Christopher Parkening is one of the world's leading classical guitarists, with a particular interest in continuing the legacy of Andrés Segovia.
Parkening was inspired to play guitar by his cousin Jack Marshall, the former staff guitarist at MGM Studios. Marshall had two recommendations: learn classical technique in order to establish firm technical skills, and study the recordings of Segovia. Hearing Segovia's recordings convinced Parkening to continue within the classical tradition. Parkening began his studies with Pépe Romero, and at the age of 15 entered Segovia's master class at the University of California, Berkeley. He also studied musical interpretation with cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. His college education was at the University of Southern California. Since the school had no guitar faculty, Parkening studied cello, first with Gabor Rajto, then with Piatigorsky. At the end of his sophomore year the music department asked him to start teaching guitar, thus beginning the guitar studies program at USC. At the same time he began playing professionally, launching a rising career that would cause Segovia to proclaim that "Christopher Parkening is a great artist -- he is one of the most brilliant guitarists in the world."
While harboring a disdain for traveling, Parkening played over 90 concerts a year with the primary purpose of early retirement in order to pursue his "real" passion: fly-fishing. In addition to his touring and teaching, he authored two volumes of The Christopher Parkening Guitar Method, as well as transcriptions of works by composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Bach, and Dowland. In accordance with his plan, in 1977 he bought a ranch in Montana and announced his retirement. Aside from a small amount of teaching at the University of Montana, he had nothing to do with music; he even quit regular practicing. After four years he found himself restless and unfulfilled. On a visit to California, a neighbor invited him to Grace Community Church where Rev. John MacArthur's sermon led Parkening to an intensive self-examination. Parkening realized that his discontent was due to the selfishness of his original goal, and the subsequent aimlessness of his life. He found the Biblical verse Corinthians 10:31: "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" and recalled J.S. Bach's statement that "The aim and final reason of all music is none but the glory of God."
With Christianity as his inspiration he returned to playing, but now with the purpose of glorifying God. He sold his Montana ranch, despite warnings that it would be difficult to re-establish his career. Parkening has since performed around the world, including Carnegie Hall and the White House. His television appearances include the Grammy Awards, The Tonight Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and 20/20. He has recorded over 20 albums, and earned two Grammy nominations in the category of Best Classical Recording. He continues to appear with all the major orchestras of the United States while maintaining an active recital career. Voted Best Classical Guitarist in a nationwide readers' poll of Guitar Player Magazine for many years, he was placed in their Gallery of Greats along with Andrés Segovia, John Williams, and Julian Bream. Parkening has received commendations honoring his dedication and artistry including an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Montana State University and the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the University of Southern California. Parkening was also given the acclaimed American Academy of Achievement Award for his excellence in music. He has also won the International Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament (the "Wimbledon" of fly-fishing).