On a recent Saturday, 10 students ages 8-18 gathered, along with some enthusiastic parents and grandparents, to enjoy Music Compound’s Cigar Box Guitar Workshop, led by blues guitarist, educator and blues ambassador Steve Arvey. The workshop took place at Music Compound’s Cattlemen location.
Reclaimed woods and recycled materials were used to build the handcrafted cigar box guitars; the workshop included all materials, a history lesson, and a jam session. The event was completely free, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Suncoast Blues Society.
A cigar box guitar is made with a small, wooden cigar box – which serves as the resonator – and can be three- or four-stringed. The instrument was foundational for blues music as early Black artists could create instruments inexpensively; early bands often included the washtub bass, jug (played by blowing into them), washboard and harmonica. The cigar box guitar can be traced back to the mid-1800s.
“We were so excited to host this workshop and enable kids and their parents or grandparents to create memories that will last a lifetime,” said Jenny Townsend, owner of Music Compound. “Cigar box guitars have a rich history and it was so much fun watching the participants learn about, build and play them! Many thanks to the Suncoast Blues Society for sponsoring and partnering with us for this event.”
Workshop facilitator Steve Arvey began his career playing the Chicago blues circuit during the 1970s. During that period, he shared the stage with many of the legendary blues masters from the Windy City. Now living in Florida, Arvey is a fixture at major festivals and nightclubs throughout the South, Europe and the Caribbean. Arvey is well-known for his skill on the cigar box guitar and is considered one of the top players in the world today.
On August 7, Arvey plans to host another workshop at Music Compound but this offering will be open to all ages. Cost will be $149 per kit; includes two-hour workshop, materials, jam session, and a one-of-a-kind experience. For more information, contact Music Compound at 941-379-9100.