After years of patience and planning, the inaugural Victoria Guitar Show is ready to make some noise about the Canadian craftspeople who build, repair and modify guitars.
The event’s organizers – a pair of Vancouver Island luthiers – want the show to highlight the talent the region has to offer and foster more community in the industry.
“Many don’t even know that there are these skilled people right in their backyard,” said Trevor Woodland, one of the show’s organizers and the founder of custom electric guitar company Vigilant Guitars. “We are planning an intimate show with high-quality exhibitors that include local legends as well as talent from other parts of the country.”
Woodland began learning bass in middle school but soon became more interested in guitar construction from watching his bass teacher do repairs.
Woodland is collaborating on the event with celebrated acoustic guitar builder Reuben Forsland, owner of JOI Guitars.
His pieces have been sought out by professional musicians like Slash from Guns & Roses, featured in Smithsonian magazine, and shown at Vancouver International Airport as well as at museums and galleries across North America, including Victoria’s own Bateman gallery.
The two started talking about doing a show back in 2019, unaware that a global pandemic would soon throw all public events and the entire music industry into uncertainty. Woodland, a trained historian who left his career working at Craigdarroch Castle to build guitars full time, has had to draw on his experience coordinating events for the heritage site. After many starts and stops, the two are ready to host the inaugural show.
“The show is for anyone interested in seeing what level of handcrafted instrument building that Canadian luthiers are doing, and gives everyone an opportunity to see, play and purchase their pieces,” said Forsland.
Forsland and Woodland stated that guitar industry saw growth across both electric and acoustic sales during the pandemic, with customers choosing to spend disposable income on musical instruments to help combat the mental doldrums during the height of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The hardest part about the pandemic was navigating supply chains,” said Woodland. “They all went down so it was hard to get parts to keep up with the orders.”
Forsland hopes the show will reveal the immense independent talent Canada has to offer and how a locally made guitar is more accessible than one might think.
“The idea is to let people know that we are here,” he said. “There are more options than a factory-built guitar and there is that next level of care and attention and detail that can be offered at different price points.”
Woodland added that buyers can score a unique instrument crafted just for them – a massive advantage for musicians searching for one-of-a-kind sounds or aesthetics.
Attendees can see classic work from accomplished guitar and mandolin builder Lawrence Nyberg or minimalist FirCaster electrics made by Warren Murfitt from single pieces of reclaimed Douglas Fir. Those with a taste for something non-traditional can check out the Art Deco and Cubist styles of Michael Dunn’s Gypsy guitars up close.
The show will include builders who have been honing their skills for decades, like Al Hosokawa. The owner of Hoss Guitars has been creating acoustic pieces for 50 years – parlors, jumbos, flamencos and more.
The show is also attracting craftsmen from well beyond Vancouver Island, like Michael Kennedy who co-founded The Mile End Guitar Coop in Montreal.
These builders are a sample of more than 20 that will have their work for sale and be available to discuss custom pieces at the show.
Woodland noted that the show is an opportunity for the public to see talented Canadian builders who are keeping a centuries-old trade alive and competing internationally in the instrument manufacturing sector.
Many luthiers are on the cutting edge of building technology, utilizing new tools like CNC routers and 3D printers, and new materials like Richlite synthetic ebony, low VOC lacquers and HempWood.
“We have to keep our finger on the pulse of new materials and techniques to stay competitive,” said Woodland, who added that this makes the show a great opportunity for the public to discuss future industry trends.
The free show will take place April 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Victoria Conference Centre’s pre-function area. Attendees can chat with builders, try out gear and even enter to win a Telecaster-style guitar built from wood harvested in the Capital Regional District. Woodland hopes to grow the show into an annual, multi-day event with clinics, seminars and larger performances.
Event details and a full list of exhibitors can be found at www.victoriaguitarshow.com.