Listen to “Sertao,” a track from Joan Griffith’s CD, “Sambanova.”
Day Job: Adjunct faculty for guitar ensemble, performance studies, double bass and guitar (18 years).
Music intro: I started playing piano at 5, ukulele at 10 and guitar around 11. My dad taught me a few tunes on that guitar.
Are we ever too old to learn how to play an instrument? Never. I started the violin at 50.
Worst advice: My first college teacher told me that I would never make it as a guitarist. I’m still mad about that one.
You play jazz, samba, bossa nova, classical and rock guitar. Pick one: I don’t have a favorite, but I do love Brazilian music.
Is there a piece of music you’ve never been able to master? A classical solo piece by Rodrigo.
Guitar roundup: I have a 1968 Ramirez (classical), 1938 Martin, 1964 Gibson SG, 1992 Takemine (acoustic/electric). I also own three basses (two electric and one upright) and two mandolins (1916 Gibson and a Brazilian one).
Is there a favorite? The Ramirez. It’s my soul mate.
Favorite guitarist? I have many. John Williams, Segovia and the Assad brothers for classical. Wes Montgomery for jazz, Chet Atkins and Lenny Breau for blowing my mind.
Name a musician – dead or alive – you would like to play a gig with: Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. Enough said.
Best concert … ever: Oscar Ghiglia in 1975 and Anne Sophie Mutter a few years ago. They became the music they played.
Teacher, performer and composer – which do you prefer? I like them all. I always learn something. You forgot practicing; I love that part, too. I also love recording, which is not at all like performing.
There’s a YouTube video of a young man playing what he calls “Joan Griffith’s brilliant pieces randomized into one song.” Flattering or a little creepy? It’s kind of strange. Those are not my tunes, though. He’s playing bits and pieces of tunes I play when I have a background music gig.
Do you have other groupies? Probably.
“How We Work, How We Play” is a series that examines some of the intriguing pastimes of our St. Thomas colleagues.