The American lutenist, Ronn McFarlane, spent most of his early years in the neighboring state of Maryland where he developed an interest in music at an early age. As a teenager, he taught himself to play on what he describes as a "cranky sixteen dollar steel string guitar." He went on to develop his talent, and combined blues and rock music on the electric guitar with studies on the classical guitar. At the same time, he took a course of study in classical guitar at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA, graduatingd with honors. He ultimately dropped out of the pop bands, and completed his training in classical guitar at the Peabody Institute, where he would also teach for a time afterward. Among his own teachers were Paul O'Dette, Roger Harmon, and Pat O'Brien. McFarlane decided to give up the guitar altogether in favor of the lute in 1978.
The following year, Ronn McFarlane performed his first solo recitals on the lute. Not long after he was among the co-founders of the group the Baltimore Consort, which soon became the best-known American period instrument group in the world thanks to a generous touring extensively throughout the USA, Canada and Europe and an extremely popular series of releases on the Dorian label. Although some members have been in and out of the Baltimore Consort over the years, McFarlane has remained a constant member within the group.
Ronn McFarlane is one of the principal interpreters of music for the Renaissance lute today. This sets McFarlane apart from many players who study the lute in addition to the guitar, or those who play lute music on the guitar. He has mastered a variety of different lutes of diverse courses from discrete historical periods, and is largely responsible for bringing the transcendent charm and timeless quality of the lute into the musical mainstream and making it accessible to a larger audience.
Ronn McFarlane has over ten CD's with the Baltimore Consort and ballad recordings with Custer LaRue and members of the Baltimore Consort. Yet he has recorded and concertized on his own far more prolifically than any other member in the Consort. He has recorded six CD's for Dorian, including such popular discs as "A Distant Shore", "The Renaissance Lute", and "The Scottish Lute". He has also recorded three more backing honey-toned soprano Julianne Baird and another accompanying tenor Frederick Urrey. Recently, McFarlane has been engaged in composing new music for the lute, building on the tradition of the lutenist/composers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. This new music is the focus of his new solo CD, "Indigo Road".
Ronn McFarlane was a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory from 1984 to 1995, teaching lute and lute-related subjects. In 1996, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Shenandoah Conservatory for his achievements in bringing the lute and its music to the world.