Unless you’re a history buff, you probably rarely think about the origins of your instrument or its evolution throughout history. But the National Guitar Museum’s “Medieval To Metal: The Art & Evolution Of The GUITAR” exhibition traveling to various art museums throughout the U.S. will change your mind.
As the first museum solely dedicated to the guitar’s art, history, evolution, and cultural impact, the National Guitar Museum (NGM) preserves, presents, and promotes the guitar through its touring exhibitions developed by esteemed and experienced guitarists, designers, and production staff.
Earlier this year, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, Mississippi, hosted the “Medieval To Metal: The Art & Evolution Of The GUITAR” exhibition. Around 40 stringed instruments of gourd and finely crafted wood construction and intricate artisanship intrigued viewers, and the instrument’s illuminating history educated them. The extensive guitar collection included the Oud (origin 3000 BC), the telecaster (by Fender Musical Instruments, 1949), the CraViola (by Giannini, 1969), and the Apollo Greenburst (by Teisco/Kimberly, 1969). There was also a six-foot-long Renaissance theorbo, the resonator guitar, and the Slovak American Dopyera Brothers metal guitar, the debro. Slovakian immigrants John and Rudy Dopyera came to America in the early 1900s and became the creative, innovative force behind the National Dobro Company. Dobro derives from the “Dopyera” name and the Slovakian word “dobre,” which means good. Supplementing the exhibits were photographs of guitar legends by concert photographer Neil Zlozower and illustrations by renowned designer Gerard Huerta.
David Bryan, Associate Professor of Music at William Carey College in Hattiesburg, presented the noon Art Talk presentation on the various histories of the guitar and then demonstrated the music of the relative era on his classical guitar.
Bryan was around 11 when he picked up the small guitar in his home after being somewhat discouraged by piano lessons. Between these two instruments was the trumpet, but his daily practice had his mother heartily encouraging him to “move on to another instrument …please.” Like most guitarists, he started as a self-taught musician and had no interest in being a professional guitarist. When he chose a college, his plan was a music recording and production degree. But the classical guitar changed his perspective and his goals in music.
“When I started looking at schools, I found a music and media degree, and I said this is perfect,” Bryan explained. He chose the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and they told him he needed an instrument when he arrived. “I wasn’t really trained on any instrument, but I said I guess I’ll do guitar. Within my first semester, I completely fell in love with classical guitar. I dropped the media part thinking I don’t know what to do with this degree, but this is a new world.” Since then, the guitar has been in every aspect of David Bryan’s life.
The NGM gets that. In the late 1500s, the Spanish brought the first guitars to America. Today, guitar sales in America outnumber all the other instruments–combined, with over 3 million guitars sold yearly! Its evolution is critical to American history and culture.
“If someone goes to college for violin, they’ve probably been playing since they were five, and someone has been training them. It is rare for a guitar player to come with any training.” They usually start from scratch but develop an ear for a different musical language from the rigorous classical study. “It’s actually beneficial,” he said. “When you are a baby, we do not make you read and write before you can talk. You learn the language. If you heard it, you repeated it.”
Bryan believes the guitar is the most unique instrument because there are so many different versions, “but the strumming and picking are all so similar in technique. Our guitar in America was mostly used to accompany the melody, not play the melody.” However, he added, “the classical guitar technique applies to every genre. Classical music may not be your thing but spend some time, focus on technique, and use that for the rest of your life. No matter where I go to play classical guitar, people come up and say I’ve never heard guitar like that.”
Thus far, over 50 art museums, history museums, cultural venues, and science centers in America have hosted traveling exhibitions, which include America at the Crossroads: The Guitar and a Changing Nation; Shape Shifting: The Guitar as a Modern Artifact; and Medieval To Metal: The Art & Evolution Of The GUITAR. The Medieval To Metal traveling collection is at The Powerhouse Museum in Durango, Colorado, through September 3, 2022.
Medieval To Metal SCHEDULE
The Midland Libraries / Midland, TX: September 16, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Juliet Art Museum / Charleston, WV: February 18 – May 28, 2023
The Loveland Museum / Loveland, CO: June 24 – September 17, 2023
THERE ARE STILL AVAILABLE SPOTS FOR FALL 2023
For information on the other NGM traveling exhibits, visit: Visit here: https://powsci.org/