Famous fingerstyle and harp guitarist Muriel Anderson will return to the Woodstock Opera House Saturday, March 30, with special guest Howard Levy.

Anderson, born in Downers Grove and currently living in Nashville, was the first woman to win the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship. She took first place in 1989. Harp guitarist Muriel Anderson, born in Downers Grove, will perform at the Woodstock Opera House March 30. | Photo: Chuck Thompson

“I was surprised,” she said. “There were a lot of good players that year. When they announced my name, the [other] players put me on their shoulders. I’ve been very lucky to work in such a supportive environment.”

Anderson said music has been part of her life since she was a young girl. Her mother taught piano and her grandfather, whom she said was her first musical inspiration, was a saxophone player in the John Philip Sousa band.

“We all played and sang music for fun,” Anderson said. She reflected on the moment her parents realized she had special gifts and shared the story of the day her mother’s friend threw away a guitar.

“I picked it up and started figuring out guitar melodies,” she said. “I was about 8 years old at the time.”

Anderson’s parents signed her up for folk guitar lessons and the rest, she said, was history. 

She went on to study classical music at DePaul University and eventually signed up for master courses with classical virtuoso Christopher Parkening. She discovered she was “enthralled with” and loved fingerpicking guitar and said she has experienced many memorable moments on her musical journey. 

One such moment was the opportunity to record with country music legend Chet Atkins, whom she called a “great mentor.” She said she first met Atkins through his brother-in-law while taking mandolin lessons. She soon began guitar lessons with Atkins. She recalled an incident where she walked into a guitar lesson and Atkins invited her to his home so she could catch a rooster. The bird had fallen ill in his henhouse.

“He said, ‘You’re about the smallest person I know.’” Anderson said. “And [because of my size] I was elected to catch the rooster in the chicken house.

“Memorable moments happen almost daily,”  Anderson continued. She said she is grateful to have had opportunities to work with and meet wonderful people who have been sources of inspiration, including musicians Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and jazz and blues artist Les Paul. 

When not performing or writing songs, Anderson also is director and founder of the Music For Life Alliance – a nonprofit organization that strives to keep music education accessible to young people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. Volunteers John Wise and Al Norton currently head the organization. 

Anderson also created Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night in 1993. The event brings together acoustic and electric guitarists – both well-known and up-and-coming – to raise money and awareness for music education.

At the moment, Anderson said she is currently working on a double album featuring “music to sleep to and music to wake up to.” She is excited to share “Recipes from the Road,” a special section of her website where fans can find a few of her favorite recipes, at www.murielanderson.com. 

Anderson said she also is excited about her upcoming performance in Woodstock and especially taking the stage with Grammy award-winning harmonicist and keyboardist Howard Levy.

“When Howard Levy and I play together, something magical happens,” she said. “I look forward to sharing that with people. He is an amazing and brilliant musician.”

Anderson and Levy will perform at 7 p.m. March 30, at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock. Tickets are $25. For information, call 815-338-4212.

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