Friday, August 29, 2014

A Look Back at the 23rd International Guitar Symposium in Iserlohn

I just returned from 5 days at the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium in Germany. Wow! It was great! This was the 23rd
Dale Kavanagh and Thomas Kirchoff
year of this this very well put together classical guitar festival hosted by Professor Thomas Kirchhoff and Dale Kavanagh, two fine guitarists, partners as the Amadeus Duo, and married couple!!  Though I've heard about the festival for years, I attended for the first time in 2103 and even sold a couple of guitars then, including one to Thomas Kirchhoff, the director. He is a great player and a very influential person in the guitar world, so it made a lot of sense for me to return this year. I'm very glad I did.

The symposium is set at an old estate or school on the bank of the Ruhr River outside of Iserlohn, and completely self sufficient. I say old, but it is so nicely kept, and the modern additions to the campus so well done, and the grounds are so beautiful that everything is perfect. The students, teachers and performers mostly all stay on the campus doing lessons, workshops, master classes and guitar orchestra rehearsals all
Inside the beautiful Church
day. Then in the evening everyone climbs into 5 buses and goes into town to the Big Church for the quite amazing array of concerts, with talent from all over the world. After the concerts we all pile back in the buses and return to the campus to hang out and celebrate the day, the evening, and tomorrow.
 Then we do it all over again. This festival has a long history, and Thomas runs everything with such a sure hand that is seems effortless, and with the incredible level of talent and accomplishment, very distinguished artists, and mind blowing up-and-coming young players, the whole event has the feeling of being the center of the guitar universe for a week — or a year.

There is also an ongoing exhibition of guitar makers, many from Germany, but also from England, Bulgaria, China, Spain, Japan, Canada, USA (me) and others. The opportunity to see other makers work, and together mull over the joys and challenges of this special work is rare and special. The skill level is quite amazing, and watching and hearing a parade of virtuoso players trying out everyone's guitars and putting them through their paces is a wonderful opportunity. Also I met the folks from the German guitar dealing company Sicca, Manuel and Mirco, very nice guys from a very cool company. I will talk about Sicca more in a later post.

The fact that the festival is so well established offers a remarkable sense of history. In addition to the artists booked for concerts and masterclass teaching, there is a core of established teachers who have been coming every year for decades, and have helped the students grow from very young into mature players who end up performing in the series, and going on to have distinguished careers of their own. World renown teachers like Bruce Holzman, Tom Johnson, Dale Kavanagh, Frank Gerstmeier — and many others who I haven't had the pleasure of meeting — return every year and give the students such professional and inspiring guidance that there seems to be emerging a whole new level of skill, a new generation of players eclipsing what we have thought of as virtuosity and musicianship. 

Bruce Holzman, Tom Johnson and Frank Gerstmeier

Concert artists this year are too many to list, (you can check it out on the website) and every single one deserves  an article and recognition on their own. And because the campus is on the outskirts of town everyone is kind of trapped together, so in work and in play, all of this talent — teachers, students, artists, aficionados and visitors — all are mingled in the most stimulating and sometimes raucous ways. In our field of music it is actually impossible and unnecessary to distinguish between work and play, and there is no better place than the Iserlohn festival to experience the power and benefits and inspiration of both work and play!!

While I was there there my phone/camera  was giving me nothing but trouble and I was a hopeless journalist, in that I didn't take any photos at all. I'm not naturally aggressive with a camera, as s many people are, I hate to break the moment, so I just have to visualize all of the wonderful moments in my memory. I have a pretty good memory, and these memory pictures are great! I'm sure that a few searches in social media would conjure up infinite photos and smiles, but in the tradition of a gossip columnist I just want to shout out to some of the wonderful people who's friendships and interactions made my week such a memorable and moving experience:

