight years old when I started.  I played "Naughty Sweetie Blues" and "Nobody Knows you When You're Down and Out."

Was music a part of your household when growing up? 

My mother was a piano teacher, and we always played or sang some sort of music around the house, especially on holidays.

Do you feel that your starting age is a critical factor in playing your style?

To be real, the music has to be an integral part of the person.  I imagine that starting an instrument at an early age, and writing music from an even earlier age, helps to bring together the musical instrument and the person.

Any formal music training? What styles interested you when you first began to play? How do those early preferences influence your current music?

I started with folk and bluegrass, and was especially inspired by the music of Doc Watson.  Then joined the high school jazz bands, and started classical music in college at DePaul University where I studied with Leon Borkowski and later took master classes with Christopher Parkening.   It was in college that I was taking mandolin lessons from Jethro Burns, and also discovered the music of his brother in law, Chet Atkins.

What musical avenues do you wish to explore in the future?

I would like to compose more for guitar and orchestra.

Composing tends to be an evolutionary process, when do you decide when a piece is finished?

Some evolve for years, and some are written within an hour.  When every note is in perfect balance with the others, then it is finished.  Some are never finished.

Aside from the guitar, what do you do for fun?

I enjoy walking and running through the state park that borders our home in Nashville.  I'm also an avid gardener, although my tour schedule leaves my garden quite wild for long periods of time.

Which artists would you most like to collaborate with in a recording or tour?

Stanley Jordan, Phil Keaggy, and violinist Rachel Barton.

You have some great instructional books and videos out (most of which are reviewed on this site), tell me about those? What level of player should consider these?

Building Guitar Arrangements is intermediate, and the transcription books are for more advanced players.  My instructional video starts with a very easy arrangement of Linus and Lucy, then moves on to more complex pieces, musical ideas, and techniques.

Any advice to beginning musicians?

Music is first and foremost for the development and expression of the soul.  Everything else is secondary.

How do you care for your nails?

Sand the edges (rounded) frequently with multi-grade file & buffer.

On your video "Adventures in Fingerstyle Guitar" you demonstrate a rather unique technique with palm harmonics.   This is something I had not seen done anywhere else.  How did you come to develop this technique?

I was trying to find a way to imitate a piano part from Alecia de Larrocha's recording of Ausurias (Leyenda.)  This was the way I found to imitate the sound.

You perform and record mostly on classical guitars, but I recall you saying you played banjo and have a number of steel string guitars.   What instruments do you have and which are your favorites?

I have two main guitars, my Paul McGill classic, and my Kevin Ryan steel string, although I flirt with many others.

What brands and/or models of strings, pickups, pre-amp, EQ, amplifier, and mics  do you favor?

GHS La Classique Strings, LR Baggs pickup, Ultrasound amp, and Sony C-48 mic.

Muriel AndersonDiscography

Muriel Anderson   

Heartstrings, CD, CGD Music, 1989 
Arioso from Paris, CD, CGD Music, 1991 
Hometown Live, CD, CGD Music, 1993 
A Little Christmas Gift, CD, CGD Music, 1995 
Le Duet, CD, Rarefied Records, 1995 
Theme For Two Friends, CD, 1999

Read the Review on this site

All Chords in All Positions, Hal Leonard, 1996 
Building Guitar Arrangements, Book/CD, Hal Leonard, 1994 

Adventures in Fingerstyle Guitar, Video, Homespun, 1997 

Read the Review on this site

Compilations (Various artists)  
Muriel Anderson's All-Star Guitar Night, Video, Homespun, 1996

Read the Review on this site

Guitar Fingerstyle, CD, Narada, 1997 
Winfield Winners, songbook/CD, John August/Mel Bay, 1995 
Portraits of Christmas, Songbook/CD, John August/Mel Bay, 1996