Born in Minneapolis, Sharon Isbin began her guitar studies at age 9 in Italy. She was a student of Andrés Segovia, Oscar Ghiglia, and Alirio Díaz. A former student of Rosalyn Tureck, Isbin collaborated with the noted keyboardist in preparing the first performance editions of the Bach lute suites for guitar (published by G. Schirmer). Isbin received a BA cum laude from Yale University and a Master of Music from the Yale School of Music. She was the first-prize winner of the Toronto Guitar 1975 competition, a winner of the Madrid Queen Sofia, and the first guitarist ever to win the Munich Competition.
Isbin is the winner of multiple Grammy Awards, the Echo Klassik Award, and the Munich, Madrid, Toronto competitions. She has appeared as a soloist with more than 170 orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, and London, National, Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas, St. Louis, Milwaukee Symphonies, as well as the Lausanne, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Scottish, and Zurich Chamber Orchestras. She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, CNN, Showtime, and A&E Television.
Acclaimed for expanding the guitar repertoire with some of the finest new works of the century, Isbin has premiered works by Brouwer, Corigliano, Diamond, Foss, Kernis, Rorem, Rouse, Schwantner, Tan Dun, and Tower. She is featured on the soundtrack of the Academy Award-winning film The Departed and has made more than 25 award-winning recordings for Sony, Warner Classics, EMI/Virgin Classics. Her CD of Rodrigo, Ponce, and Villa-Lobos concertos (the New York Philharmonic's first recording with guitar) received a 2005 Latin Grammy nomination for best classical album. Recent Sony CDs are Sharon Isbin & Friends: Guitar Passions and the 2010 Grammy winning Journey to the New World. She is the director of the Aspen Music Festival guitar department and has directed Carnegie Hall's Guitarstream Festival, New York's 92nd St.Y guitar series, NPR's Guitarjam, and Ordway's Guitarfest. She is the author of The Classical Guitar Answer Book and the subject of a one-hour documentary, Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, which was released in 2014.
Isbin founded Juilliard's guitar department in 1989 and remains its chairwoman.