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David Tanenbaum

David Tanenbaum playing guitar


Office 535


Courses Taught

Applied Lessons

Guitar Ensemble


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

Awards and Distinctions

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

Recording Awards

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

Notable Studio Wins

GFA 1st and 2nd prizes

Denver International Guitar Competition First Prize Undergraduate Division (2023)

Northwest Guitar Competition 1st prize

San Francisco International Guitar Competition 1st prize

Distinguished Alumni

Gyan Riley - Tours worldwide and records with such artists as Terry Riley, John Zorn, Julian Lage, Bill Frisell and more.

Eugene Rodriguez - Founded Los Centzoles Cultural Arts Academy in San Pablo, and their awards and recognition are numerous. The group, which amplifies Mexican American culture, has played with Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos and many others.

Travis Andrews - Founding member of Living Earth Show, an innovative and groundbreaking alumni duo with percussionist Andy Meyerson. They have commissioned and performed widely, working with such artist as Kronos quartet and Raven Chacon.

Aliéksey Vianna - Brazilian guitarist who made a landmark double cd of guitar quintets from the Americas.

Nahuel Bronzini - Has won two Grammy Awards for his work as producer and arranger.

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


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.


Recognized internationally as an outstanding performer and recording artist, a charismatic educator, and a transcriber and editor of both taste and intelligence, David Tanenbaum is one of the most admired classical guitarists of his generation. He has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia, the former Soviet Union and Asia, and in 1988 he became the first American guitarist to be invited to perform in China by the Chinese government. 

He has produced many editions of guitar music, including the David Tanenbaum Concert Series for Guitar Solo Publications. He has also written a series of three books, The Essential Studies, which analyze the etudes of Sor, Carcassi and Brouwer and compliment his recordings of those works on GSP, and his chapter on the Revival of the Classical Guitar in the 20th Century appears in the Cambridge Companion to the Guitar.

David Tanenbaum is currently Chair of the Guitar Department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he received the 1995 Outstanding Professor Award. He is in demand for master classes worldwide, and several of Tanenbaum’s students have won international competitions, many of his former students hold teaching positions internationally.

David Tanenbaum studied guitar with Rolando Valdez-Blain, Aaron Shearer and Michael Lorimer, attending the San Francisco Conservatory and Peabody Conservatory. Further studies included work with pianist Jeanne Stark-Iochmans and harpsichordist Laurette Goldberg.