Tariq Harb, originally from Jordan (with roots in Palestine), is one of the best young guitarists of his generation. He won some very important competitions recently, including the Barrios World Wide Web Competition (1st prize and the audience award) and the Montréal International Classical Guitar Competition, both in 2011. And here’s the thing about Tariq: he only began playing the classical guitar about eleven years ago. In fact, Tariq originally was set on playing the violin and was enrolled in conservatory to play the violin. Then Tariq discovered the wonderful polyphonic world of the classical guitar (and learned and then performed the Concierto de Aranjuez after only playing classical guitar for about two years).
We are happy that Tariq ended up becoming one of the classical guitar’s ambassadors and that he still plays his violin from time to time. Please enjoy this short interview with Tariq and check out his new CD, Harb Plays Sor Studies here.
You’re teaching at Concordia University up in Montréal now—how long have you had that position and how’s that going for you?
I started teaching at Concordia University in September, 2015. I am close to completing my first academic year teaching there. It is going very well so far, thankfully!
I know that you were playing an Otto Vowinkel guitar for a while—what guitar are you touring with / playing now?
I still play my Vowinkel guitar! It is a fabulous instrument, and one that I grew to love so dearly. Nowadays I also play a Kenneth Hill instrument, a double-top guitar with lattice brace construction.
You just recently released a series of videos on youtube that are now featured on an album of all the Segovia Sor Studies—what inspired that album? Any other releases we should look out for?
I have been teaching the Sor/Segovia studies for quite sometime now, but have never performed them myself until this project came to be. One day I was thinking of embarking on a recording of all twenty, just so I can teach them better, play them better . . . etc. And as I was learning these studies, I found them to be very beautiful and extremely well-written for the instrument—very useful musically and technically for the classical period—to the point where I caught myself on several occasions humming their rich melodies during the day when not practicing. So the learning process became a sort of journey through the pedagogical mind of Fernando Sor, and I decided that such a project should culminate in a professional recording, which was released recently on iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere. In fact, I am still not finished with the larger vision for this project: I have recently recorded educational segments for each study, and I am in the process of compiling all these educational videos and releasing them as an educational DVD. My first educational DVD, Harb Plays Sor Studies, will be released later this year.
I will also be recording a Spanish solo album (all Spanish composers) later in the summer, to be released later this year as well.
And now for a somewhat loaded question: What do you think of the status of “the classical guitar” these days? Does it face doom along with the rest of the classical music world, or is it in great shape, or maybe just so-so?
I think the classical guitar is in excellent shape! It is in the hands of so many wonderful artists, and it inspires people, musicians and non-musicians, on a daily basis. Neither the classical music world nor the classical guitar world are doomed, in my humble opinion. I think classical music is simply not as popular as other music genres, and it never really was. Classical music is a fine art, requiring the full attention of the listener on many sonic levels in order to be appreciated. And not just that, it also demands overall familiarity and specific knowledge about the composers, pieces, and the nature of its many forms to be even further appreciated. Once non-music lovers, or non-classical music lovers are presented with this information about classical music, you find them naturally drawn to it, because in the end classical music explores human emotion and situation, just like any other art form or medium of expression. Yes, it is not as straight-forward as other genres in displaying its expression (for example, rhythm is largely implied in classical music rather than made explicit), but still, when such elements are made clear in the right context there arises a natural connection with any listener. And in fact the classical guitar is the perfect tool to link non-classical music lovers to classical music, because the guitar is such a popular instrument that it is therefore able to provide a friendly connection to classical music.
What do you tell young persons or those just establishing themselves on the instrument who wish to pursue a career in classical guitar—either in performance, teaching, or both . . . or maybe in some innovative alternative?
I think it is important to first recognize that playing music and deciding to make music performance or pedagogy a career is a great privilege! We are very lucky to be able to play an instrument well, let alone make a career using it. If one is aiming to achieve longevity in a performance career, I think first and foremost one must be good to themselves, good to their body and mind, and understand what their hands are doing on the instrument throughout the process of learning and developing as a performing musician. I think nowadays playing classical guitar well is not a mystery anymore. Having said that, a developing musician should make it a point to seek the right information about technique, because there is a lot of information out there that can be misleading and therefore harmful to a developing performer or teacher. For those who are establishing themselves on the classical guitar, I would highly suggest to study with the teacher(s)/player(s) that inspire you. Also, start thinking of teaching, performing, collaborating with other musicians and being involved in music projects early on. Work on your sight-reading early on! Develop a press kit, a website, an online presence and learn plenty of repertoire early on. If you have troubles financially, take a side job or work in some other field along with developing your art; you are not less of an artist if you do so. But stay focused on your artistic goals. And most importantly, find a way to enjoy the process of learning the guitar. If you actually enjoy the process of practicing, learning new music, sight-reading, working on technique . . . etc., you are literally unstoppable!
Best of luck!