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Guitar virtuoso Tim Sparks was born October 31, 1954, in Winston-Salem, NC, taking his first music lessons from his moonshiner uncle; while attending the North Carolina School of the Arts, he also studied classical guitar with Andrés Segovia protégé Jesus Silva. Upon graduating in 1973, Sparks went on tour with an R&B band, and during a stop in Minneapolis he opted to move to the city permanently; there he joined the vintage jazz combo Rio Nido, which recorded albums including I Like to Riff, Hi Fly, and Voicings before disbanding in 1987. Sparks then spent the next several years exploring musical cultures from across the globe, winning a Jerome Foundation fellowship to study the fado tradition in Portugal as well as earning a grant from Minnesota's State Arts Board to study Eastern European music; he additionally played in a variety of local ethnic acts including including the Brazilian group Mandala, the Persian outfit Robayat, and even a Jewish wedding band. A year after the release of his 1992 guitar adaptation of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite, Sparks won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship in Winfield, KS, and released the solo effort Balkan Dreams; Guitar Bazaar followed in 1995. In 1999 Sparks released One String Leads to Another, followed closely by Neshamah, the first of several collections (Tanz , At the Rebbe's Table , and Little Princess ) for John Zorn's Tzadik label.