So here's to you all, in no particular order — Eva Beneke, Dale Kavinaugh, Manuel and Mirco from Sicca, Wolfgang Bargel, Wolfgang Jellinghaus, thank you Wolfgang, Scott, Matt, John and Bill from LAGQ, Bruce Holzman, Denis Azabajik, Tom Johnson, Ella Chekan, Rene Izquierdo, Yuichi Imai, Frank Gerstmeier, Michael Newman, Johannes Moller, Laura Fraticelli, and Dario, Xu Bao, Giampaulo Bandini, Gerald Garcia, The Baltic
Gillian Omalyev
Quartet, Pavel Steidl, Shingo Fuji, Chris McGuire, Joshia De Jonge, Hansen Yao and Jennifer Song, Adrian Azuelo, Jeremy Clark, Vicente Carrillo, Kuang Junhong, Hans Werner Huppertz, Serge DeJonge. And to all the people whose names or acquaintance I didn't get, what an interesting group of people!! Even without photos I can picture you all. I want to give a special shout to Gillian Omalyev, who did so much to make things work day-in and day-out, and then played such a super fine performance in the concert in the church on the last night. Of course I payed especially close attention because she was playing on my guitar, but more important she played herself, beautifully and strong. I was very proud. 

And Thomas Kirchhoff. I've gotta give him credit. He's a force of nature. And he puts on a great guitar festival. Great culture, great party.

And again to you all. May we remember and get together again!

Kenny Hill

August 2014

Thomas playing in the beautiful courtyard of Haus Villigst.

Take a look at our new friends over at Siccas Guitars.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Remembering D-Day: Memories from Bob Hill

     My dad Bob Hill is 91 years old, living with his wife Shirley in Fresno CA. As with so many of his generation he was profoundly shaped by World War Two, and he was part of the D Day invasion on Omaha Beach in Normandy 70 years ago. Years ago he wrote an autobiography, (well actually it was framed a a biography of his first car, a 1917 model T Ford which he still has and drive. With the anniversary of the D Day invasion a fan of his excerpted this chapter from dad's book Full Circle, which I'm pleased to share here. It's good writing, an interesting snap shot of one soldier's memories 70 years later. When I talked with him on Father's day about it he added a couple of asides. He went into Normandy on day three, in relative safety, after bobbing around in the sea while so many others went in ahead, and he said that the only reason he wasn't facing machine gun fire and land mines with the first wave of soldiers was that while the other guys in his Iowa home town were studying agriculture and animal husbandry in high school, he was taking typing and shorthand, the only guy in a class full of girls. Then when he joined the army he was trained as a code man because of those skills, and thereby avoided the horror of direct combat. He also reminisced that it was so dark out there at sea with thousands of ships coming and going he couldn't figure why everybody wasn't bumping into each other. But he said that in the course of the inconceivable build up to the invasion he never heard one person complain.

Anyway, I just wanted to share these memories from my dad.

            It was June 4, 1944. Every last one of us was taken to a hush-hush meeting in a large, brick warehouse type of a structure. Soldiers were there by the thousands, and we were all standing since there was no place to sit.
A high-ranking officer quieted us down, after which he identified himself as an emissary of General Eisenhower. He laid out before us in the most top-secret of terms as to what was ahead in the next few days. He unveiled a large tabletop model which was big enough for all to see, a mock-up of what he said was Normandy Beach on the coast of France. He went on to reveal that all of us in the room would be landing at a place they had named "Omaha Beach", more specifically in an area called "Dog Redbeach." We all studied the mock-up, making mental notes of the landmarks to the extent that we would feel as if we had been there before when our time came to go ashore. Further, the officer went on to say, tomorrow morning we would be loading up in Army trucks with all of our gear and then proceed to the port of Southampton, about 40 miles to the south. There, we and our equipment would be embarking on the ships which were already awaiting our arrival. From there we would sail for the coast of France under the cover of darkness.
As for the success or failure of the entire operation, there was no "plan B." What we were about to undertake had to succeed, do or die. He assured us that we would not be alone in our venture— there would be quite a gathering, all of us with a single purpose in mind. And again, it was to be a surprise party for the Germans who were well dug in and bunkered there, so we were not to talk about it — the walls might have ears.
We went back to our barracks, thoughtful and quiet, each of us harboring thoughts of how we were going to come out in this thing, how many of us would be missing the chow line in the next day or two, and if I would be one of those. By and large, we were all happy that something was about to happen that could play a major part in bringing the war to a close. Some of us were gong to die... we knew that. But let's get on with it.
We had our last breakfast on English soil the next morning and then loaded up and moved out to Southampton. Arriving at dockside, thousands and thousands of soldiers stood aside while the equipment was being swung into the ship's holds. Our particular vessel was a liberty ship named the "Robert S. Tombs". I looked at the moniker and hoped that the last name was in no way prophetic.

