From Film Festival to Guitar Festival, Two Events to Keep on Your Radar
Santa Cruz is home to more than twenty of the world's most admired luthiers, or makers of stringed instruments. That fun fact comes to us via Jayme Kelly Curtis, a local musician who is bringing the first ever Art of Guitar Exhibit and Festival to Santa Cruz in February 2014. Up first, though, is the Santa Cruz Film Festival where Curtis will participate in the screening of Musicwood, a film she helped bring to this year's lineup.
Musicwood, according to the film's official website, is "an adventure-filled journey, a political thriller with music at its heart." It follows luthiers from three famous guitar companies--Gibson, Martin and Taylor-- as they travel to the nation's largest national forest to help save a soon to be endangered species-- the acoustic guitar. Negotiations ensue among the luthiers, Greenpeace and the Native American logging company, Sealaska, to slow the clear-cutting of Sitka spruce trees, which provide the high quality timber of choice for the world's top guitar manufactures. The film also includes musical performances and interviews by Kaki King, Steve Earle, The Antlers and Yo La Tengo.
Musicwood explores the relationship between music and wood, much like Curtis aims to do at the Art of Guitar Exhibit and Festival. "When you see someone on stage with their guitar, you hear how beautiful it is, but you're missing about fifty percent of the visual details and artistic decisions that went into building that instrument," says Curtis. "My idea is to bring the beauty of these instruments, the little exquisite details that people can't see when they're on a stage, into a more intimate space, in more of a gallery exhibit, so you can get up close and look at it."
Photo by Paul Schraub
Curtis picked up a guitar at age fourteen and never looked back. At fifteen, she received lessons from guitar virtuoso Rolly Brown, a student of the legendary Reverend Gary Davis. While a career in Silicon Valley brought her to California, Santa Cruz had always called to Curtis and her passion for music fit right in. As a local singer and songwriter living and playing in Santa Cruz for over two decades, Curtis was surprised to learn of the incredible number of luthiers making a living here. "I thought I knew everybody because I'm deeply involved in the music scene, but about four years ago, I became aware that there were way more people that were building high-end guitars here than I had dreamed of."
As Curtis continued to explore the idea of a guitar making festival, she came up with a list of criteria for luthiers who would participate in the exhibit. First, artists had to live and work in Santa Cruz County and be employed full time in guitar design, building and/or repair. Curtis then narrowed down the field to twenty luthiers who have achieved recognition through industry trade publications or endorsements from well-known musicians. Their work will be on display throughout the six-week festival that will also feature lectures, films, guided studio tours, concerts and other guitar-related events.
by Tony Graziano, one of twenty luthiers to be featured in the Santa Cruz County Art of Guitar Exhibit and Festival.
While the Art of Guitar Exhibit and Festival is sure to draw crowds of guitar aficionados, music and art lovers, Curtis deflects the spotlight on her role. "I'm not actually bringing an event to Santa Cruz. What I'm doing is revealing a cultural resource. My mission is to shine a light on the amazing number of high-end guitar builders that live and work in Santa Cruz, and who have achieved renowned status in the field."
On Saturday, November 9, Curtis will introduce the screening of Musicwood at the Rio Theatre, as well as moderate a panel discussion with local luthiers after the film.
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