Musicians, and music lovers, were able to learn from a master recently, as guitarist Muriel Anderson shared her wealth of knowledge at the Creative Arts Guild.
"I want everyone to come away from this with something that makes their world a better place and take their music to the next level," said Anderson, a fingerstyle guitarist, harp guitarist and composer. "I have something for beginners, intermediate and advanced."
Anderson, who embraces musical genres from all over the world, covered not only technique but arranging, interpretation and inspiration on both guitar and harp guitar. Participants asked questions and played pieces they are working on to improve their own musicianship.
"I want to give people some techniques for (using) the emotions you have inside you and bringing (them) out through your fingers," Anderson said. "You connect notes when they need to be connected and separate them when they don't."
"I'm always conscious of what I'm changing, (and) that's how I get the emotions out," she said. "You can change volume, tone and rhythm, (and) attention to detail is" key.
"We're so excited" to have Anderson here for the first time, said Lisa Elders, music director for the Guild. For "someone of her caliber to (perform here) is amazing."
Anderson "was the first woman to win the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship," according to murielanderson.com.
Christian Neal, a student at Dalton State College, plays piano, "but I love (listening to) acoustic guitar," he said. "I'm just here for the experience, to watch and enjoy the music."
It isn't only her audience who benefits from events like the one at the Guild. Anderson does, too, she said, noting, "Sometimes I need (others) to inspire me."
Anderson struggled creatively during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, because "as an artist, I'm sensitive to the vibrations around me and in the world," she said. "It was difficult to get into the creative spirit," but on a sailing trip up the East Coast "communing with nature, the wind and the waves. life seemed normal and beautiful again."
She even started a new YouTube channel, Acoustic Sailing, detailing those "sailing adventures," which can be found at murielanderson.com, she said. "We all need to lift ourselves out of this and find new ways to be in the light."
Anderson gave away a set of her signature GHS strings to all in-person participants. Due to the pandemic, participants could also join the workshop via Zoom, and there was a raffle for strings for those participants.
"I've always heard music in my head, (so) some of the pieces have written themselves," said Anderson, who studied with classical virtuoso Christopher Parkening and Nashville legend Chet Atkins. "My job is to get out of the way of the music, and I develop the technique so the music can come through me, so that a lack of technique isn't a barrier to the music."
"I learned so much about music from (Atkins)," she said. For example, "he made the motions as easy as possible in order to play more complex things, and he taught me a harmonic technique I've taken and expanded."
Leon Borkowski, who had been a student of Parkening's, was one of Anderson's professors at DePaul University, and "he really knew how to get that feeling out of the guitar," she said. "He also encouraged me to find my own way, to experiment until you find it, and that's how I like to learn."
Anderson has absorbed lessons from numerous musicians, including legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
"We were playing in a hotel lobby where I was staying," having an impromptu jam session, and she asked him to teach her a song, she said. He selected "Stairway to Heaven," and he noted in passing there are certain finger manipulations even he can't perform.
"I always tell that story to beginners," she said. "Different styles of music require different strengths and techniques."
Because she's learned so much through her decades in music, Anderson enjoys imparting that wisdom to others, so she launched a teaching channel on her website. Her "Heartstrings" recording accompanied astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery, and famed guitarist Les Paul once said Anderson plays guitar "like we all wish to play."
Entering her first National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship was "a practical matter," Anderson recalled with a laugh. News outlets would invariably identify her as a "singer/songwriter," even though — at the time — she didn't sing, so she wanted to create a new label for herself in the media.
"And it worked," she said with a chuckle. "After I won, they never called me a 'singer/songwriter' again."
She didn't win her first year, however, but "I made so many friends I was excited to go back the second time just to meet with them again," she said. With her focus simply on communing with her new pals in Winfield, Kansas, she captured the top spot from the jury.
A Catalina folk song of Anderson's is played during a Catalonia-set sequence in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" — the film was named Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) at the 2009 Golden Globes, and Penelope Cruz won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance in it — and the song was part of Anderson's album "New World Flamenco" with Tierra Negra.
Though she knew the track “El Noi de la Mare,” would be in the film, she didn't know when, so when it played, "my friends and I all wanted to leap out of our seats in the theater," she said. "It was a neat thing."