John Harris Donates Vintage Classical and Flamenco Guitars Collection

Harris Guitar Collection

SFCM Announces the Appointment of Guitarists Sérgio Assad and Meng Su to Faculty Posts

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.


About Sérgio Assad

About Meng Su

About the Harris Guitar Collection

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) located in the Civic Center of San Francisco, is a nexus of creativity and achievement with unparalleled educational resources and support. Recognized in the National media for its ground-breaking initiatives, SFCM has embarked on a decisive path to provide exceptional opportunities for aspiring 21st-century artists and innovators. Through partnerships with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and SFJAZZ, and within a curriculum that prizes craft, imagination, intellectual discovery, and business acumen, the Conservatory offers students a unique pathway to success in any endeavor. Legendary for its enduring commitment to chamber music, SFCM has continually amplified its offerings with new opportunities such as Roots Jazz and American Music (RJAM) and the ground-breaking Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) program which allows students to collaborate with pioneers in music production and enjoys a nearly 100% placement rate within the profession.
Recent student success includes membership in the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Ballet and Opera Orchestras, the Dallas and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras, as well as numerous arts leaders and gold medalists in the Naumburg Competition. In addition, graduates are pursuing degrees at Stanford Medical School, as well as working at Facebook, Google, Pixar and many other Silicon Valley companies. Distinguished alumni include individuals ranging from Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin and George Duke, to Aaron Jay Kernis, Gordon Getty, Elsa van den Heever, Barbara Eden, and James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee. While SFCM alumni are Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize Winners and found in every major orchestra and opera company in the world, they proudly undertake extraordinary work as teachers and advocates. The new and ultra-modern Bowes Center provides a $200M expansion to the exceptional campus at 50 Oak Street that was completed in 2006. SFCM is committed to advancing music at the highest level within a culture of equity and inclusion, while providing each student with a transformative education for life.