Tariq Harb received his first guitar as a Christmas gift from his mother when he was eight years old.
“She knew I was interested in guitar because I was listening to guitar music, but I was a violinist,” he said, thinking back to his childhood.
And since receiving his red electric guitar that Christmas day, Harb has gone on to win numerous awards including first prize at both the Montreal International Classical Guitar Competition and the Barrios WorldWideWeb Competition.
Most recently, the U of T doctoral student in musical arts was chosen to perform a solo recital at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Harb will perform in the “Meesters op de Gitaar” (Masters of Guitar) concert series.
“That came as a surprise. I couldn’t believe it,” said Harb after receiving the email from the concert organizers.
The former rocker admitted he is very excited for the event, especially to meet one of the sponsors of the concert who coincidentally made one of his guitars.
According to McGill University professor Dr. Garry Antonio, Harb is a musician of the “highest calibre,” and his guitar playing is “effortless and thoughtless.”
But Harb is too humble to accept these kinds of accolades.
“I obviously appreciate them and I love to hear them, but I try not to let them get to me and try to keep on going forward with my goals,” he said.
It is this humble and driven attitude that pushes Harb to practise on average three to four hours a day. In preparation for a concert, he practises six to seven hours a day.
Music has always been a part of Harb’s life. His family was very supportive of him as he took lessons at the Queen Noor National Music Conservatory in Amman, Jordan.
Although the majority of his family still lives in Jordan, Harb said they’re still just as supportive despite the challenges of finding financial success as a musician.
“Once you can manage your artistic life and know how to make sure there’s always funds coming in, then they’re cool and proud of you.”
Harb moved to Canada after high school to study finance, and after earning a BA in commerce from Concordia University, began a career as a financial advisor. Soon, he decided finance wasn’t for him and enrolled in an undergrad program in music.
Before coming to U of T for his doctorate, Harb studied music at both Concordia University and McGill University.
Even though he studied at other universities, Harb credited the guitar program at U of T for expanding his musical knowledge. He said getting feedback from the numerous international artists that perform master classes was “extremely helpful.”
Harb’s musical studies have honed his performing skills and allowed him to take ownership of the pieces he plays. Harb finds that his biggest challenge is bringing out the composer’s original intention, while still owning the piece.
Nerves are another aspect of performing that Harb struggles with, but he came up with a solution: turning his nervousness into excitement.
“It’s those moments when you turn those nerves into excitement and you get that kind of energy between audience and performer that makes it all worth it to me,” he said.
Despite the nerves and long practice hours, Harb truly loves performing and for him, the best part of his musical journey is inspiring people.
“I love it when people tell me ‘I like the pieces that you play; I would love to play them some day’ or ‘I’m actually buying a guitar.’ This is the most rewarding thing to hear,” said Harb, modestly chuckling.
Harb is scheduled to perform in Costa Rica in August and then the Concertgebouw show in September. After these two shows, he plans on performing around Ontario and working on his doctoral thesis.