Valentina Jotovic 7 min read

Influential Guitarists (Thomas Amoriello)

Influential individuals and/or teams in the areas of sports, politics and the arts have pushedmen, women and children to achieve what some believe to be unobtainable goals.   Michael Jordan, Mickey Mantle and David Beckham have filled the dreams of thousands of youngsters wanting to attain a higher plateau in their chosen sports just as our founding fathers and political activists have done for those wanting positions that serve our citizens better.  In many ways, musical performers have done the same to inspire the daydreams of the readers of this article. 

Many NJMEA members have completed some type of music education program or are currently enrolled in one and part of the curriculum requires a music history course or two for graduation.   These classes generally focus on the study of the “significant composers” of western music sometimes ignoring jazz as well as non-western styles.  In the applied music studio, students focus on the required repertoire that is chosen/pre-determined by the instructor with some creative input from the student and it can be understood that equal credence is given to the study of the key interpreters (performers) of their chosen works.  How many fewer musicians would have graced the important concert halls if there were no James Gallway, Yo Yo Ma, Denyce Graves, Buddy Rich, John Coltrane, Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Horowitz and a list that could fill this entire issue. 

This particular column will be dedicated to those teachers of guitar classes who had noidea that they would be an instructor in this area as well as to those with limited guitar experience physically or socially.   The names that I will provide will consist of famous and lesser knownbut equally talented performers that your students will be in awe of.  These players have used the guitar as a vehicle of expression to encourage millions of others to follow in their footsteps.  These unique players excel in different areas of performing and will only be divided by style category.  The author has chosen these 100 musicians based on their technique, originality, superior tone, interpretations and cultural impact.  I have respectfully made an effort to include woman musicians in addition to world musicians.  It is recommended that you play an audio or visual sample of each guitarist throughout the year.  It is best to choose instrumental recordings to avoid non-school appropriate lyrics or other forms of innuendo.  The majority of these samples can be located on iTunes or as ease of availability was taken into consideration.      

Classical Guitar:  Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, Sharon Isbin, Christopher Parkening, David Russell, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Jason Vieaux, Manuel Barrueco, Ana Vidovic, Lily Afshar, Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo, John Williams, Adam Holzman, Michael Chapdelaine, Narciso Yepes, Eliot Fisk, Martha Masters, Pepe Romero, Benjamin Verdery & Kazuhito Yamashita. 

Jazz Guitar: Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, George Benson, Django Reinhart, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, John McLaughlin, Stanley Jordan, Al DiMeola, Herb Ellis, Charlie Christian, Eddie Lang, Tal Farlow & Emily Pember.

Blues Guitar: Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Albert King , Freddy King, B.B. King, Robert Cray, Rory Gallagher, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore, Hound Dog Taylor, Big Bill Broonzy, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robin Trower, Danny Gatton & Roy Buchanan.

Rock Guitar: Chuck Berry, Scotty Moore, Duane Eddy, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tom Morello, Jimmy Page, Orianthi, Brian Setzer, Eric Johnson, Mark Knopfler, Rusty Cooley, Steve Vai,  Jeff Beck, Vinnie Moore, John 5, Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Prince, Marty Friedman, Vernon Reid, Alex Lifeson, Ace Frehley , Neal Schon, Michael Angelo Batio, Robert Fripp & The Edge.

Country Guitar : Don Rich, Brad Paisley, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Willie Nelson, Roy Clark, Pete Anderson, Johnny Hiland, Merle Travis & Vince Gill.

Other: Kaki King, Francis Bebey, Paco De Lucia, Ottmar Liebert, Michael Hedges, Dominic Frasca, Frantz Casseus, Les Paul & Andy Summers.

Although this list could be infinite as new talent is recognized each year, this will be a good starting point to get your students even more excited about exploring the guitar.

Thomas Amoriello, the author of this article, teaches guitar at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts in Flemington, NJ.   (A slightly revised version of this article is published in the January issue of Tempo.  We thank the Tempo editors for giving us permission to publish this piece here.)