Sarzana is a town located near the coast of northwestern Italy. With a population of about 22,000, it is home of the 13th edition of the Acoustic Guitar Meeting. The gathering is a classy three-day festival that celebrates the acoustic guitar. Artists, luthiers, manufacturers and fans from all around the world come to Sarzana to immerse themselves in all things acoustic guitar. Among this year’s performers are Alex de Grassi, Peppino D’Agostino, Eileen Rose and Bermuda Acoustic Trio. Jackson Browne is here to accept the Strings & Voices for Dialogue & Civil Rights Award. The event is held on the grounds of the Fortezzo Firmafede. The Fortezzo is a daunting structure, and provides an elegant and regal setting for the event. There is something for everyone here. The schedule is full of concerts, seminars, workshops and jam sessions. Over the course of the weekend, 10,000 people will wander the courtyard, rooms and stairways of the fortress. Music is everywhere.
There is an exhibition hall, and that’s where I will be working. This is the first time Taylor Guitars has attended the AGM. My mate Dan Boreham has returned to England, so I’ll be working the event with our Bologna dealer, Tomesonne. Andrea has come to Sarzana with a car full of Taylors to display, and as we set up he introduces me to Davide Tomesonne. A longtime supporter of Taylor Guitars, Tomesonne was one of the first European retailers to believe in and adopt the brand. His family has a deep history in the guitar business. Davide’s father Sergio has been building guitars for years and is a highly respected luthier. Davide’s pace is quick. He talks, walks, thinks and acts quickly. “I sold three of the first five Taylor guitars ever sold in Italy,” he proudly tells me.
Davide has brought Francesco Lesi to Sarzana to act as my interpreter. Francesco lives in Bologna. I was a bit apprehensive about working the AGM, as it requires direct one-on-one communication, and there is so much to talk about. Upon meeting Francesco, my worries immediately reside. He is a great guitar player and has worked as a demo guy at Italian music trade shows in the past. He lived and studied guitar in L.A. for a year, and his English is very good. We hit it off right away, taking about our favorite bands, musicians and recordings. (The universal language strikes again!) We have a couple of quick huddles to go over our booth strategy. I explain our body shapes, tonewoods, the NT® neck and Expression System®. There are copies of our Wood&Steel magazine in our booth, and as we page through an issue, I try to point out things that he will need to know. He listens and asks good questions. “Thanks, man. I think I got it, bro. Do they still say ‘bro’ in Cali…dewwd?” he cracks. He says the thing he misses most about California is In & Out Burger. “Love those cheese doubles, bro…but I got fat from those!”
Over the course of the weekend, Francesco, Davide and I meet and greet hundreds of guitar aficionados. Some are already Taylor fans. Some have never seen a Taylor guitar. We have a “silent salesman” on display. It’s a GS body with the back removed. The festivarians are very excited to be able to see the inside of one of our guitars. They ask tons of questions about the bracing patterns, ES pickup and the NT neck. We also have a couple episodes of the Taylor “Factory Fridays” video series running on a flat screen so everyone can catch a glimpse of our factory in operation. One fellow grabbed a chair and set it down right in front of the screen. After he had been watching for a while I sat down and tried to have a chat. He was a luthier, and he wanted to show me one of his guitars. He brought over a beautiful small-body Brazilian rosewood guitar. It was killer!
“Esss no perfecto,” he manages. “I make dem in my keetchen, and I repair boats.” He tells me that he makes about 10 guitars a year and almost falls out of his chair when I reply that we might build around 70,000 guitars in 2010. “You make eet look eeasy,” he says as he watches one of our workers bind a guitar. “Ees not that a eeasy! I know dis!”
On the final day of the festival, as Davide and I pack up our booths, I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to come here. I have met so many sweet people, seen many beautiful places, and tasted amazing flavors. I have made new friends. It doesn’t matter where in the world you go; music is one of those things that we all share in common. Music doesn’t care about the language you speak, the color of your skin, or your religious/political views. It connects us all and asks nothing in return. I’m lucky to be so involved with the universal language.