Friday, September 15, 2017

Johannes Möller Live in Santa Cruz, CA!

NewMusicWorks’ 2017-18 season begins with supreme guitar artistry.

A performance of breathtaking range, from dazzling bravura to autumnal intimacy.
Sponsored by Hill Guitar Company

Guitar Poetry

A solo recital by Guitarist Johannes Möller

7:30 pm, Friday, October 6, 2017

Peace United Church of Christ, 900 High St. Santa Cruz, CA
Swedish-born guitarist and composer, Johannes Möller brings electrifying virtuosity and extraordinary worldliness to Santa Cruz! Chinese, North Indian, and Western music traditions are encompassed in a program of mercurial plucks, strums and drumming. A concert that encompasses musical styles and techniques of planetary scope. It will be a truly an Intimate evening, while also ranging in temperament from unheard of gentility to fearsome fortissimos.
Möller will perform new works of his own, including Night Flame, a North Indian-inspired work for guitar and tabla drums, featuring percussionist, Neel Agrawal. Adaptations of traditional Chinese music (Chinese Songs) and original works inspired by the genre (Moonlit Night on Spring River) will also be featured. The program will further include a piece for solo guitar that Kenny Hill composed in memory of his father, There and Gone.
Möller is an international phenomenon, a winner of innumerable prizes (including First Place in the GFA International Competition in 2010) but more importantly, a creator of glistening new guises for the guitar.
His recitals span tremendous range and remind us of how diverse the guitar can be.
Special Guests: Guitarists Philip Collins and Jay Arms perform Madagascan tube harp music

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My Time at SBAIC

I just got back from the Santa Barbara Guitar Acoustic Instrument Celebration. This was the second year. It was fun last year, and way more classy and well done this year. I hope it continues on and we can do it again and again. Thanks to Kevin and his crew for making it happen.

Actually I have a special point of view here. I made my first guitar in Santa Barbara in the 1970’s, so being in Santa Barbara was very nostalgic: In 1972 I was learning to play guitar, make guitars, write music, body surf, hike those mysterious mountains above the town. These were golden years. I was a skinny barefoot kid living the life, trying to avoid getting a job. I had started this sweet little guitar repair shop called Wooden Music,  and I was equally focused on classical guitar, the beach, the mountain trails, the music, getting stoned, and the girls.

This festival was housed right on the main beach in the Fess Parker Doubletree Hotel. There is an irony here because the last year that I was living in Santa Barbara there was a strong political battle about what to do with the undeveloped beachfront land — make it into a park — or make it into a lucrative tourist hotel. In 1976 something — to the extent that I was paying attention — I was all about the park. And now in 2017 I was exhibiting and staying at the hotel, quite happily. How the world does turn!

At the Santa Barbara festival on Saturday night I had some time to kill. The David Lindley concert at the Lobero Theater was at 8:00, so I had two hours free time, I went looking for one of the local festival venues in downtown Santa Barbara to get a bite to eat.  SoHo. This venue is in a warren of shops downstairs and upstairs on State Street and I decided to just hang out in the bar, the back of the room, a little separate from the music stage.There was a fine acoustic guitar concert performance going on, but I sat in the back, I was the only customer at the bar. I was watching Spanish TV above the bar and my eyes caught the  architectural trusses above the TV. It was obviously an old building with brick walls and ancient skylights that had been remodeled many times, and now a a hipster joint, with a young guy tending bar, waiting for the the younger So-Cal crowd to come in later, maybe around midnight. I was sitting there by myself, the only person there besides the bartender.  The roof trusses struck some chord, I thought I had seen them somewhere, in the fog of memory I realized holy shit, I’ve been here before! In this upstairs building it hit me, this was my first guitar shop! 1972, my first business. Even this very spot, I kissed a girl. More than 40 years ago I was living my life in this exact GPS location, this was my first guitar shop!

I couldn’t help myself, had to share it with somebody, so I blurted it out to the young bartender, “This place was my first guitar shop." He could have said “yeah man, far out” and blown me off, but instead this nice guy listened to my nostalgia, I described the corner of the building, the old windows above the parking lot, and he said  “Oh that’s the green room now, wanna see it?"

