Connor Barney, a 2016 alumnus of the Wright State University College of Liberal Arts, won first prize in the Golden Classical Music Awards in the chamber music category and had the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall with duo partner Mike Reardon, last December.
Barney, who earned a bachelor’s degree in guitar performance at Wright State, said his inspiration to study guitar began in high school when he met Jim McCutcheon, and adjunct professor of classical guitar at Wright State who is also an alumnus of the university’s music program.
“He saw potential in me where others did not and provided me a multitude of opportunities to grow as a musician, Barney said. “Jim encouraged me to pursue a degree in music at Wright State, and after my first week of classes, I knew I made the right decision. I consider myself extremely lucky to have gone to Wright State. WSU’s amazing faculty helped me cultivate a strong foundation which has propelled me across the country and overseas.”
Barney first met Reardon while studying at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. They hit it off, and when he found out that Reardon had also been accepted to Indiana University’s Jacob’s School of Music to pursue a master’s degree in music, they decided to become roommates.
“Our duo has flourished ever since then. We both went on to pursue doctorates at IU and have been in dozens of concerts, masterclasses and coaching together,” Barney said. “We’re currently in the process of recording an album of works by J.S. Bach.”
When Barney and Reardon entered the Golden Classical Music Awards competition, they had to submit an unedited recording of three pieces.
“We exhausted ourselves recording music on countless occasions until we utterly perfected our parts,” he said. “We found out back in August, but we were both so busy at the time it didn’t really sink in until about a week before the performance.”
Barney said that performing in Carnegie Hall was an immense honor and a remarkable experience he will never forget.
“Mike and I marveled at its history and the mountain of giants who performed there in the past. Just being backstage was exhilarating,” he said. “Our siblings flew into NYC with us, and we enjoyed the city together afterwards as a celebration.”
In addition to the Golden Classical Music Awards, the duo has been first prize recipients in the chamber music categories at the Bach International Music Competition and the Charleston International Music Competition.
Barney has been invited to the Aspen Music Festival where he studied with Juilliard professor Sharon Isbin for two summers and has also studied flamenco guitar in Granada, Spain, with legendary guitarist Pepe Romero and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet.
“Studying with Pepe Romero was an amazing experience. He has a wise presence and speaks like a master orator with long pauses and silence to profound effect. I learned something new every single day,” Barney said.
Barney will defend his doctoral thesis at Indiana University in March and plans to teach at the college level as well as develop his YouTube channel, Dr. Guitar, full-time.
“The overall idea behind Dr. Guitar is to create an online academy of music,” he said. “The channel will give free access to tools, performances, and ideas for viewers of all ages, backgrounds and levels to learn music.”