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  Thomas Karstens received his first guitar lessons in the towns of Lübeck and Hamburg in Northern Germany.

In 1982 he began to study classical guitar at the Musikhochschule in Köln (Cologne), where he also studied chamber music playing with members of the AMADEUS-Quartett. During this period Karstens attended several international masterclasses with teachers as Manuel Barrueco, Eliot Fisk, Hubert Käppel, Godelieve Monden and Oscar Gighlia. Granted with a scholarship from German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Karstens also attended the Academia Chighiana in Siena, Italy. Hereupon Karstens studied at the Schola Cantorum in Paris with Pascal Boels. In addition to that he received lessons from the Brazilian guitar virtuoso Odair Assad in Brussels.

Since 1991 Karstens teaches at the Music Departement at the University of Cologne (Musikabteilung der Universität Köln). As a visiting professor and as guitar performer he has been invited to several conservatories and guitar festivals in Europe, Turkey, Central and South America. These activities as well as his concerts as a soloist have been supported by the German Goethe-Institute, the German Music Council, the Humboldt Association and the Jeunesse Musical Europe.

Karstens´ guitar playing has been broacasted by Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne, Radio Nacional de España, Madrid and Radio Nacional de Ecuador, Quito. He has recorded two Solo-CDs and a Duo-CD with the flute player Reinhard Ruf on instruments of the 19th century.

Karstens has premiered several works for guitar written for and dedicated to him.

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