Beth Marlis: Guitarist, Author, Teacher, Mentor, VP, and Music Industry Leader

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Beth Marlis has carved out an important path in the jazz guitar world. In an industry dominated by male players and professors, Beth’s amazing talent and hard work have brought her to the pinnacle of the west coast jazz guitar universe. With an undergraduate music degree from UC and a Master of Music from USC, she has risen from instructor to department head to now Vice President for Musicians Institute. Still a gigging guitarist, composer, studio player, published writer and arranger, she is an integral bridge to new generations of jazz guitarists.

Like many of today’s great guitarist/educators, Beth’s command of music crosses many genres from jazz to rock to classical to Latin to funk and R & B. Her credits include sharing the stage with artists from every style and sound.

Beth is co-author (with Dan Gilbert) of the books: “Guitar Soloing” and “Advanced Guitar Soloing” published by MI/Hal Leonard. She also appears in the companion instructional video release: “Guitar Soloing”.

We had a chance to learn more about Beth.

I endlessly begged my mom to
get me a guitar,
and thankfully it worked!

We read that you started as a violinist.  When did you transition from violin to guitar and what was your inspiration?

I started with classical violin at age 5, but by the time I was twelve I was soooo interested in being “cool”…I loved The Beatles, but they didn’t exactly have a violin in their band! I endlessly begged my mom to get me a guitar, and thankfully it worked!

Who are/were your musical influences?

I have a really wide array of influences—but I could probably narrow it down to Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, and James Brown!

Do you write your own music and, if so, what is the inspiration behind your work?

I don’t really compose original songs—I’ve mostly worked as a “hired gun” sideman-type of player for years.  Of course, my playing is at its best when it comes from the heart, and not from my head. I’ve been playing for 40+ years now, and I’m always humbled and inspired by the vastness of music, the creative moment and the instrument itself.

What an honor it’s been to
work with thousands
of guitar students!

You are the Vice President of Industry and Community Relations at Musicians Institute and the Executive Director of The Musicians Foundation.  Can you tell us how you got involved with the Musicians Institute?

After playing in bands professionally and touring, I enrolled as a student in MI’s guitar program (GIT) in 1985 to “get it right” on the guitar.  I didn’t even know the names of the notes on the neck! What followed was an intense one-year, 24/7 amazing guitar education that totally revolutionized my guitar playing!  After graduating, I toured a bit and then soon returned to become a staff instructor at the school, and later became the Department Chair of GIT for nearly 10 years.  These days, I’m a VP at the school, and run a non-profit music education foundation; but I still enjoy teaching in GIT most of all.  What an honor it’s been to work with thousands of guitar students!

I love mentoring other
players as a teacher…

You’ve performed with a wide range of artists, co-authored books with Dan Gilbert, composed music scores, done recording and music videos, all while leading a very successful career at MI, so what’s next?

I’m looking forward to doing some R&B and Motown gigs during 2012 because groove oriented gigs are so much fun, I love ‘em! I’ve also been thinking about finally doing my own album because after so many years it feels like it just might be “time”!! I love mentoring other players as a teacher, and as a supportive resource—that’s why I want to reach out to all the female graduates of MI (back to 1977!) and create a special Facebook group for them all to reconnect and network.


Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us.  We look forward to getting together with you again soon!

To find out more about Beth Marlis, check out:

Main web page:

Other sites:


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