Hannah Murphy: “There’s such intimacy in playing classical music by yourself. I could lose myself in it”

Hannah Murphy
(Image credit: Jiyang Chen)

In high school, Hannah Murphy wasn’t much different from other teenagers. She played electric guitar while listening to CDs of pop-punk bands – Green Day, Weezer and Blink-182 were her favorites. But there was another side to her, one that involved playing nylon-string guitar to classical pieces by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Béla Bartók. Before long, it became her true passion.

“I liked playing electric, but I felt more of a bond with the nylon-string guitar,” Murphy says. “And I truly connected to classical music. Maybe it’s because I’m kind of introverted. There’s such intimacy in playing classical music by yourself. I could lose myself in it.”

At first, Murphy wasn’t sure about pursuing a career as a classical guitarist, but she changed her mind after seeing clips of Croatian-born classical guitar star Ana Vidović. “That was a revelation for me,” Murphy says. “Here was this young and beautiful woman playing the music I loved. And I thought, ‘Okay, maybe I can do it, too.”

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical music performance (from Rowan University and Mannes School of Music, respectively), Murphy settled in Brooklyn, where she began teaching privately. 

In recent years, she’s emerged as something of an internet star – her exquisite solo guitar videos of Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Francisco Tárrega) and El Testament d’Amelia (Miguel Llobet) have racked up tens of thousands of views. “It’s pretty astonishing, the way the videos have taken off,” Murphy says. “I just pick compositions I like, and I put them out there. People have responded so well, so I’ll keep at it.”

On her debut album, A Dream in the Forest, Murphy’s breathtaking talents are spread across selections by Johann Kaspar Mertz, Frederico Moreno Torrobo and Manuel Ponce, among others. The entire set – self-produced and recorded in her living room – was made possible via a crowdfunding campaign. “

Anyone who sent in money would automatically receive a copy of the album,” Murphy says. “It was a lot of work putting the record together, but it was a great experience. And now I want to make more records. Everything I do is trial and error, but I learn as I go.”

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.