About John Doan

John Doan is a master and muse of the harp guitar and stringed instruments. He is a music historian, performer, and professor at Willamette University.

Italy Part 1: Florence: The City of Passion for Life and Harp Guitars

I’ve been taking you on a journal tour of European Tour 2013. So far we’ve revisited our arrival and adventures in Paris, played with fast cars and harp guitars in Le Mans, and exploring more of the french countryside with castles, toys, and of course more harp guitars. After having our fun in France entertaining all with story and song, we moved on to impress and be impressed with Italy.

1.John Doan Train Italy

Once in Venice we took a Ferrari looking high speed train to Florence. The city is simply eye popping and a photographer’s paradise.

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John Doan Tour in France Part III: An Ancient Castle, A Toy Museum, and Harp Guitars

So far in this journal of my European Tour 2013, we’ve revisited our adventures in Paris and played with fast cars and harp guitars in Le Mans. Now we’re visiting an ancient castle, toy museum, and more playing with harp guitars.

36.The Château de Saint-Ulrich Ribeauvillé

The next leg of the tour brought me to the northeast of France into the Alsace region on the border or Germany and Switzerland. This is a lush green expanse of mountains and rivers littered with scores of small rustic villages. It is here where Yaouen lives with his family in the shadow of ancient castles and winding rivers.

Village of Ribeauvillé

He invited me to the small village of Ribeauvillé where some of the people still dress as they did one thousand years ago.
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John Doan’s Living Room Concert Saturday July 6, 2013

John Doan - living room concert - the chair awaits in his home.

For those of you within driving distance of Salem, Oregon or who are visiting the area I will be giving an intimate house concert (8pm) in my own living room July 6th with a potluck (6:30pm) and you are invited. Tickets are available for this rare and exciting evening. Once you have secured your admission I will send you a confirmation with my address and directions to the event. RSVP if you will be coming to the potluck.

John Doan plays in a home concert with the harpolyre guitar.

John Will play a variety of instruments that he ordinarily could not bring on tour. Past living room concerts have drawn people from as far away as California, Washington and Pennsylvania!

Potluck outdoors at John Doan home summer concert.

John Doan Living Room Concert in Your Own Living Room

If you have any concert venue suggestions, contacts, or would like to have me in your own living room for a house concert, please Contact me.

John Doan living room concert in his home.

John Doan Tour in France Part Two: Paris – Le Mans – Fast Cars and Harp Guitars

After Paris we drove to Le Mans, a city known for car racing, ancient buildings and doors, obscure building regulations, and now for hosting the first International Festival for the Harp Guitar.

I was honored to be among such great international players.

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John Doan Tour in France Part One: Paris – From Bidet Guitar to Harp Guitar

I recently went with my wife Deirdra on a six-week concert tour in Europe.  We began with a transcontinental fight to Paris numbing the boredom with nine hours of non-stop movies.

1.John Doan Air travel to Paris

2.Deirdra Doan PhotosDeirdra can’t wait to try out her new camera. I believe she spent more time with her camera than with me on the trip!

As Gorilla travellers we like to travel in style, or at least in comfort, so we bring with us on the plane an inflatable back rest called “First Class Sleeper.”  It makes your economy seat feel like first class (as long as you don’t mind looking like you are going river rafting upon arrival).

Once in Paris we headed to the Eiffel Tower (Deirdra appears to be balancing it on her nose).

3.Paris Statue Pigeon 4.John Doan with Deirdra Debussy
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Sixth Annual Harp Guitar Retreat July 5th-7th – Experience the Magic


Fireworks will be flying for The Sixth Annual Harp Guitar Retreat to be held at the home of John and Deirdra Doan atop Prospect Ridge overlooking the verdant Willamette Valley of Oregon.

1. John Doan Harp Guitar Retreat Morning Class

It is an intimate stress-free environment with all levels of playing/performing encouraged and accepted for an educational seminar limited to five to seven participants.