I hunkered down to watch our ship being loaded as performed by the English longshoremen.  trucks would drive on top a big rope sling, something on the order of an outsized hammock. The winch cables would tighten, and away went the fullyloaded truck to be slung neatly in the cargo hold. Up went our code truck with its dog house on the back—also C Company's trucks, loaded down with field wire and their wire dispensing and recovery gear. Our battalion had lots of trucks and other rigs of all sizes.
The loading process was sailing along smoothly and efficiently well into the afternoon when suddenly, the whistles blew all over the waterfront. Immediately, everything stopped. Some trucks were left dangling 30 feet in the air, others only a few feet from being set in their hold space. I wondered with no small amount of instant alarm as to what was going on. i thought that maybe word had come down from the air raid spotters that we were under an imminent air attack.
I was wrong. It was tea-time, and no war was going to interfere with that English tradition. When the tea cups were all drained, work resumed and it was on again with the war.
We shipped out that night after dark. It was a spooky feeling. There were no lights on anything. As far as we could tell, we were completely alone. There wasn't the usual horseplay or crap games below deck. Everyone was in a pensive mood, nobody saying much. As for me, I was clinging to a Bible verse which said: A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee. (Psalm 91:7) That verse put me to sleep as we later anchored in the darkness off the coast of France.
Morning came, and with it came the greatest military invasion in the history of the world. The activity that brought us out of our sacks and onto the deck was the sound of a heavy bombardment. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were laying down a carpet of artillery on the beach. As the day was breaking and the land was becoming visible in the early light, it was my guess that we were anchored about a mile off shore. To look around was awesome from the sheer number of fighting ships and cargo carriers in the vicinity. We couldn't even begin to count them, but later news reports claimed there to be 4,000 ships present.
It was not our particular job to storm the beaches — for that I was extremely grateful. But I had a deep feeling for the soldiers who had inherited that task. We were far enough away to not be able to see how they were making out, we could only guess and pray for them the very best.What was immediately apparent from our vantage point was that the skies were ours. Our Air Force was up there in overwhelming abundance, not a single German plane showed up. Also, none of our ships were showing any signs of turning tail; both comforting observations. We gathered around a radio someone had managed to bring along and listened to BBC in its account of what was going on.
All day long there was the din of the battle in the distance with occasional salvos from our warships nearby. Then there would be big explosions on land sending up ominous clouds of black smoke. We couldn't tell from our ship whether those explosions were good news or bad news.
We, of our ship, spent D-Day in relative security, much as a bleacher's spectator at a bull fight. As things began to make sense out of an operation of this magnitude, it became apparent that it would be some time before we, ourselves would be going ashore. Reason being, the landing barges were acting as ferry boats plying the waters between ship and shore. They would come alongside an anchored ship, pick up a load of men and material, and then scurry to the beach to disgorge their burden. Then, if the landing craft survived that trip, it would return to the ship for another such load and repeat the process. And on and on. It was going to take some real doing to unload all of the cargo vessels in this manner.
As D-Day's dusk began to assert itself, it was evident that we were on the beach to stay. We could believe that many of our young men who set out on this venture on this very morning did not see the dusk, for they had already given D-Day all they possessed. For we who remained, our work was cut out for us. At least we were able to rise to meet it.
D-Day's nightfall did not bring with it solace from the terrors of the day. Instead, a new game began. With the darkness, the word was passed around that if there were any planes overhead, give them all you've got, for our planes were all on the ground.
After having witnessed the devastating strength of our own air armada overhead, it was reasonable to believe that the Germans would respond in like manner when they had their chance. We expected the worst. However, a single plane came droning over just after dark. With its arrival, every gun the invasion fleet owned opened up. With 4,000 ships in our so-called harbor, and each ship having at least several guns, arithmetic deductions quickly pointed out that there was immediately a lot of hot lead in the air. Our Liberty ship though strictly a cargo carrier, had half dozen or so 50 caliber machine guns which were adding their part to the unbelievable cacophony of gun racket.

