The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

Front and Center: Harp Guitarist and Founder of All Star Guitar Night and Music for Life Charity, Muriel Anderson

By Gabriella Steffenberg 

Muriel Anderson is a highly respected music industry veteran who has always marched to the beat of her own drum.  Creating the popular NAMM show All Star Guitar Night®, she gives back to the musical community through her charity, Music For Life, and is the brain behind the first-ever fiber optics-lighted CD.

Taken by Bryan Allen
Taken by Bryan Allen

Nightlight Daylight is the first and only LED CD cover in the market and has also garnered multiple awards for its compositions and artists featured on the tracks.

Anderson also plays the harp guitar, which is a unique instrument that offers the musical depth that she had been searching for.

We can’t wait to see what Anderson does next, and we don’t want you to miss out either. Keep up with her through her official website, and enjoy a free download of “What the World Needs Now is Love,” a bonus track off of Nightlight Daylight.

WiMN: Your All Star Guitar Night® at NAMM has been running for over 20 years. What first inspired you to put together this special night?

MA: It was in 1993 after the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention and NAMM show (when they happened to both be on the same weekend) that I hosted an informal party. It was there, sitting around the pool playing music for each other and with each other, that the best music happened. The next year, one of the guitarists asked if I was going to have my party again. I thought we’d do it in front of an audience, and booked a night the Bluebird Cafe – the audience had just as much fun as we did! John Schroeder was in the audience that night and he wrote a feature article about it in Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine entitled, “All Star Guitar Night.” The name stuck.

WiMN: The Harp Guitar is such a unique instrument – what drew you to it?

MA: When I was in college, I started writing music that needed low resonating strings an octave lower than my guitar. I also started learning some Bach pieces, which to my ear needed low resonating strings. I’d seen photos of the harp guitar and thought that was the sound I was hearing in my head. I heard that Michael Hedges played one, so I went to his concert when he came to Chicago. At the concert I sat next to Bob and Carol Hartman. Bob was writing a book about these instruments, since his grandfather built Hedges’ harp guitar! He asked me if I’d record the CD for his book, and that’s how I got to play harp guitar for the first time.

WiMN: Tell us about your organization, Music for Life Charity.

MA: In the first years of All Star Guitar Night®, I took the profit after expenses and gave it to Gilda’s Club cancer support. Once Gilda’s club in Nashville was well  established, I looked for an organization that supported and helped to unite all the grassroots organizations getting instruments and lessons to kids. When I couldn’t find such an organization, I decided to start it.

The original concept Music for Life was threefold, and now there are three organizations doing great work to accomplish those: Guitars in the Classroom to teach music to kids who don’t get it in their regular school programs, Music for Lifelong Achievement to collect and distribute instruments to programs that teach kids, and the Music for Life Alliance run by great volunteers John Wise and Al Norton, which maintains a database and gives grants to worthy nonprofits.

WiMN: What has been one of your greatest milestones thus far in your career?

MA:Without a doubt the recording of my double CD, Nightlight Daylight. It was a real expression of love and joy from start to finish. The “Nightlight” side started out as a lullaby album for my best friend’s first baby. Then a year later the second baby came, so for him I created an album to wake up to! This is what eventually turned into the Nightlight Daylight CD, and I didn’t even count how much I spent on it, it was my gift to the world in music, and every song was given the means to come to life. Joined by Victor Wooten, Phil Keaggy, Mark Kibble from Take 6, Danny Gottlieb, Tommy Emmanuel, Stanley Jordan, Earl Klugh, Howard Levy, Nashville Symphony musicians and others, I realized that every person involved in the project was not only a great musician, but also a great person. This sense of friendship and positive energy is why I think so many people have responded so well to the music.

WiMN: What are your passions outside of music?

MA: I love nature and have a home near a small state park, so I can walk surrounded by nature when I am home. I also enjoy painting from time to time, as that is a refreshing and different artistic expression. I have recently had the opportunity to go sailing, and enjoy that as well! I put up some YouTube clips of a couple trips, just for fun!

WiMN: What piece of advice has been instrumental to you and your musical development?

MA: I always play the music that is in my heart, and don’t limit myself to a particular style or way of doing things. For me, that keeps it always fresh and exciting. Come to think of it, that was against the advice of most everyone at the time…

WiMN: Congratulations on making the first ever fiber optics lighted CD cover and 11 award winning double CD, Nightlight Daylight – so cool! Tell us about the design process from concept to end result.

MA:I had the idea in 2005 of creating more of an experience by incorporating LEDs (before greeting card companies used any), and filed my first provisional patent on various models then. I waited until I really had my best offering musically, and found the best visual artist for the cover, Bryan Allen. It was an involved process, working with consultant Paul Regan on designing the first prototype, a CD manufacturer in Canada and fiber optics manufacturer in China. Bryan now runs Illuminated Media PackagingTM and still Nightlight Daylight is the only interactive  fiber optics lighted CD cover we know of. It’s fun to see the response it gets, and reassuring that so many people can feel the love that went into the music.

WiMN: What has been your biggest obstacle to overcome since your start in the music industry?

MA: Well, I suppose the music industry itself. Since I don’t limit myself to a particular style, there was no bin in the record store for my music, and like many guitarists I have yet to find an agent or manager who can really grasp what I do and what to do with it. So not really knowing much about it, I’ve had to do most of the business end myself.

It’s funny, I guess you could say that not following a worn path, the thing that has been instrumental in my musical development, is the same thing that is the biggest hurdle in the industry. Although I have some wonderful part-time assistants who really help a lot, I’m still hoping to find a great business partner so I have more time to compose music. 

WiMN: What can we expect from you musically in 2016?

MA: Well, I’ve noticed that all my new tunes have a certain positive energy. I have found a soul mate in Bryan Allen, who’s artwork expresses in the same way as my music. It’s amazing that the artistic project in which I poured so much love has resulted in a great love in my life. Together we are putting together an audio-visual show, to give greater expression to live shows. I’m very excited to see how audiences will respond to it.