Guitar Heroes at the Metropolitan Museum


They made up an incredible musical trio—John D’Angelico, James D’Aquisto, and John Monteleone—but never won a Grammy. The guitars these luthiers created, however, found their way into the hands of the biggest names in the industry, including Chet Atkins, Les Paul, George Benson, Paul Simon, Steve Miller, Mark Knopfler, Jim Hall, and Grant Green, to name just a few. Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art brings together about 80 musical instruments from these craftsmen and others, while tracing the history of this art from its beginnings in Italian cities like Venice and Naples to New York.

In the 16th century, Italian luthiers, or the makers of stringed instruments, crafted violins, mandolins, and guitars for important people throughout Europe. In later centuries, Antonio Stradivari continued the tradition. A Stradivari guitar is included in the exhibit.

Around the turn of the 20th century, many of these talented luthiers moved to New York where they continued to create beautiful instruments and these were, once again, highly sought after by musicians.

John D’Angelico was known for building archtop guitars, an instrument that combined elements of violin construction (carved top, f-holes) with the guitar, based on the models being produced at the time by the Gibson Guitar Company. The archtop guitar was especially popular with jazz musicians in the days before the electric guitar. D’Angelico quickly built a reputation for his high-quality, beautifully constructed guitars. The tradition was carried forward by his apprentice James D’Aquisto, and continues today with the work of the famed mandolin and guitar maker John Monteleone.

These instruments are as beautiful to look at as they are to listen to. But for those who long to hear the music, the Met has created its first “app” with voices and music by Chet Atkins, George Benson, Grant Green, Bob Grillo, Jim Hall, Mary Kaye, Mark Knopfler, Woody Mann, Steve Miller, Jeffrey Mironov, Barry Mitterhoff, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Django Reinhardt. The app can be downloaded free from iTunes.

Two related concerts will be held in the Museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium: Steve Miller & Friends: Celebrating the Jazz Guitar (February 12), in which Steve Miller will be joined by two of the jazz world’s most renowned guitarists, Jim Hall and Howard Alden; and the John Pizzarelli Quartet (March 31), one of today’s foremost guitarists and his jazz ensemble. Tickets are available at, 212-570-3949, or the box office in the Museum’s Great Hall.

A variety of educational programs will also be offered in conjunction with the exhibition, including gallery talks by Jayson Kerr Dobney; gallery concerts including performances on guitar, mandolin, and other instruments; a Sunday at the Met afternoon of programs on April 10, including a panel discussion and musical performances; and family and teen programs.

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