All American machine guns were loaded, with every fifth round being a tracer bullet. As a result, from all of those ships firing at the plane above, the sky was literally filled with red hot sparks moving skyward. With every gunner zeroing in on the intruder, those sparks took on the appearance of an inverted funnel making the most incredible light show I had ever seen, then or since. It was impossible to believe that anything could fly through such a barrage.
Evidently, the Luftwaffe pilot got the message that he was not welcome at our beach party. He got out of there as quickly as possible without leaving a single calling card.
A little later, another plane, same scene, again and again all night long. But I never heard of a German plane that ventured over us as being shot down. They had to fly so high to save their necks that their raids were nothing more than a nuisance.
The bigger risk was all of the junk hoisted aloft from our guns falling back on the decks. All personnel except the gunners were ordered below for safety's sake and we could hear the fall-out like so much hail rattling down on the hold covers overhead.
With that spectacular light show which rivaled any in history anywhere, so ended D-Day, the longest day in the lives of those who stormed the beaches and lived to tell their grandchildren about it. .... and the shortest day for those who tried, but gave their lives in trying.
D-plus-one and two were more of the same, though not nearly as hectic. Visible activities on the beach were slowing down. There would be an occasional blast when something or someone tripped a land mine; there were plenty of those. The big guns of our battleships and heavy cruisers had only an occasional job to do, but for the most part were being quiet. All day long, our own fighter planes ranged overhead looking for trouble over the beach and not finding it. Then after dark, the occasional lone enemy raiders overhead came searching for a hole in our defenses and, finding none, left us along.
D-plus three came, and it was our turn to go ashore. The landing barges were still shuttling men and material as fast as they could make the round trip. The landing craft pulled up alongside our ship, and the loading booms began handing our jeeps, weapons carriers, and trucks over the side and onto the barge. As soon as the last vehicle was fitted in, we went over the side too and down the webbed rope just as we had rehearsed it in basic training and may times thereafter.

It had been a whole day since any landing craft had drawn fire, so we settled down to enjoy the trip to shore. Nearing land, our landing craft drug bottom as was expected, then stopped and dropped the front ramp. We loaded into our jeeps or trucks, all of which had been
waterproofed so the could run under water as deep as the top of the windshield. I was in a jeep with two others.
The first jeep down the ramp and into the water carried the Captain, our ranking officer, who was exhibiting his fearless leadership by blazing the way for others to follow. The Captain, not wanting to get unnecessarily soaked, was sitting on the back of the jeep seat with his feet firmly planted on the cushion. The jeep went into the water only floorboard deep and was proceeding as if it was a Sunday outing, at which point the Captain kissed the prospects of getting wet goodbye. He then settled down comfortably in the seat, at the same time looking back at his men on the barge, smiling broadly and waving triumphantly. Just at that point, the jeep disappeared. All we could see were two helmets skimming the water like a pair of seagoing turtles out for a leisurely swim. Presently, the jeep came up, pouring water from its every opening with Captain and driver sputtering and spitting. Our Captain, for sure, had had his dapper dampened!
The barge pilot, reacting to the Captain's wet ride, lifted the barge gate, backed off, went to the right about 50 yards, and sent out another jeep. Bingo! The jeep made it, barely getting its hubs wet; and the rest of us, using the same trail, hit the beach safe and dry.
The carnage of the fierce battle of D-Day's assault was all around us. There were sunken landing barges, blown-up tanks, and shot-up trucks. No such terror was our lot and as we pulled up the first hill off the beach, we were greeted by the most incongruous sight imaginable. There on the left side of the road and atop a stone fence adorning the front yard of a French beach home sat a little girl about five years old. She was clean, and pretty with a bow in her hair and dressed up like Easter Sunday waving at all of us as we passed by. Not another civilian or another house still standing was in sight.
I wonder to this day how that little girl and her apparent home made it unscathed to D-plus-three....
Bob Hill from his book Full Circle 1991

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Iserlohn: 23rd International Guitar Symposium

Hill Guitar Company Will be at Iserlohn's 23rd Annual Guitar Symposium!

