festPhil_002This festival is based on the re-birth that the modern acoustic guitar has undergone in the last 15 years or so. Twenty years ago, a significant segment of the guitar industry began to make a fundamental shift from mass market electric guitars to a market for very finely built acoustic (and some electric) instruments that were of heirloom quality. Some people, like luthier Steve Klein, referred to these new instruments as “art that sings.” The level of the craftsmanship not only created an interest in a new style of acoustic music, but also revived an interest in recreating the works of old masters from the turn of century on. As interest in the acoustic guitar and its music grew, the market fueled an unprecedented degree of creativity as well.So, you had builders who were succeeding in capturing the secrets of the past, along with builders who were taking the guitar beyond that, to new styles, new structure, and new levels of craftsmanship.

Three other factors came into play. One was the internet, which allowed builders to communicate, cooperate and exchange ideas of construction with each other in ways that would have been unheard of in the past. Included in this was an increase in media targeted specifically at the acoustic guitar market. The second factor was the willingness of an unusual group of individuals to put aside competitive motivation and share every aspect of what they had learned about construction and modern techniques of lutherie. The third factor was the advent of the baby boomers’ interest in capturing the vintage guitars of their youth (and a little before), creating a respectability for an instrument which had previously been considered the instrument of the common man.

With this third factor came big money investors who were buying up guitars at amazingly high prices, and unfortunately, some of these investors were from outside the United States. A number of people felt that America was losing part of its heritage with every guitar that went into a private collection out of the country.

Along came a fellow named Scott Chinery. Scott had made his fortune in the vitamin industry, but his passion was for collecting and preserving the guitar for all of us. He went about purchasing some of the finest guitars in America’s history, and putting them in a collection which he intended to share with everyone. What made Scott unusual, however, was that he was also interested in promoting the new, modern masters who were building upon the traditions of fine American guitar making. To this end, he sponsored shows at the Smithsonian, such as Dangerous Curves, and the famous Blue Guitar Collection, wherein he commissioned a group of the world’s finest archtop guitar builders to each build a blue archtop guitar in the tradition of deceased luthier, Jimmy D’Aquisto.

Scott, with the help of a number of professionals in the vintage and modern guitar world, categorized guitars into the classicists and the modernists, and so was born the foundation of guitars as art. And indeed, with a grateful nod to Scott, who tragically died young in October of 2000, this festival takes guitars a step further and organizes modern guitars into schools—schools of construction technique, schools of style, and schools of influence. This show celebrates the re-birth of the modern guitar, as it also pays homage to the guitar’s past, present and future, all of which will be explained and demonstrated to everyone who attends the show, with the help of many of the very luthiers who have birthed the guitar into the 21st Century.

The Newport Guitar festival will have young luthiers dedicated to the craft, master guitar builders dedicated to the art, vintage dealers dedicated to the history, and a host of virtuoso musicians dedicated to the music of the guitar. For perhaps the first time in a festival, we will try to organize the guitar in way that is understandable in all its forms—as an instrument of music, as an instrument of art, as an instrument of history and as instrument of investment.
We invite everyone who is interested in the guitar to join us in this grand experiment. We guarantee you won’t be bored.