Williams Visiting Professorship to bring pioneer of fret/fretless electric harp guitars to campus

Roger Coda
profile of Tim Donahue

Tim Donahue

Tim Donahue, whose passion to recreate music that flourished in his imagination spurred the invention of fretless and fretted electric harp guitars, will bring his innovative approach to music and music performance to SUNY Fredonia during a March/April residency.

What distinguishes Donahue’s fretless and fretted electric harp guitars is the sound of multiple instruments played all at once that it produces. It’s been the hallmark of a career for the multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer that spans four decades.

“The desire to perform solo was the impetus behind making these instruments, but with their wide tonal range and built in MIDI/synth capability, they've been workhorses for me in a wide variety of musical situations over the years,” Mr. Donahue explained. He’s also a master of fretless and fretted lead guitars.

“Playability and a killer tone were important factors in the harp guitars' development, but the driving force was a desire to recreate the music I was hearing in my head. I needed a guitar that had yet to be invented.” – Tim Donahue

“I think that in the ʼ80s, audiences were more intrigued by my instruments than the music I was making. But as I developed as a performer and composer, audiences responded more to my music than the fact it's played on a unique instrument,” added Donahue, who is on campus as a Williams Visiting Professor.

Busy best describes Donahue’s campus itinerary. He will give a series of lectures, consult with faculty and give community presentations that explore a wide range of observations on business, cultural and social norms unique to Japan.

Donahue will also speak to students in several Music Industry and Sport Management classes. Meetings with faculty in the School of Business and the Music Business program are also scheduled. He will be hosted for the residency by Music Industry faculty in the School of Business.

Culminating the residency will be a community lecture and performance, “Japan’s Influence on my Life and Music,” on Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in Thompson Hall Room W101. It is free and open to the public.

Donahue, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, is an accomplished EMI-Japan renowned artist and educator. Based in Japan, where he has an outsized following, Donahue has written music scores for television shows and commercials. His projects have included jazz, rock and progressive metal.

“Playability and a killer tone were important factors in the harp guitars' development, but the driving force was a desire to recreate the music I was hearing in my head. I needed a guitar that had yet to be invented,” Donahue explained. “I could not imagine how my music would be forever changed and so warmly received by other guitarists and fans around the world,” he said.

“What has not changed over the decades is how the audience seems to understand how integral the instrument is to making my music, which is not categorizable as rock, jazz or any other genre. So, I'm honored when fans refer to my music and instrument as expressions of ‘Tim's world,’” Donahue added.

“I hope my approach to creating my music, instruments and career will inspire students to always follow their hearts and create their own world too.”

Billboard magazine declared Donahue “A virtuoso.” According to the internationally distributed Jazziz Magazine, “Donahue’s Virtuosity sets him apart as one of the new guitar innovators.”

The most commonly asked questions of Donahue’s musical instruments are: “What's it called?” “How many strings does it have?” “How can I get one?”

Donahue’s residency is supported through the Williams Visiting Professor Fund of the Fredonia College Foundation. The residency won’t be the first time Donahue has visited Western New York. He’s performed in the historic Westminster Church, PAUSA Art House and Sportsmen’s Tavern, all in Buffalo, NY.

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