The 23rd International Symposium takes place from Sunday, August 10th to Sunday, August 17th, 2014. For the 7th time we will be in the newly renovated Haus Villigst, an old manor from the 12th Century. The evangelic church started to use it as a conference place in 1948.

The Highlights of the 23rd Guitar-Symposium:

  • 16 concerts
  • More than 600 individual lessons
  • Solo, duo, ensemble
  • Four lectures
  • Guitar orchestra with Gerald Garcia (England) and Shingo Fujii (Japan)
  • Yoga with Danielle Cumming
  • Physiotherapy with Emily Evans-Galeski

Come find us at the Exhibition Symposium in rooms 001 and 002.

You can sign up here for the 23rd International Guitar-Symposium.

Website located here: Iserlohn Guitar Symposium

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Performing Arts Monterey Bay: Kenny Hill

Scott MacClellend has been a presence in the cultural world of Monterey and Santa Cruz as long as I can remember, first as the ubiquitous and smooth DJ radio announcer on KBOQ, a venerable classical music FM station, and always as an arts journalist writing reviews and feature articles about music and the arts in every local newspaper and magazine. Last year he started a website Performing Arts Monterey Bay, a comprehensive arts calendar for the region, and he has recently added a local artists series on the page. The website is clean, well done and informative. Scott and I spoke for some time on the phone recently and now he has published an article derived from that conversation. I'm flattered to be included and to have the opportunity to remember some of the events in my life that have led up to now. Please click on the link Performing Arts People on the toolbar at

Kenny Hill

June 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Win a Hill Guitar this Friday!

Win a Hill Performance Series Concert Guitar with Arched Case in the Omni Foundation raffle!

This Friday, April 25th, the Omni Foundation will be selecting the winner of a performance series Hill guitar. 

Online sales will end 3:00 p.m. on Friday
Buy your $20 raffle tickets online here: Buy Raffle Tickets

The drawing will be held at the Goryachev/Mouffe concert, April 25, 2014 where this guitar will be showcased. Ticket sales will continue until 10 minutes after Friday nights performance and then a winner will be chosen. Winners need not be present to be eligible.

Purchase your Grigory Goryachev and Gerome Mouffee concert tickets here: Concert Tickets

All proceeds go to The Omni Foundation. 

Win this guitar in the raffle!
The Performance Series is the newest line of fine guitars designed and built in the Hill California workshop. These guitars offer a great sounding high-quality modern concert instrument at a medium price-List $5500 w case. The Performance Series is handmade in the traditional Spanish style, with the integral body and neck joint, and incorporates a modern double top soundboard, with lattice or fan-bracing. Sound ports are standard, unless requested otherwise.
 • Sound board: Damann style double top comprised
 of Western red cedar, Nomex and Englemann
 spruce, Lattice bracing 
• Sound ports
 • Back & sides: Indian rosewood 
• Fingerboard: ebony
 • String length: 650mm 
• 20th fret extention
 • Tuners: Gotoh 
• Finish: French polish
 • Lightweight double-acting truss rod 
• Fingerboard at the nut: 51mm
 • Overall length: 39 1/2” 
• Body length: 19 1/2”
 • Upper bout: 11” 
• Lower bout: 14 1/4”
 • Body depth: 3 3/4 - 4” 
• Arched case included

Read about all of the Omni concert raffle prizes here: 2013-14 Omni Raffle


Monday, March 24, 2014

Kenny Hill and the Freedom High School Guitar Program

Since the fall of 2007 it's been a rapid climb, the growth and maturing of our guitar program.  After a year and a half to get my bearings in teaching guitar, (being a trained percussionist and saxophonist), I found myself opening and walking through a new door into a different and ultimately better world.  Creating an all new guitar program from scratch was challenging.  My school administrators never once told me what to do with my classes or how to teach them.  I am blessed to have their unfailing support, allowing me to freely push my teaching and to find answers (and the right people) to make my students and program better.  And, while I had a vision of what the Freedom High School Guitar Program could become, I never imagined everything would move forward so well and so quickly.