Attendees are encouraged to arrive by the early evening of July 4th to get settled and then to be taken down to the Victorian town of Independence, Oregon to take part in “Western Days” an old fashioned 4th of July fireworks celebration over the reflective waters of the Willamette River.

john doan harp guitar retreat john holds guitar over head of student threateningly

John has a unique teaching style where students never know what he is going to do or say but the results always seem to inspire and transform the player.
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To Russia With Love – Part III Concerts and Beyond

After I transitioned from culture shock to playing at the NAMM show and exploring Fernando Sor’s footsteps in Moscow I settled into playing harp guitar in concert and taking time to compose some new music.

It was great to meet fans I had been corresponding with for years and making new friends. Turgenev Hall was a wonderful place to play and the audience was so enthusiastic and generous in their response to the concert.

4.John Doan Harp Guitar Moscow with Deirdra Deirdra and I were in Moscow for a week.  It was great fun to add being tourists to the concert touring. We got familiar with the subways and blending in with our Moscovite comrades and took several trips into the heart of the city.  Here we are with the Kremlin behind us. What you don’t see is the the massive traffic jam caused by the city shutting down while Puttin’s limousine rushed through the cleared streets surrounded by armed hummvies.
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To Russia With Love – Part II – Walking in Sor’s Footsteps

Traveling in Russia was an adventure filled with tremendous history beholding great art and architectural treasures, visiting historical sites, as well as extraordinary opportunities to share with the people my love of music and the harp guitar through lectures and concerts. It was fun to see how the people live today and to walk in the footsteps of Fernando Sor (aka. “The Father of the Classical Guitar”) who lived here from 1823-1826.

Adventures are filled with the unknown. Just walking down quiet streets and into small convenience stores I peak into a world not my own.

It is not that these people and this place are unknowable.  I am just a visitor hoping to share the moment by touching their world and in turn enriching my own and perhaps those with whom I share it as well.

History is filled with past moments.  One can read about history in books but what is really fun for me is having it come alive before my eyes. Historical places seem to possess echoes of the past and through visiting such sites the past becomes present. This attitude is behind my recent exploration of the world of Fernando Sor (aka. “The Father of the Classical Guitar”) who lived from 1778 to 1839. His life, music, and times have come more alive to me since I have gone to where he once lived and concertized in Spain, England and France. He also lived in Russia and so my quest to know him better became a part of this journey.71.Fernando_Sor

In 1823 he came to Russia with his ballerina wife to work at the Bolshoi Theater among other music activities.  The Russian people are fiercely proud of their contribution to the art of Ballet. Even their 100 ruble currency has the Bolshoi Theater pictured on the back. Sor was here when it was first built and although it has suffered the ravages of fire and decay over the years it is impressive to see the latest incarnation.

20.Bolshoi Theater 1824 Few people remember that the Bolshoi Theater’s opening night on January 6, 1825 was filled with the music of Sor’s ballet Cendrillon.  Just sitting quietly in the shade of a fountain I could almost imagine a much colder and distant time when the night’s glory was filled with concert goers humming some of Sor’s tunes as they left in their sledded carriages looking back at the building’s pillars lite up in the glow of oil lamps with candle light pouring from its windows.

Since Sor and his wife worked with the ballet they very likely lived nearby.  Perhaps they lived in the building that is just to the right of the theater today. Could he have walked up those steps inside an open door or lived in that room above where chandeliers now glitter through the window.

With the research of noted guitar historian Matanya Ophee and his fine article “Fernando Sor and the Russians” in hand (Soundboard XXXII, NO. 3-4, pgs. 13-29), and assisted by my host Andrew, I was able to find various houses where Sor was known to have performed. It was not surprising that they were within walking distance of the Bolshoi theater.

72.Musician and his Family, French oil painting (Bibliothèque Marmottan, Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris copy Sor could have tromped down a few snow covered streets with his guitar case in hand or traveled in a sledded carriage to the House of Gargarin on a quiet December night in 1823. People of high standing gathered in the dining area for dinner and afterward Fernando was asked to perform on the guitar.

