Award-winning guitarist, president of Guitar Foundation of America joins ASU faculty


Headshot of Martha Masters.

Martha Masters

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Internationally recognized guitarist Martha Masters is joining the faculty of the Arizona State University School of Music, Dance and Theatre as assistant professor of guitar. 

“We are thrilled to have attracted an artist-teacher of Martha Masters’ caliber to our school,” said Heather Landes, director of the school. “Dr. Masters brings a wealth of knowledge of classical guitar, a passion and love for the instrument, a desire to build relationships with the guitar community in Arizona and beyond, and outstanding artistry to the program. We know she will inspire our students to make excellent contributions to the field as artist-citizens.”

“I’m really happy to be coming to Arizona,” Masters said. “The guitar program at ASU is legendary.”

Masters fell in love with guitar after seeing a solo guitar performance when she was 6 years old. She walked away knowing it was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She said she received a lot of support from her family in studying music, and although she briefly considered pursuing other subjects, she ultimately knew music had to be the focus of her future.

“I thought about what my life would look like if I wasn't performing and playing every day,” she said. “I realized it’s just too deep in me. Since then I haven’t looked back.”

In 2000, Masters won first prize in the Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition. That same year, she also won the Andres Segovia International Classical Guitar Competition in Linares, Spain, and was named a finalist in the Alexandre Tansman International Competition of Musical Personalities in Lodz, Poland. She has been active as a solo recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist around the world. 

“I’ve found ways to do lots of other things. I don’t just perform. I also love arts administration and work with a nonprofit guitar organization,” she said. “I also have discovered a deep love for teaching. I can’t imagine my life without that in it.”

Masters is currently president of the Guitar Foundation of America. Prior to coming to ASU, Masters served on the faculty at Loyola Marymount University and California State University Fullerton. She is also a recording artist and author. She has five recordings on the Naxos and GSP labels and has published three books with Mel Bay Publications and Alfred Music.  

“I’m striving for that perfect balance — if there is such a thing — where I have the opportunity to work with and mentor students and watch them grow but also continue to nurture my own musical soul,” she said. 

Masters received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Peabody Conservatory, where she studied with Manuel Barrueco, and completed a doctoral degree at the University of Southern California as a student of Scott Tennant. She said she’s excited to work with the faculty and students at ASU.

“When I came for my interview I was really blown away by the faculty, their love for the school, by the leadership. I was so impressed by the care, the compassion and the vision for the school,” she said. “I also got to hear some of the students. I was truly impressed with the level. I knew it was going to be good, but it impressed me even more than I expected.”

Masters shares more about the role of community, what she hopes students know about her and her advice for aspiring musicians.

Question: How does community play a role in your life as a musician and educator?

Answer: I think community is central to me feeling good, and I think to all of us feeling supported and being able to grow. My community here is what’s making it so hard to leave, but I also know that going there that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to. I’m mourning what I ‘m losing here, but I'm really excited about what we can build together there. I’m looking forward to finding the rest of that community and seeing how we can work together, how the different schools can support each other, and how our students can be part of the Phoenix and Arizona communities. We need to know what others are doing. Supporting others helps us to grow and understand and know what we’re capable of. Discovering more about each other is a huge growth opportunity. 

Q: What do you want students to know about you?

A: I hope that they’ll get to know that I’m listening. I’m open-minded. I’m a little bit tough but hopefully for good reasons. I do have high expectations of work, but I can also understand and be someone they can talk to. Open-minded exploration: I want to hear what their goals are. And if they have no idea what their goals are, which is not uncommon, I want to help them figure out what some of the opportunities are. I look forward to that journey with each of them as we get to know each other.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?

A: Go to every concert! Meet every peer. Take every opportunity that you have to talk to one of your mentors. So often we sit here waiting for something good to happen, but we have to not only do the work ... we have to be out in the community; we have to see what opportunities are out there. If we aren’t out there, people don't know us. The opportunity won't come.

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