After having countless guitar-centric questions answered by many incredible and wonderful guitar colleagues and professors from all over the U.S., I worked my students hard with lots of teaching, challenging rehearsals, clinics, master classes, and well over 100 concert and festival performances.   We arrived 6 years later as a top notch program where in early 2013, the FHS Guitar Orchestra performed in concert at our Florida Music Educators Association All-State Music Conference and a few months later in New York, at the Long Island Guitar Festival.  Though we are now known on an international level, we (teacher and students) also realize there is so much incredible guitar music out there to discover, learn and master.  Our program musically, artistically, and personally can never rest in the past and always will need to search, learn, grow and continue to move forward.

The next stage in filling the "needs" and "gaps" of my program was to have a private study guitar class; a conservatory for students who plan on preparing and auditioning for college.  Again, my school administration was very supportive by adding this new layer of class to my program.  For the past few years I was painfully aware of the limitations regarding the guitars we currently have.  They were entry level models and were used by my students...all 190+ of them...six classes a day...180 days each school year.  My beginners fared well; my burgeoning number of advanced students are now playing very complex, challenging music on instruments that no longer matched their musical and technical ability.  We needed something more...something better.

In the spring of 2013 I began the "Great Search" to find a respected guitar luthier that produced not only quality guitars, but also were "economical".  Among the different responses I received, Dr. Stephen Robinson (Stetson University) recommended several luthiers for me to contact.  "You should contact Kenny Hill and check out his guitars.  There is a growing interest in the Guitar Community about his NEW WORLD line of instruments", he said.  After visiting his website to see artist videos of his guitars used in performance, visiting a few shops to try different instruments and personally talking with Kenny about his guitars, I was immediately sold.  It was very evident that Kenny's instruments sounded not only incredible, they were affordable, and made to his exacting standards.  That instrument is the all solid NEW WORLD Player Series.

Through email and phone conversations with Kenny and Larry Darnell (his partner in crime), I learned about Kenny’s trips to Guangzhou, China, teaching his personal luthier techniques to new "students", starting a factory there, travelling overseas every four to six weeks to maintain "Quality Control", and receiving each instrument to "personally set-up" before shipping from Ben Lomond, California to around the world.  At the very end of April 2013 one of our last phone exchanges was this:

"So, how many do you think you will need?" Kenny asked.
"I need...ten.", I replied.
"Ten?  Really, ten?"
"Yes, ten of the P650 size.  What do you think?  Should I get all Cedar or all Spruce guitars?"
"I think five Cedar and five Spruce Player Series models would be a great blend for your students.  It would be a great sound, especially if you play together."
"You are right.  It would be a wonderful sound together.  We need to get them quickly though."
"What is your timeline?"
"Is there any possibility to take delivery by August, before the next school year begins?"
"Hmm.......let me check production orders in the factory.  I'll get back to you."

After that things happened very fast.  In the span of only six weeks, Hill Guitars became a vendor with our school district (this was a major purchase), secured vendor numbers and put funds in place, shipped the guitars from overseas to California, went through his shop for Kenny's personal set-up, and shipped all ten to our school by mid-June.  It was a very happy day when they arrived!  Several of my students and a few colleagues were on hand to help open the boxes and try each one!  Hill's NEW WORLD Player Series was the only choice to what we needed; an affordable, professional entry level guitar that to me, rivals many other models two to three times the price.  With both solid Cedar and Spruce models, they are wonderfully crafted instruments.  The beauty and transparency of tone in each guitar was very consistent with one another.  It was obvious that the attention to detail in each guitar from construction to finish was very high.  Again, made to Kenny's exacting standards.

