Remembering Joseph Ichkhanian, Major Middle-Eastern Guitarist, 1931–2016

Word has reached us that one of the major classical guitarists and educators to emerge from the Middle-East during the 20th century, Joseph Ichkhanian, passed away in mid-February, at the age of 85.

The guitarist’s nephew, Levon Ichkhanian, a fine jazz guitarist himself, generously provided a brief biographical sketch of his illustrious uncle, which we’ve adpated:

Joseph Ichkhanian began playing the guitar in Lebanon  in 1949 with professor Vruyr Mazmanian and was subsequently offered a scholarship by the Spanish government. He continued his musical education from 1959 to 1962 at the Madrid Royal Conservatory. Upon returning to Lebanon in 1963, professor Ichkhanian began his career in the Hispanic Cultural Center and later worked for the group Musical Youth of Lebanon. Thanks to his efforts, in 1970 guitar was introduced in the official program of the National Conservatory of Music of Lebanon. Over the next decades, he taught literally thousands of students, including 20 guitar instructors currently teaching at the Conservatory.


Composer of many musical works, professor Ichkhanian was also the author of several books, including an Arabic dictionary of musical terms—the first of its kind in the Arab world—in collaboration with Ghassan Khalil. But his most important pedagogical contribution may be his bilingual guitar-method book, published in French and Arabic, and adopted exclusively by the Conservatory in Lebanon. It is also used in other schools of music in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East.

In 1969, professor Ichkhanian was decorated by the Spanish government; in 2003, Spain’s Ministry of Education conferred on him the Medal of the Order of Civil Merit; and in 2011 the Cross of the Official Order of Isabel la Catolica, in appreciation for services rendered to Spain abroad.

On April 18, 2016, professor Ichkhanian’s memory was honored at a guitar concert titled “Hommage au professor Joseph Ichkhanian,” performed by Professor Edy Dorlian’s student Rawad Abi Zeid at the Lebanese Conservatory. It was also announced that beginning next year there will be an annual advanced guitar competition bearing Joseph Ichkhanian’s name, so his legacy will continue long after his passing.