I was stunned, instinctively thought I should demure, but I said heck yeah!. If not now, when? He led me through the pantry and kitchen to the corner room, to the old window looking over the parking lot. It felt smaller than I remembered but not much changed, only the cars were newer. Looking down through the wash of memory, the not forgotten beauties tossing pebbles up to the window so I would open the downstairs door. I couldn’t believe it, my heart exploded, my eyes burst. This was my first guitar shop! Almost 50 years! How did this happen? The privilege of memory was young again. Just for a moment, but wow, what a moment! It felt like the cards of my life were spread out in a brilliant fan from then to now, prescient, nostalgic and current and vital.  Adreniline, sentiment and satisfaction all rolled together.

I took a picture. And sorry, I cried. Then I retreated and thought about what I could do with this burst of experience, how to savor it. What luck to be here. I hung out for a while longer talking with this young bartender, nice guy, he has young kids. He is trying to figure out what to do with his own life. He asked how it was in 1974, how I knew what I wanted to do for my whole life, even up to now. He could see I was much older than him. But actually I didn’t know the answer. I felt concerned for him, he sounded confused, and I guess that’s not such an unusual question these days. I’ve never asked it for myself. I wanted to light a fire for him, a fire like I’ve had had since back then. I love young people. I used to be one myself.

All I could think of to say was to "do whatever it is that you can’t not do.” Again, "Do whatever it is that you cannot - not - do." That impulse isn’t totally reliable, sounds a bit trite,  but maybe it’s the best thing we’ve got to go on. It still works for me. I hope that young bartender finds his move. I’m sure grateful for mine.

Kenny Hill
August 2017

By the way, the David Lindley concert was more than amazing. If you ever have the chance to see him, don’t miss it. He is a monster, an icon!

The view from the window of my old Santa Barbara workshop.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Look Back On My Trip To China

A few days ago I got back from a whirlwind trip to China. I was gone just a little over a week there, just enough time to suffer back-to-back jet lag — first from going, then from coming back. As always, this was an adventure!

China is a hotbed of growth in the classical guitar world. I’ve been involved there for seventeen years, hard to believe, and I’ve seen so much change. My focus on this trip was multi layered; I’m in the process of introducing my Performance Model guitars into distribution in the Chinese guitar market. That’s just good business. Also I am very interested in seeing the culture of the guitar growing around the world, with China being very fertile ground for this focus. This means getting young people (and their parents) excited about the value of music in their lives. Of course we are also cultivating guitar culture here in USA, and anywhere possible. Also on this trip I was able to connect with Los Angeles Guitar Quartet along their first multi-region tour of China. I recently built a cool 7 string guitar for John Dearman and it was going through it’s shake down, its first on-the-road tour, both a great opportunity to listen to this guitar in concert, and a little nervous test of a new guitar on the road. LAGQ is so iconic and influential everywhere in the world that the enthusiasm around them can’t help but step up the excitement.

And, since I have been involved in international business for some time now, I was especially aware of being an active and conscious American in business, cultural and political worlds outside of our American borders.

This was a short trip, but for me poignant. I am proud of cultivating young people being involved with the guitar, especially because guitar has has nurtured my own life in so many ways since I was a little kid. I am proud of how wonderfully influential all styles of guitar have affected people’s listening and playing habits and musical lives. I am proud of the music, art, business and the relationships that have been forged worldwide during my career. I am proud to know the LAGQ and their enduring influence on music and audiences, their enthusiasm for not just the sounds of the guitar, but the range of beauty, history, style and virtuosity that have improved the way we hear music. I’m also very proud of my partners in guitar making, and international endeavors, working our passions and through music, working to make the world a better place.

China is a different culture, not always easy, but very human. I’m deeply grateful to have shared such a range of culture and personal relationships. I’ve worked there for a long time and I guess I will for more time to come.