Aside from daily practices and rehearsals, the instruments were recently used by our students for high profile events including a clinic presentation at the FMEA All-State Music Conference, the Orange County Public Schools All-County Honor Guitar Festival, and accompanying William Kanengiser's performance of Shingo Fujii's "Concierto de Los Angeles for Solo Guitar and Guitar Orchestra".  Everywhere we use the Hill Guitars, there is genuine interest on where and how they are made.  Of course, everyone appreciates its warm tone, sonority and ease in playability.  Even one of my senior students who will major in guitar performance in college next year purchased a Hill Performance model last November; he too sold on the quality of instrument Kenny creates.  The lattice bracing and two tone holes at the top of the guitar body by the neck were big selling points!

The NEW WORLD guitars are a wonderful addition to the Freedom High School Guitar Program.  My students are now able to better explore and properly prepare music without the need to "struggle" on an inferior instrument.  In the coming years we will add more Hill Guitars to our growing inventory.  Kenny runs a wonderful and quickly growing company in Hill Guitars and should be proud of the instruments that he is creating.  The luthier techniques he uses produce guitar of the highest quality.  My students love playing on his instruments!  As the Director of Guitar for Freedom High School, I am proud to say we fully endorse the Hill Guitar Company and the NEW WORLD Player Series model of guitars!

Christopher Perez

Director of Guitar Studies
Freedom High School

Monday, March 17, 2014

2014 Santa Cruz Art of Guitar Festival

Jayme Kelly Curtis
The 2014 Santa Cruz Art of Guitar Festival is a wrap. All of the shows, receptions, concerts and demos are done, and the festival could not have been better. Jayme Kelly Curtis's vision was fully realized and exceeded. The pulse of interest and excitement has reached not only all around Santa Cruz, but also much more globally, I've had interest and comments coming in from all over the country. 

Simon, Owen, and Quillan
Our participation as Hill Guitar has been quite satisfying. When Jayme first told me about the idea 3 years ago the first thing that jumped into my mind was to put together a guitar making demo. And we did it. For the February 7th event at the Museum of Art and History my sons and I moved part of our workshop into the museum atrium and built guitars in public, while many of the best musicians of Santa Cruz took stage to demo the varied fine guitars of our local luthiers. More than a thousand people turned out that evening and it was wonderful to see how intrigued they were watching our craftsmen at work, neck carving, side bending, the inside details of the instruments, and French polishing. The boys did an amazing job just doing their work, in addition to explaining their processes and reasons, and glowing with enthusiasm. I'm very proud of them. 

Evan Hirschelman &
The Athens Guitar Duo
The two concerts we sponsored were also grand. First Evan Hirschelman opened a show sharing the bill with with Bill Coulter and Alex de Grassi. My God, I've heard Evan play many times, but he always astounds me with the power, imagination and virtuosity of his compositions. That sold out show was amazing, and we actually arranged a second house concert so we could hear it all again. Then 4 days later the Athens Guitar Duo came in from Georgia. I had heard a recent CD of theirs, but never actually met them, and once again, their playing and their repertoire was so beautiful. Their performances were very satisfying, moving, and it is very gratifying to hear our instruments do what they are made to do on such a lofty level. 

Kenny in concert at the MAH
Thanks to everyone who came out. We live in an amazing community. This show focusing on luthiers of Santa Cruz was much more than that, it became a stand in for all of the creativity and beauty that our neighbors and friends and family support here all the time. For all of the luthiers I know here, the business is necessarily world wide. In fact lutherie in Santa Cruz is essentially an export business. Though we sell a few instruments locally to local musicians, I think 90% of hand-made guitar sales will go to other parts of the country or the world, which helps keep the Santa Cruz trade balance positive. It is a privilege to be based in a place where art and ideas and creativity can be so well cultivated and appreciated. It is good to see all of our colleagues getting together, and realize how the love of the work still infects us all, maybe even stronger than when we began. 
Thank you Jayme, what a great idea you had. And also special thanks to Rick Mackee, Nicole Ward, Rob Blitzer, Bill Coulter, Jim and Renee, my kids, and all the others who did so much behind the scenes.
Kenny Hill
March 2014