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The Classic Guitars International ‘Play it Forward’ Program

For those of us who love guitars, there are few things better in life than sitting down quietly to play your guitar, enjoy the music, and just ‘be’. Those of us who own guitars are fortunate. Others are not as fortunate, and while they may long to own a guitar, circumstances often beyond their control, have left them unable to obtain one. The “Play it Forward” program was designed to provide a conduit from my wonderful and caring clients to individuals and organization who could benefit from the gift of a guitar. Clients donate guitars, and I do my best to find the perfect home for them. The program was started in 2009 and has gifted guitars to under funded music schools and individuals around the globe. The only requirement of any recipient of a “Play it Forward” guitar, is that they never sell it, but instead, also Play it Forward by gifting the guitar to another worthy musician in need of a guitar.

“If you have a quality guitar that you think you might wish to donate for this program please drop me an email and let me know. If you feel that you deserve to be the recipient of one of these donated guitars, please drop me an email and let me know your story! To those of you who have already donated guitars for this purpose, my heartfelt ‘thanks’ for sharing the music.”  – Chris Kamen

Play it forward at it’s best! Kyaw in Myanmar/Burma was the recipient of a well deserved and fine Pedro De Miguel concert classical guitar donated by one of my wonderful clients. This had a domino effect as Kyaw then donated his former student guitar to another local player in need! I love that! Special thanks for the German charity “Bread for the World” which helped facilitate the delivery of this gift guitar and congratulations to Kyaw!!
Classic Guitars International donates 3 guitars to the Burma Music School. Thanks to the generosity of one of my clients I was able to arrange for donation of a fine Dake Traphagen Anniversary model concert classical guitar to a promising student of at the Burma Guitar School. In addition I donated two Alhambra guitars to the students of the school as a direct gift from Classic Guitars International. The average monthly salary in Burma is about $50 a month, putting guitars like this out of reach of most players, so it was a pleasure to provide these instruments and to support the love of guitar in Burma!
Vasilije, a serious student in Montenegro, contacted Jim Redgate to inquire if there was any possibility of obtaining a heavily discounted guitar because his finances could not support a newer one. Jim forwarded the request to me, and some friends of mine in Europe did some research on Vasilije to confirm his situation and serious studies. The reports came back positive. As a complete coincidence, one of my super generous clients contacted me almost at the same time offering to donate his near new Jim Redgate Spruce double top!! Due to the generosity of my client, and Jim’s idea to forward Vasilije’s request to me, I was able to coordinate after several months of trying, the delivery of the guitar to Vasilije in Montenegro. We all received a delightful letter of thanks from not only Vasilije but his father as well, along with a promise that if he should ever part with the guitar he too would “Play it Forward”. Enjoy Vasilije, I know she will bring you many years of joy and growth on the stage and off…

Chris Kamen, left, presents Margarito “Victor” Saldana with a guitar Friday. The Play It Forward program provides guitars to musicians in need.

Thanks to the kindness of one of my clients, Victor, a struggling musician with bi-polar disorder and who has struggled living on the streets for many years, was finally able to realize his dream of owning a guitar through the Play it Forward program. I am confident that music will help Victor in his life and I hope that this guitar is the springboard to a brighter future for him. Click here to read the kind article in the Santa Barbara News Press.

Yi He, David Tanenbaum, Marc Teicholz, Lawrence Ferrara, and Sergio Assad of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, accept a fine 80’s “Play it Forward” Smallman donated for use in the conservatory ‘guitar library’.
Scott is a lover of guitar, and a disabled vet, his disabilities and medical conditions, including the loss of a leg, have made life a challenging path for him but he is optimistic! He contacted me asking about the play it forward program. After hearing about his complex situation I immediately wanted to help him and offered him a guitar I thought I had in inventory. He was super excited. Only later did I discover to our mutual dismay, that I made a mistake and the guitar had already been sold. Scott was disappointed but patient and a few months later a very nice client of mine donated this very nice guitar which I was pleased to pass on to Scott. The former owner just happened to be a dentist, and in a true act of kindness, also discovered that Scott lived not far away and offered to help him with his dental work for free as well. A great and happy ending, many thanks to Dr. J, you know who you are, and congratulations to Scott, enjoy your guitar (and your dental work) !!
Dennis was recommended to me by his guitar teacher. He is a passionate student of Flamenco guitar, but circumstances were such that he needed to move in with his Grandmother to help her, and financially a guitar of his own was simply impossible. Thanks to a wonderful client of mine who donated this nice Flamenco Blanca, I was able to give Dennis a free “Play it Forward” guitar. Dennis was very thankful to his instructor for referring him to me, and I know he will really advance in his studies now that he is not trying to play Flamenco on an old steel string anymore! Congratulations Dennis.


Chia visits my shop to accept his free ‘Play it Forward” ten string guitar, congratulations Chia!

Orla was once voted the “the most talented young musician” in Ireland. Now living in the USA, she recently lost her father and decided to move to California to start a new life. As you can imagine, finances were tight and though she is a talented player, she was unable to find the extra cash to buy a guitar and continue her playing. I was able to give her a great guitar donated by a wonderful client, so that Orla will once again be able to play guitar. Orla has already composed several new songs with her “Play it Forward” guitar!

Jennifer with her free “Play it Forward” guitar. Jennifer wrote to me and shared that some serious medical difficulties had left her basically home bound, and her singular joy in life was to play music. Unfortunately her Pharmacy expenses were so high a decent guitar was out of the question, and I was very glad that I was able to provide her with this free guitar, I hope her time alone at home is much happier in the future….

Evan is a talented young player in Canada, who quickly outgrew his beginner guitar. Evan’s father contacted me and shared that the family finances just could not support buying Evan a guitar that he could grow with as he improved. I was able to provide a fine older Manuel Rodriguez “Play it Forward” guitar to Evan, and his dad says his playing is already more inspired!


Camille is a multi talented young woman who sings in stage productions, is learning jazz piano, and is learning folk guitar on a steel string all at the same time! Recently she fell in love with Classical Guitar, and since she already understands and reads music she decided to pursue learning to play classical guitar as well. As luck would have it one of my local clients donated this nice spruce guitar made in the Candelas workshop in the ’80’s, and it seemed like it would be nice to have the instrument being used and enjoyed here locally as well right in Santa Barbara. Enjoy Camille!

Gloria is nearly 12 years old and has fallen in love with the classical guitar but was playing an inexpensive ‘toy’ guitar because she did not have the funds for anything better at this time. I heard about her from her father. I was able to provide Gloria with a free ‘play it forward’ guitar from my inventory and I know that she will study hard and practice for hours with her new guitar. Her father promised that when the day comes that she deserves a concert level instrument, that Gloria will ‘play it forward’ by gifting her guitar to another young aspiring player like herself. Enjoy Gloria….