A. La. Bulgakov in a letter to his brother remarked, “After dinner I heard the guitarist Sor. What a Talent! The guitar was made to sound like a harp, a harmonica, a mandolin, even like trumpets. Sometimes you had the impression that two guitars were being played. He plays the melody together with the accompaniment. With superb taste.”

No unlike Sor, I have enjoyed how my own concerts in Moscow have delighted audiences with new sounds of the harp and the guitar combined in multiple parts.  My work on the 20 string harp guitar has been defining a new sound for the instrument not unlike Sor’s impact on the guitar of his day. Standing before the House of Gargarin I could imagine similar audience responses centuries before.

Just down the street and left up a boulevard I found the estate of Stepan Stepanovich Apraksin (1756-1827) an army general and heir to one of Russia’s noble families. Sor is also known to have played here. It was also a large structure that had an inner courtyard where the carriages would arrive with guests. Perhaps Sor’s carriage passed through this very corridor to the inner courtyard. Being there added dimension to my understanding of the musical life of that time and to the esteemed circles in which Sor lived and worked.

33.Dining with Andrew Afterward Andrew and I went to a nearby dessert shop.  Andrew had some tea, we both had some bottled water, he had a small sundae with fruit on top and I had a piece of Russian Blueberry pie. He was telling me that Moscow was a very expensive place to live and this area where Sor lived and worked was very posh then and still is to this day.

I was feeling generous and offered to pay the bill. I wasn’t expecting it to come to around $40 USD! Yikes! Perhaps this high life contributed to Sor leaving Moscow in late 1826 (although breaking up with his ballerina wife may have had more to do with it). Andrew thanked me for the treat and then remarked that he almost never eats out. I responded with the one Russian word I know. Da!

37.John Doan Tour Moscow Andrew, Anna

That night, like most Moscovites, we ate at home and had a great time visiting with he and his lovely wife Anna. It was more like an international night where Deirdra cooked Asian fish while Andrew brought Tuscan wine.  After dinner, unlike retiring to a concert room in a large estate to hear a soloist dazzle the guests like Sor had done, we huddled in a homey apartment and Andrew and I improvised Shakuhachi/guitar duets late into the evening.38.John Doan Tour Moscow Jam with Andrew

I continued to fall in love with Russia’s past and present more each day.

The Adventure continues in “From Russia With Love Part III” where I do concerts and lectures, visit the Kremlin and have a close encounter with a Russian bear.


To Russia with Love – Part 1 – First Impressions

I suppose if one were living life fully, each moment in each day would seem like an adventure. Travel takes me away from all that is ordinary which is no doubt extraordinary except for that I have gotten use to everything and everyone that is usually around me. Last December a fan of mine in some ways awoke me from my waking sleep when he wrote me from Moscow and inquired if I had plans of performing there in the future. My custom is to write back and explore if there are any possibilities. I then received an extraordinary response from Жилин Андрей, or should I say, Andrew Jilan who claimed that when he was fifteen he had three favorite musicians/groups that he listened to. I never dreamed that I would ever be in league with Jimi Page and Iron Maiden but there I was raised high in the pantheon of cultural icons. We skyped each other and set a week mid May for my debut concerts in Russia and perhaps for the first harp guitar concerts heard there as well.

John Down in Moscow in a vehicle.After having performed in Ukraine and Germany my wife Deirdra and I arrived on my Birthday in Moscow. Andrew had prearranged a cab – basically someone who has highjacked the family car and has found a few hours of employment (the cabbies at the airport charge several times more).

Valdimer Putin - photographAndrew had never received a rock star before. I didn’t know if he was being kind and shaved part of his head to emulate me or that he enjoyed looking like Vladimir Lenin but his gentle demeanor put us at ease as we rushed through the strange landscape of endless apartment structures and construction detours.
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