Providence Chapter Makes Music With Inaugural Award

January 4, 2010

The Providence Chapter of the Awesome Foundation for Arts and Sciences is psyched to announce that Otto D’Ambrosio of D’Ambrosio Guitars has received the chapter’s first award.

D’Ambrosio will take his $1,000 and complete a functional, four-foot replica of the renowned hollow body guitars the Rhode Island-based craftsman builds for musicians across the U.S. This time, the rare wood and antique finish D’Ambrosio uses on his one-of-a-kind instruments will be replaced with durable fiberglass, kid-inspired colors and simple electronics to create a giant, playable guitar for music-hungry kids across Providence.

D’Ambrosio will begin work to complete the guitar in January, with an eye towards debuting an initial installation of the mobile unit in early spring.

D’Ambrosio’s proposal was selected from more than two dozen applicants, many of who have been encouraged to re-apply in the coming months (the Providence chapter of the Awesome Foundation makes one $1,000 award each month).

“I’ve had the framework for the guitar kicking around my shop for more than a year–the mock up was initially used in a magazine shoot,” says D’Ambrosio. “The frame, an oversized replica of a guitar I built for a customer, was too bizarre to throw away after the shoot. I’ve had several ideas for how to put it to use in a way, but it never happened,” says D’Ambrosio.

The Awesome Foundation offered just the “kick in the pants” D’Ambrosio needed to dust off the frame and refine his vision for the giant guitar.

“The discovery of music can be a life-changing experience—an experience that many kids never know,” says D’Ambrosio.  “Performing music helps kids build confidence and patience. I think music is a natural and familiar way to introduce these important skills to kids.  My idea is to bring some fun into what a child thinks musical performance is. I hope that the finished guitar, as it moves around the city, will give kids a chance to fall in love with music and musical performance.”

Construction of the guitar will be durable but simple, made and decorated to inspire creative musical play. The structure will be wood and fiberglass and fitted with a battery to amplify both the guitar sound and a microphone built to encourage kids to speak or sing. D’Ambrosio will incorporate a digital sampling device that will also make repeating rhythms from kids recorded music and vocals.

For D’Ambrosio, this work is a departure from the typical work in the studio, which often demands painstaking attention to small details and nerve racking work with rare—and outrageously expensive—materials. D’Ambrosio, who’s been on his own since 1997, has created guitars played by musicians like Prince, John Mayer and The Edge.  Why would a craftsman who has studied with some of the best in the world—D’Ambrosio was only 13 when he took his first gig at the acclaimed Mandolin Brothers studio in New York City—take time out to build a giant guitar for kids?  Because he believes in the power of awesome.

“My experience making guitars tells me that this idea will work.  But it’s my experience as a father that makes me positive that the kids will really love it.  When my kids perform, I can literally see them growing as people.  Many kids are naturally drawn to music and performing. If we encourage it, even just a little, we can help them develop some pretty important life skills,” says D’Ambrosio.

“I build guitars every day.  I know that I am a lucky bastard. Being able to share a small piece of my work with the community would be, well, awesome.”