There is one long moment that I feel compelled to share — my airport exit from China through Guangzhou airport. Guangzhou is a worldwide hub of international business, manufacturing and a crossroads for things global. I’m lucky, my factory base is just about 30 minutes from the airport. I have been through the GZ airport scores of times, maybe hundreds of times. In each of those long switchback check-in lines you see the recurring faces of people, strangers, as the rope lines move you toward customs or security check points. It’s always interesting to see the families, the individuals, hear the languages, everyone in their own space, moving toward the airplanes and their next connections, next efforts, appointments, challenges, loves. Leaving Guangzhou heading for San Francisco and home I’m guessing there were around 1500 people in line, in groups or alone like me, enduring the process, but everyone in their own head, looking toward the next destination, comfort or ambition. There were Asian, African, Italian, Spanish, Latin American, Middle Eastern, South Asian, the whole world was there. Wives, husbands, kids, grandkids, road warriors, entrepreneurs. And me, a white hair post-middle age American man, shuffling through the line, the only one, anonymous and a bit tired. I definitely didn’t attract any attention, I was the only one. Really. Literally. The only one. I didn’t feel threatened, I simply wasn’t noticed. Everyone were in their own worlds. Mostly younger. I was fine, but I couldn’t help but feel that the world, the bigger world, the global world is moving on. And I was impressed with these people in line, strangers to me, humans, the species, each of these persons on a mission to make something better for themselves, for their families, for their countries, I don’t really know anything about what they’re all up to, but I myself have been pounding this pavement for quite a while, so I can relate. But I felt a bit sad and lonely for my own “group”, who seems to be becoming more isolated, less willing to share with the globe, abdicating leadership, backward thinking.

I don’t want to be political. Personally, I really just love my family, my home, my friends and my work. I’m deeply grateful for all of the experience and quality of life that I have enjoyed. I guess I have a simple protest to our unnerving recent culture bursts of fear, isolation, of keeping “us" in, and ‘them’” out.

I just don’t feel that way. There, in that airport line I sensed the roil of humanity, the real churning of the evolution of society. I’m a classic white guy born at the right place at the right time. But I don’t buy it. We are all in this together, and all benefiting by stuff from everywhere. I have to protest this small minded thinking. I just came back from China, but that’s not the point.The point is about the whole world, our neighbors and our strangers, about intelligence and communication, as hard as it can be. It’s about understanding and caring about one another. We are all in this together.

Kenny Hill

August 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

Hill Guitar Proudly Sponsors: John Schneider at Lou Harrison Centennial Celebration

Lou Harrison
Hill Guitar Company  is pleased to sponsor guitarist John Schneider as part of the Lou Harrison Centennial concert celebration put together by New Music Works this coming Sunday. Schneider will be playing part of his program using a Hill Performance Model with a special True Temperament fretboard. This is a unique fretting system developed in Sweden. The frets are not straight, they are individually wiggly according to some calculations that make the guitar more ideally in tune. I don’t pretend to understand what is actually going on with the math behind this, but I do know the guitar sounds really wonderful, kind of magical. We’ve done this twice now, with sweet results both times. This is the first time I’ll be hearing it in concert. We have more of these special instruments planned.

John Schneider is a long established musician based in Los Angeles with a strong specialty in modern music, and a lot of experience with varied tuning systems. This True Temperament system is our first venture into this kind of experiment. It’s interesting.I find the results very appealing.

Lou’s Day

3 pm Organ Concerto (matinee): Buy Tickets Here

Night Muse

7 pm Solstice (evening): Buy Tickets Here

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Introducing The Hill 7-String

This is the first 7 String guitar we’ve made in a long time. We made quite a few 7 strings in the early 2000’s, but many years have passed since the last one. Then, last year at the GFA festival in Denver, Matanya Ophee asked me to make one for him. Matanya and I have known each other for a long time. He was looking at the guitars we had on display and he said “These look pretty good but there’s something missing.” Yep, missing one string. Ok. 

So we dug into our old notes and molds and jigs and made one for him. We had to reinvent some of it, R&D, and I think it came out quite nice. Matanya specifies a particular tuning, a “Russian” tuning which is dgbdgbd. It has a great resonance in that tuning. Of course, even in some more familiar tuning I’m personally thrown off when it comes to playing a 7 string. Even the addition of just one string requires some serious relearning for me. Still, it sounds wonderful in any tuning.

And this is cool. We are planning to make another one soon, hoping to get accustomed to it, and making it a regular offering. I know there is a whole group of Brazilian and other jazz players —as well as classical players — that are good with 7 strings. I’m not, but then I still have my 6 string beauties!

Coincidentally we are also making a very different style of 7 string for John Dearman of LAGQ. This one is even more of a challenge because the seventh string is extended by 2 frets, something developed by Tom Humphrey, Greg Beyers and some other builders. This new guitar is already built and just beginning to be French polished. We’ll see how that turns out in a couple of months. Should be good.

