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Hochstein Guitar Faculty - John Wiesenthal

Instrument/Department: Guitar, Guitar Ensembles

Joined Hochstein Faculty in: 1980

Additional position(s) at Hochstein: Chair, Guitar Department


Guitarist John Wiesenthal took his first lesson from folk music legend Pete Seeger at age 12. At 16, he passed what he learned along the way to surfing buddy Jackson Browne. By age 20, as a philosophy student, he and Richard Meltzer, now the laureate of rock writers, started the band known today as the Blue Oyster Cult.

Wiesenthal has degrees from SUNY Stony Brook and the University of Oregon School of Music, and received the Orff Schulwerk Certification from the Eastman School of Music. He studied with the Venezuelan master Rodrigo Riera and the renowned teacher Emilio Pujol. His students and protégés include John Mangan, Provost of Yale University (and formerly Dean of the Curtis Institute of Music), and Jason Vieaux (2015 Grammy winner for best solo classical album). Hundreds of students have started their musical journey with his book “Let’s Play Guitar - First Steps to Musicianship.”

Wiesenthal’s first performance on national television was on banjo in William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony. He serenaded Ronald Reagan at a farewell dinner for the Governor of California. Locally, he has appeared regularly with Eastman’s Musica Nova ensemble and on the "Live from Hochstein" series. He received Hochstein’s Faculty Service Award in 1999. 

In 1986, Wiesenthal founded the Guitar Society of Rochester and served as president for 10 years. He is inventor of the Bird of Paradise capo and markets the product internationally under his business Digital Revolution, Inc. He also has composed music for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo guitarists, and vocalists.