Guilford professor founds first guitar orchestra

Across the globe there are numerous musical groups. In the United States there are renowned orchestras such as the United States Choir and the United States Band Orchestra. However, in the summer of 2019, nearing the end of June, the United States Guitar Orchestra (USGO) made its debut as the first of its kind to reach a national scale.

The USGO is a collection of 42 guitarists who were given the chance to perform their music at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The USGO would later get the chance to go outside of the country and perform for four venues in France.

A good handful of students who attend Guilford were able to be a part of this illustrious orchestra. These students were not only a part of the first United States guitar orchestra, but the first global guitar orchestra.

“It was a great experience … opened my eyes to professional music,” said Tucker Gamble, section leader and member of USGO.

Another member of USGO, Emmett Edwards, feels similarly.

“I feel privileged,” Edwards said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to get to do something like this at my age. To get to do something like this is really such a great opportunity.” 

When talking to Kami Rowan, Guilford music professor and co-founder of USGO, about how she and Ethan Lodics, Guilford alum and co-founder, came to such an organization, she said that she wanted to help other musicians and see them grow. Kami Rowan is a person who likes to foresee a goal in her projects, something concrete. 

  Rowan also discussed how she got this project up and running with the help of Guilford College.

“I think ever since I’ve been at Guilford, it’s been yes,” Rowan said. “In which I mean, they’ve always supported me and been able to get me resources.”

  Rowan and Lodics are both very big influencers at Guilford College. This will be Rowan’s twenty-fifth year as a part and full time professor collectively. Both have played major roles in the music department and have increasingly helped the program to become what it is today.

  Edwards spoke on how Rowan has helped shape them as a musician.

“In my whole musical experiment, Kami’s probably the most influential person I’ve encountered so far,” Edwards said. “Kami’s great, kind and amazing. Kami’s the best.”

Gamble added to this positive praise. 

“She helped synthesize the material,” Gamble said. “Even if it was difficult and intensive, we had a lot of prep time.” 

These people were able to put together something phenomenal. This was a first of its kind, and it all started here at Guilford. Rowan and Lodics both shared their experiences here at Guilford and brought something bigger to the table. 

Rowan expressed that she wants to help those that she teaches and make a difference in their lives as musicians. 

“My students, that’s the best thing I got out of it,” Rowan said. “It’s that my students got to be a part of it. That’s what pleases me. At the end of the day, I have tons of students who will have this experience with them for the rest of their lives.” 

The USGO is planning on continuing their performances in the summer of 2021. They have planned to continue in European countries such as Austria and Germany, not to mention the possibility of performing in Japan in 2022. Needless to say, the future’s looking bright for the United States Guitar Orchestra.


Editor’s note: This story was originally published in Volume 106, Issue 1 of The Guilfordian on Oct. 4, 2019.