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15 Questions to Muriel Anderson

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I'm boarding an airplane to Seattle.

What's on your schedule right now?
I'm going to work on my next project- a harp guitar duet CD with John Doan, a very musical harp guitarist from Portland OR. And also, to help a friend garden and renovate his house!

If you hadn't chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?
Well, probably a friend garden and renovate his house.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
It's hard to say which was the biggest - Doc Watson was my first big guitar influence, dating back to when I was in grade school. Then later Chet Atkins and Christopher Parkening were very influential. The earliest I suppose was my mother playing piano while I was still in the womb. Also, my Grandfather was a professional musician and had played saxophone in John Philip Sousa's band many years ago. I remember thinking that playing music for a living was the coolest thing anyone could do.

What's the hardest part about being a musician and what's the best?
The best thing about being a musician is feeling that there's a way to tap into the language of the Creative Process, to find goodness in the world and share that with others. It's really rewarding when people feel that energy, and let me know how much my music has meant to them. Also, on a personal level, to use the language of music to take something very sad and turn it into something beautiful - I don't know how people deal with a lot of life's blows without music. I share some of that in my Wildcat CD.
The hardest part is finding time to do a lot of things, like interviews, for example. Sorry it's taken me a while to get back to you!

What's your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Oh, there are lots of other crises, not as much classical music in particular. It's just a time of change. Since music has been so cut back in the public schools, there are fewer people embracing classical music without early exposure to it, so sales are down, and it's harder to support community orchestras. On the other hand, with a larger population in general, there are some incredible virtuosos emerging. Some orchestras like the Nashville Chamber Orchestra are embracing a variety of thematic and stylistic merging - making for some very interesting concerts.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it's all been done before. What do you tell them?

For myself, I only record something if there is really something unique I am offering to the listener. It can be a new composition or an especially passionate, interesting, or light-hearted way of delivering a piece--even if it's been recorded many times before.  Christopher Parkening once said he only records an arrangement for guitar if he believes it sounds better than when played on the original instrument. I think his recordings of Couperin and Bach prove that well.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your approach to performing on stage?

If I can lose myself in the music, to become one with the music and the audience without thinking about "me" playing the music, then I'm happy with the performance.

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.

I wouldn't think that to be the case, but studies and sales figures have shown very clearly that early exposure to classical music, and especially learning about it hands-on, really helps people to value it and allow it to enhance their lives.

What's your favourite classical CD at the moment?
I love Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus. Can't get enough of this tune, I play it over and over again, it's so perfect. Academy of St Martin in the Fields has a lovely recording.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

Oh, yes, and oh not very! I was at Chet Atkins's office one day when he picked up his fiddle and played a couple old-time hoedowns. I told him I'd always wanted to play the fiddle just like that. He put the fiddle in my hands and showed me how to hold the bow. He said, "I'll give you lessons!" So every week I went to Chet's office and got a fiddle lesson. I worked at the tunes, and although they were pretty squeaky, I thought I was making progress. About my fourth lesson he said, "That's terrible!!" I said, "It's better than it was last week, isn't it?" He said, "Yes, but that doesn't mean it's not still terrible!"

I still take out my fiddle once in a blue moon when playing around a campfire with a group of amateurs, and it brings me back to that delightful time as a child when everyone else around was so much better than me! It makes me smile, feeling that initial joy and discovery of learning to play an instrument.

Harp Guitar Christmas 2007
Wildcat (CGD) 2006
Uncut Gems, (with Phil Keaggy, limited release) (CGD Music) 2003
New Classics for Guitar and Cello (Valley Ent. Music) 2003
Journey Through Time (CGD Music) 2002
Music For Life (CGD Music) 2000
Theme for Two Friends (CGD Music) 1999
Heartstrings (Nippon Crown) 1998
Guitar Muse (Nippon Crown) 1998
Christmas in Nashville (Nippon Crown) 1998
A Little Christmas Gift (CGD Music) 1995
Le Duet (Rarefied Records) 1995
Hometown Live (CGD Music) 1993
Arioso from Paris (CGD Music) 1991
Heartstrings (CGD Music) 1989

Muriel Anderson

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