My first introduction to the guitar was a noisy one. My family had lots of friends who enjoyed playing music when they got together, even when the occasion was simply to enjoy each other’s company. Unlike the structured practice of sitting down to study music with an instrument, or the established roles of a band setting, these gatherings, often spontaneous, were an open invitation to pass guitars, a mandolin or a uke around and share a song, as if it were an offering to the treasured community within a living room or a back patio.
Those songs sang of memories, days gone by, and futures to look forward to. Within this musical microcosm, the guitar imprinted its inclusive charms on me. It was powerfully enchanting to an impressionable young kid.
A similar sense of community flowed from the open doors of the workshops I was privileged to walk into. Whether venturing into a garage arrayed as a cabinet shop, a shed converted to build boats and surfboards, or the local engine builder or welder’s shop, the word “workshop” for me came to describe highly individualized wonderlands of both practical and fanciful activity of all sorts. Through each open door was a dusty environment where people gathered and discussed methods, the work at hand, and the ghosts of projects past and future.
Through the clear lens of hindsight, it seems obvious why I would be drawn to blend these two communities into the environment of a guitar-building workshop, where an unlikely mix of industrial practicality and nuanced wood art give form to the evocative world of song.
Making New Musical Connections
Having created a life within these communities, the disruption forced by a pandemic seems particularly jarring. The solitary work in workshops can continue, but for musical gatherings to be abruptly terminated, however necessary such actions may be, leaves a palpable sense of loss. It feels like some mysterious vacuum has swallowed up the purpose that drives a guitar maker.
Yet as swiftly as direct communities are forced to separate, the creative spirit of musicians finds new channels to flow through. Throughout the world, musicians of every style and background have brought their art from concert stages back into their own living rooms and back patios, where it continues to be shared as an offering with a renewed sense of purpose. It seems fitting that the great tide of musical connection can’t even be constrained by physical distance. Just like an ocean’s tide, the interrupting blockade only serves to redirect the flow around the obstacle as it seeks new avenues to advance.
“We need the community of musicians more now than ever as we try to make sense of the world around us.”
Such is the narrative of music and musicians. Throughout history, music has been used to share our stories, hopes, dreams, sorrows and fears. We sing of reality and the way we wish it to be. As Gertrude Stein wrote, “The subject matter of art is life, life as it actually is; but the function of art is to make life better.”
We need the community of musicians more now than ever as we try to make sense of the world around us, just as we have throughout every age, war and pandemic that has come before. A glance into past eras reminds us that musicians have always managed to share through whatever forum or medium was available. We may not be able to gather together in person to listen, sing and play, but we can connect through the latest digital communication tools. While we eagerly look forward to times when we once again gather around a fire, a microphone or a stage in person, we can use these modern platforms to share our stories and songs, as these treasured gifts are the wind that fills our sail and emboldens us to press onward.
In fact, I’ve started to welcome (virtually) a new community into the little workshop behind my home via Instagram (@andytaylorpowers). This space is where I work through the ideas, designs and methods that eventually become the instruments that we as Taylor Guitars craft. While I see no replacement for the tangible experience of walking through the door into a craftsman’s creative workspace, hopefully some of the musings I share in my new “Andy’s Workshop” video series will provide a window into some of my creative thought processes.
During this unusual time, we at Taylor been harvesting the rush of inventive ideas that form in times of adversity. The shock of a disruptive event can offer a silver lining by stripping away established customs and preconceived ideas, allowing wide open space for fresh thought. I have no doubt the guitars we’ll make in the coming months will be among our greatest efforts ever as we focus on our purpose with renewed vigor. We’ll apply every bit of creative instrument-building knowledge and effort into crafting instruments that offer a broad and expansive voice to musicians everywhere, so they can share their much-needed songs with us all.
Master Guitar Designer