Michael Isla

Michael Isla

Columbus, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1999 | INDIE

Columbus, Ohio, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1999
Solo Rock Fusion




"Classical Craftsman"

by John Ross

Michael Isla is careful when he unsnaps the case, a heavy plastic container made for travel, and even gentler when removing his guitar, a blond DeVoe classical that he at once cradles and admires.
He calls me over.
Pointing beneath the guitar's nylon strings at the floral mosaic inlaid around the soundhole, he voice softens a bit and slows.
"Each of those colors is a tiny square," says the guitarist and composer, as if looking at the instrument for the first time, "put there by hand."
To transform wooden pieces, none much bigger than a few grains of sand, into a pattern of roses likely was the work of a craftsman dedicated to the smallest aspect of his art.
It's much like the work of Isla himself, who has studied classical music at Duquesne University and the Cleveland Institute of Music and has long played the eloborate music of his Latin-American heritage.
"What I love about classical music is that the level of detail is insane," he says, soon beginning a wistful Spanish folk song that embodies just that. "It's so intricate and so complex that you not only have to apply your physical ability, but also your intellectual ability to make it beautiful."
The song, an early 19th century piece about a Spanish castle, is one of many traditional tunes he plays live.
"[I play] a lot of the stuff I studied growing up, stuff my parents listened to, great guitar composers that were from Spain or even South America," said Isla, whose parents moved from Peru to New York in the 60's.
Paring down the world's repertoire can be difficult, but Isla employs a rather basic rubric. "It all depends on the reaction that you get from a crowd," he said. "I'm big on the wow factor. You really have to mix what the audience likes, what you can play, what's challenging to play and then what's interesting for you to play."
Also in his live repertoire are original songs from Acoustica, his debut release recorded at John Schwab Recording Studio.
Among the 14 tracks are a composition by J.S. Bach and exquisite numbers such as "Black Forest, Blue Mist," which rushes passionaltey into the realm of rock. "I've heard a lot of acoustic guitar played, and I've never heard anyone really try to power it out," he says, likening "Black Forest, Blue Mist" to a rather eerie movie script. "It's a very exciting song for me to play because it's very intense."
- Columbus Alive

"DR Strings endorses Michael Isla"

Michael Isla has just been named as a DR Strings endorsed artist. - IslaGuitar

"Simpson Guitars now endorses Michael Isla with a signature series model"

Master builder Jason Simpson is currently building a signature series guitar for Michael Isla. Jason heard Michael perform at this year's Newport Festival and decided he wanted Michael to play his guitar. Check out Jason's guitars at www.SimpsonGuitars.com - IslaGutiar


2006 Acoustica
2010 Sonic Self-Portrait



Michael Isla is a classically trained guitarist and composer with a master’s degree in performance. His unique style blends rock, Middle Eastern, Latin and classical styles into a flavorful mix of melodic, rhythmic and tonal soundscapes. His music has been heard on TV and radio shows across the country and PBS’s has used his music for various DVD projects. In addition, PBS aired his concert with the Rhythmic Light Ensemble during the Cleveland Ingenuity Festival. Michael received a grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council to complete his next album in 2024.

Band Members