Our Foundation Story
In September of 2012, The Harris Guitar Foundation was granted its 501 (c) (3) non-profit status as a public charity in support of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. A second foundation was selected for support by HGF, The Omni Foundation of Performing Arts, presenters of concerts in the Bay Area featuring the world’s best guitarists.
The idea of a charitable foundation displaying and using a collection of rare instruments for educational purposes emerged over the last decade. During this period, a series of public events featuring the Harris Guitar Collection—Guitarrada I-VII—was held at the Conservatory, all of them featuring legendary guitarist Pepe Romero and luthier/scholar Richard Bruné playing and talking about the featured instruments along with SFCM faculty and students.
The relationship between HGF founder, L. John Harris, and the Romero guitar clan began with the Emmy-nominated PBS film, “Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar,” co-directed by Harris and filmmaker Bill Chayes, and co-produced with San Diego’s KPBS. The film was premiered in 2001. Several scenes in the film feature the Romero family ritual, the guitarrada, where Romeros and their guests play, talk about and even trade guitars, a kind of guitar free-for-all at the family’s Del Mar, California home.
Using the guitarrada format as his model, Harris proposed to David Tanenbaum, Chair of the SFCM guitar department, a public guitarrada to be held at SFCM to showcase the growing Harris Guitar Collection and its function as an educational tool for the department. With approval of the Romero family and the participation of Richard Brune, the event was launched to an enthusiastic audience from the SFCM community and the general public.
Little by little, guitarrada by guitarrada, The Harris Guitar Collection became a de facto part of the SFCM’s guitar program. It soon became apparent to Harris, Tanenbaum and the Conservatory administration and Trustees that a foundation built around the Collection and supporting the Conservatory was a natural and important extension of this reality.