Joseph Skibell, Guitarist Extraordinaire

Joseph Skibell, author of A Curable Romantic, isn’t just a talented writer–he’s also a virtuoso guitarist.  He recently published an article in The Forward about his week-long seminar at the home of the acclaimed musician Pierre Bensusan. Read an excerpt here, and follow the link at the bottom of the page to read the full piece.


“Listen!” one of the students says, looking astonished. He motions with his head toward the dining room, where Pierre Bensusan is clearing the table. I listen. Pierre is not only humming and whistling at the same time, but he seems to be whistling a melody and humming an accompanying bass part.

“Sure,” he says, shrugging, when one of us asks him if this is in fact what he’s doing. “Why not?”

It’s the first night of our six-day guitar seminar with Pierre at the home he shares with his wife, Doatea, and their 18-year-old son, Theo, in Château-Thierry, an hour east of Paris. They’ve put the nine of us up in their house and guest house. We are all men, ranging in age from 20s to 60s, from across the world. There’s an Italian, a Brit, a German, a young guy from Ireland and three Swiss (one Swiss German, one Swiss Italian and a Czech émigré). There are two Americans, of which I’m one.

We’ve all arrived in Château-Thierry with our guitars, hoping to learn something from the master.

To be truthful, I’ve signed up for the seminar with a great deal of trepidation. I’m here on my own recommendation — there was no audition — and, although I’ve been playing guitar since I was 9, it has been only in the past three or four years that I’ve really been playing seriously, immersing myself in classical and jazz pieces.

Pierre, on the other hand, is a musician’s musician. One of the most inventive guitarists working today, performing in a space between jazz and world beat, he has, along with Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke, transformed what it means to play acoustic guitar. Born into a Sephardic family in Algeria, raised in Paris from the age of 4, he seems now, at 54, a large spirit with volumes of rich and open music tumbling out of him.

To read the full article, click here.


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