David Tanenbaum

"A master of the instrument. Mr. Tanenbaum played so musically and so expressively that the listener was led directly to the essence of each composer." —The New York Times


  • Private Lessons
  • Guitar Ensemble
  • Guitar Literature


  • BM, San Francisco Conservatory of Music


  • San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, 2008–Present
  • World Guitar Ensemble, 2003–2006
  • Ensemble Modern, 1986–2000
  • Pacific Guitar Ensemble, 2012-present


  • 2003 Grammy Nomination as soloist on Nonesuch recording of John Adams’ Naive and Sentimental Music with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Outstanding Professor Award 1995 San Francisco Conservatory


  • Critics Choice Award: “25 best CD’s or the last 25 years” -Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Examiner
  • The Desert-Isle Top 100 (5 Classical): Acoustic Guitar Magazine

What is your hometown?

New Rochelle, NY

What is your favorite recording?

Glenn Gould — Consort of Musicke by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons

What are you passionate about outside of music?

Baseball, basketball, biking, hiking, reading, body surfing, and dogs.

Who were your major teachers?

Rolando Valdés-Blain, Aaron Shearer, and Laurette Goldberg.

What is a favorite quote that you repeatedly tell students?

“It’s like driving at night with the headlights on. You can only see a little ways ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.”
—E.L. Doctorow on the artistic process

What was the defining moment when you decided to pursue music as a career?

Hearing an Andrés Segovia concert.

What was a turning point in your career?

When Hans Werner Henze wrote me a concerto.

If you weren't a musician or teacher, what do you think you would be doing now?


What is your daily practice routine?

At least two hours.

If you could play only three composers for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert.

What are your most important collaborations?

Composers Hans Werner Henze, Steve Reich, Toru Takemitsu, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison and Aaron Jay Kernis.

What recordings can we hear you on?

The Complete Guitar Music of Sofia Gubaidulina, Naxos
Acoustic Counterpoint, New Albion
David Tanenbaum plays Weiss, Acoustic Music Records
Naive and Sentimental Music, Nonesuch
The Book of Abbeyozzud, New Albion

What is your unrealized project?

A guitar piece from Ligeti.