Kevin Sherwin
Guitarist - Conductor

Classical guitarist Kevin Sherwin
transfixes listeners at Sharon Concert
By N.F. Ambery, Litchfield County Times (Click for Full Article)  

Regardless of how many times they had seen him, the audience was held rapt by the passion and the sanctity of the guitar-playing that filled the library, and they could agree that this was a young performer whose career who was worth watching.

Later, during a conversation with Sherwin, it became apparent music is a form of time travel for him and for the audience.

Delving into the world of the composer and allowing their music to flow into the present via his fingers, Sherwin is a guitar soloist and a leader of orchestral and choral ensembles. He has performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Music Without Borders Festival in Montreal, Canada, and the Great Music Series in San Diego.

When performing solo, Sherwin appears very attuned and reactive to the sounds. “While performing, I combine intuition and conscious expression,” he said. “There is always an intangible energy that affects the way you play. You feel the engagement of the audience, and it inspires you to play in a way you haven’t before.”

He practices three hours a day with his two main guitars: a classical guitar (made by Aaron Green, 2013) and a baroque guitar (made by Michael Schreiner, 2017, modeled after the French Jean-Baptiste Voboam instrument from 1690).

Sherwin is an associate artistic director and conductor of the period-instrument ensemble, the American Baroque Orchestra.
“My research projects are generally directed toward my performance activity,” he said. “Very often, the process is one and the same — for instance, now I’m preparing to direct a concert including Sarasate’s famous ‘Zigeunerweisen,’ ” referring to the Romantic-period Spanish violinist and composer Pablo de Sarasate. He said, “For this, I’m listening closely to Sarasate’s thrilling recording of his own piece, circa 1904, and I’m marking many ideas into the score that are very difficult to be described just in notes. I will apply this work directly into rehearsals and our performance. So here, my artistic work as a conductor and researcher blend together.”

Sherwin, who lives just outside New Haven, graduated from Yale University in May 2016 (bachelor’s in music, Honors with Distinction). He cited his course load in expanding his musical horizons. He said, “There was such diversity of classes. There were many interesting music theory and history classes.”

While at Yale, he was conductor of the ensemble, the Academy Sinfonietta, with players from Yale Philharmonia and Yale Symphony Orchestra, performing works by Bartók, Fauré, Barber, and Bordin, to name a few. This and other community music performances led Sherwin to be cited in 2016 by the town of North Haven for excellence in contributing to the musical arts.

Sherwin hails from Roslyn, Long Island, N.Y. He was introduced to the guitar at 7 and began classic guitar lessons at 8. He started his formal musical training at Julliard College when he was 12.

“I was really drawn to everything about the guitar,” he said. “It is something I want to continue doing as long as I can.” He said, “I felt like I had discovered an art form in which I could fully express myself, yet also learn about how other people felt.”

He said the compositions he discovered were “endlessly beautiful.” Performance became almost a means of transcendence. “To interpret works was trying to move past the sense of self,” he said. “To be fully absorbed in someone else’s experience of the world on some level was important.”

Sherwin said he was (and still is) drawn to the music of Polish composer and pianist Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986), which he plays on guitar during performances. “As a musician, every era has a distinct style and mentality,” he said. “I get wholly immersed in it.” Another music-history luminary he feels an affinity to is Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909). He said, “Tárrega was one of the Romantic figures, and his voice is characteristic of the 19th century.”

Sherwin began performing professionally in his mid-teens. At 17, he took an interest in conducting and pursued opportunities to do so at Yale, mentored by artistic director Mark Bailey, who has directed Sherwin in many performances. “I continue to learn and develop skills,” he said. “I love alternating performances of guitar and conducting.”

Sherwin composes his own music as well. He wrote for guitar for North Haven’s Veterans Day commemoration a song called “Colonial Echoes.” He said, “The title was inspired by melodies of Colonial America and the history of the country.” For the past six months he has been working on an untitled short sonata for guitar, for which he recently performed a draft for friends.

Sherwin works as a researcher for the Charles Ives Society, which works closely with the Music Library of Yale University. Ives was a modern, experimental American composer who passed away in 1954, largely ignored in his time. “He is surely one of the most interesting American composers in terms of the 20th century,” Sherwin said. “His 1900s works are like songs before the musical theater of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. He was an incredibly influential composer.”

When people express wonder at all the musical knowledge and performance experience he possesses already at age 23, he is wont to say humbly, “I feel like I am just scratching the surface.”