Knoxville Guitar Society

Written By Phil Roulier | Photography By Robert Burleson

Ah, the simple twang of a guitar string, radiating soft tones that seem to transform the world around us and serenade us with sweet melodies that drive our imagination and guide our dreams. There are those whose love and passion for the guitar is so strong that it becomes a part of who they are. Here in our city of Knoxville, some of these guitar-aficionados have gathered together to create a group of individuals who share that passion. Founded in 1971 by local guitar maestro and composer Larry Long, the Knoxville Guitar Society is one of the oldest guitar societies in the United States. Larry created the society with one goal in mind; to bring together talented musicians that brought the culture and joy of classical guitar to the Knoxville area.

Today, 44 years later, Larry’s successor and former student Dr. Mike Smith continues that tradition, bringing some of the finest talents from across the globe to perform locally in our humbled city of Knoxville. What is even more impressive is the manner in which these performances are held. “Almost all of our performances are not amplified,” says Dr. Smith, “we rely on the acoustics of the venue to create an ambience that cannot be replicated.” This style of performance offers those who appreciate true talent an immersion into the musical depth of other musicians. These musicians are hand picked by Dr. Smith and his other board members, almost all of whom are local guitar instructors. In fact, one of the Knoxville Guitar Society’s main goals is to promote classical and fingerstyle forms of guitar playing to the youth of East Tennessee. For many of these members including Dr. Smith himself and Robert Burleson, a current member of the Society, the guitar has the ability to change lives in a positive way, and they wish to share their love of the instrument with the community.

The Knoxville Guitar Society certainly has had a history of success, having brought in an abundance of talented musicians over the years. Ana Vidovic, a young Croatian woman who graced us with a performance everal years ago, is now considered one of the finest symphony soloists in the world. Tommy Emmanuel, an Australian wonder and two-time Grammy nominee, was another treasure, performing for the Knoxville Guitar Society in one of his first ever American Concerts. “This level of guitar is a well-kept secret” said Dr. Smith, “and we encourage everyone who loves good music to come out and show their support.”  The next performance with The Knoxville Guitar Society will be the extremely talented Romanian classical and flamenco guitarist Silviu Ciulei on May 2nd. Full schedules and locations for upcoming performances, ticket pricing, and any additional information about the Knoxville Guitar Society can be found at, or email Dr. Mike Smith at

In the fast paced, humdrum stream of pop music that blares at us from our radios and TV’s, sometimes it is good to sit back and enjoy music as it should be. Indeed, there is nothing quite as delightful as a quiet room, a captive audience, and an artist weaving beauty through music.  For those who are inclined to agree, The Knoxville Guitar Society would love your support. 

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