If any 7 string players have any comments please send me an email. I’d be grateful for some input. I don’t know how much demand there is out there, but it’s something we are developing, the designs and skills for production. Who knows? It might be the next thing!


Kenny Hill
January 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

South Bay Guitar Society and Noon Arts & Lectures Fundraiser!

The South Bay Guitar Society and Noon Arts & Lectures are hosting a fundraiser on January 27th, and you're invited!

Hors d'oeuvres and wine are included in the ticket price. Several Bay Area artists will perform. Interesting items will be available for bidding at a silent auction.

January 27th, 2017, 6:30pm
Scottish Rite Center
2455 Masonic Dr, San Jose, CA 95125

Our 13th annual ARTS PANORAMA gala (Fri Jan 27) will deliver a full evening of fascinating conversations among art lover friends, wine, hors d'oeuvre, desserts, diverse "best of" staged entertainment and a silent auction.

This year it's not produced under the Silicon Valley Arts Coalition banner  but instead by and for two small budget SVAC member organizations:

Noon Arts & Lectures Series and
South Bay Guitar Society.

Staged "best of" entertainment guided by emcee Susannah Greenwood a.k.a. "Princess of Artsalot" includes:

Lyric Theatre
Scenes from "Princess Ida"

Jifan Li, dizi (ancient Chinese bamboo flute) representing AiMusic and Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra OASIS

Exhibition ballroom dances (Dina Bistry & Federico Moreno) Bolero Latin jazz Country medley

Chamber Music Silicon Valley Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No.1 for piano, flute & cello

Christopher Mann, classical guitar representing South Bay Guitar Society aAdaptations of Spanish Piano Music for Guitar

Sandra Wright Shen Piano Spectacular

In addition to this staged entertainment, you will also enjoy these lobby artists:

Danielle Nam Concert harp representing Silicon Valley Chapter, American Harp Society

Mighty Mike McGee, poet representing Poetry Center San Jose & Willow Glen. Readers

Liyuza Eisbach and friends exhibit. Visual artist.

Youth Shakespeare San Jose
Sample scene from March 2017 production; Macbeth 

Please mark your calendar, invite your family, friends, colleagues and display news of this ARTS PANORAMA on your networks.

Tickets (Wow! only $30) online at ...

Monday, January 16, 2017

NAMM 2017 is Here!

Hill Guitar is off to Anaheim!

We have been going to NAMM for many years, but each year brings a different experience, and we are excited to see what 2017 has in store!  
We will have a variety of Hill Signature's, Performance's and our New World Guitars for you to play.
Kenny, Owen and Maggie will be at the booth so please come by and try out some guitars, there's no better time than NAMM time!
We are located at our usual booth: Hall E Booth #1516

Friday, January 13, 2017

Xuefei Yang Concert in Carmel!

Come see Xuefei Yang Live in breathtaking Carmel Valley, CA!
About Xuefei
As a professional musician, Fei has performed concerts in 40 countries throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and North America. 
The demand for her music sees Fei keeping a busy international schedule including London's major venues (with several sell-out recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall), and concerts at the world’s most prestigious venues including Philharmonie Berlin, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Konzerthaus Vienna, Laeiszhalle Hamburg, National Auditorium Madrid, Dvorak Hall Prague, Carnegie Hall & Lincoln Center New York, plus the main venues across Asia.  Fei gave both the first solo guitar, and first guitar concerto, recitals ever in Beijing's National Centre of Performing Arts.
In 2003 she performed 54 concerts for the “Night of the Proms” Tour, appearing in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, to a total audience of over 800,000 people. 
Fei is regularly invited to perform concertos with leading orchestras. This season sees Fei performing with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Barcelona Symphony, the Hallé Orchestra, China National Philharmonic and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to her solo career, Fei regularly appears in collaborations with other musicians. This season sees her performing chamber music with the Elias String Quartet, giving duo recitals with cellist Jian Wang, collaborating with tenor Ian Bostridge in a recital at London's Wigmore Hall, and with flautist Sir James Galway at the Beijing Music Festival.

Concert Info
When: April 7th, 2017
Time: 7:30, Doors open at 7:00pm
Where: Hidden Valley Music Center, Carmel, CA
Tickets are $30 General Admission
$25 for CGS Members and Student with ID
Please call Ron Friedman at (831) 375-2486 for tickets
Remaining tickets will be sold at door