Trees and Tones - Wooden Instrument Traditions: Guitars

Presentation | November 4 | 4-6:30 p.m. |  UC Botanical Garden

 Botanical Garden

Come learn about the global history of guitars and the many woods used to make them. We’ll be joined by local luthier John F. Mello, a classical guitar maker who will discuss how different woods impact the sounds and how the very same set of raw materials can be given different lives depending on the hand of the luthier. He’ll be partnered with classical guitarist Peter Zisa. Following this presentation we’ll turn to a folk tradition of Mexico, San Jarocho, where we’ll hear a lecture-demonstration from local musicians TARIMBA of the various instruments used, featuring the jarana, guitarra de son, and a rustic violin from Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz.

John F. Mello has built and restored guitars for the past 43 years in his shop in northern California. His goals have remained constant-to produce concert guitars with a broad tonal palette and wide dynamic range that both project well and respond sensitively to the mature player's varied touch. John was fortunate to have studied under a superb craftsman, Richard Schneider, from the beginning my instruments were well made and possessed to a great degree the characteristics he prizes. John has restored and examined some of the finest instruments ever made including guitars by Antonio de Torres, Santos Hernandez, Herman Hauser I, Ignacio Fleta, Marcelo Barbero, and C. F. Martin from every era. He's also reversed the ravages of accidents, inept repair, and time for thousands of guitars by most of the major historic and contemporary makers.

TARIMBA is composed of Kyla Danysh, and Dolores "Lolis" Garcia:
Kyla is a Berkeley native who has been playing violin for twenty-five years. She grew up studying classical and Klezmer music, and discovered her passion for improvisation through the exploration of Son Jarocho, Son Huasteco, boleros, "gypsy jazz", and Balkan music. She has since traveled to Veracruz a number of times to study, record and perform with her mentors, and is a member of the group Cascada de Flores based in the Bay Area. Kyla is a dedicated teacher, and devotes much of her time outside of playing violin to teaching literacy and music classes throughout the East Bay.

Dolores "Lolis" García is the Co-Director of the East Bay Center for the Performing Art's resident arts company, Son de la Tierra. Under the mentorship of Artemio Posadas, Lolis has been studying Mexican Son for over twenty years. She has mastered a number of string and percussion instruments in a variety of Son traditions including Huasteco, Jarocho, Tixtleco, and Mariachero. She has taught workshops and performed at festivals in Mexico and the U.S. Lolis teaches extensively with the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, and at many different schools in the East Bay.

Biocultural diversity can be defined as the inextricable link between biological diversity and cultural diversity. An area where this relationship is distinctively exemplified is in musical traditions from around the world. This fall, as a part of our “Year of Trees” programming, the UC Botanical Garden is hosting a four-part series that highlights the relationship between music and plants as seen in instrument making and musical traditions throughout the world. We start the series with a feature on African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) also known as Mpingo, the tree that is used in making oboes and clarinets. We then move into the stories of guitars (from classical and Mexican folk perspectives), Indian classical instruments, such as sitars and tamburas and their fascinating use of woods and gourds, and we end the series understanding the conservation concerns of Pernambuco or Pau-Brasil (Caesalpinia echinata) and its unique use in the making of violin and cello bows. This series will bring together luthiers, scholars, botanists and musicians to take part in an important discussion around raising awareness of plants in our daily lives.

 $40 / $35 UCBG Member / $20 student

  Register online or by calling 510-664-7606, or by emailing

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