By Chelsea Green
The classical guitar is a lone wolf instrument. Since most guitar students play solo music and therefore spend hours a day practicing by themselves, I found Peter Yates’ UCLA Guitar Ensemble class to be exciting and fulfilling. Resulting from our joys in this class, Philip Graulty, Marc Nimoy, and I joined forces to play guitar trios ranging from traditional tangos to avant-garde pieces. We would rehearse nightly in the practice rooms and afterwards, drive to Jack-in-the-Box for 2:00 a.m. snacks while creating songs to help us memorize the notes on the guitar’s fretboard.
Playing, conversing, and hanging out with fellow classical guitar enthusiasts proved to be so rewarding that besides playing trios together, I also instigated a monthly discussion group that met outside of class to share music and exchange ideas. We called ourselves the Los Angeles Modern Guitar Project (LAMGP) and brought in other guitarists from the Yates guitar family tree at Cal Poly Pomona and UCLA. Ben Harbert, Brandon Mayer, Felix Salazar, and others were part of this collective.
One day in Guitar Ensemble, Yates brought in a heavily modified electric guitar to experiment on a piece originally written for classical guitar — Theodore Norman’s Toccata. Little did I know, his two-minute experiment would have a profound impact on my classmates and me. Shortly thereafter, someone suggested that LAMGP perform an entire concert of classical music on electric guitars. Most of us had played, or were still playing, electric guitar in rock bands. I, myself, was curious to hear Bach with heavy distortion and feedback — a lá Jimi Hendrix.
In August 2004, LAMGP self-produced a concert entitled Classical Music Works on Electric Guitar. While the concert was well-received by our family and friends, LAMGP eventually faded away as many of us became busy preparing for individual recitals and graduation. After we left school a year later, our friendships drifted as well.
Flash-forward to November 2006. James Tenney, an innovative Los Angeles-based composer, had recently passed away and Philip, Ben, Felix, and I were asked to play at his memorial concert. I was thrilled to learn that Tenney’s piece was written for six electric guitars since almost all the music we had played on electric guitars up to that point was written either for classical guitar, piano, or some other instrumentation.
As Philip and Ben carpooled to rehearsals for Tenney’s concert, they mused over forming an electric guitar group. Since Ben wanted to perform his friend Nathaniel Braddock’s piece — written for six electric guitars plus two electric bass guitars — the idea for a guitar octet was born. This piece, entitled Ill-Tempered Lancaran, proved our first foray into Indonesian inspired music. Within months, Ben managed to organize weekly rehearsals and gather enough electric guitar music for our first concert. The original formation included Ben, Philip, Marc, Brandon, Felix, and myself along with JohnPaul Trotter and Bryce Wilson. Together, we became Los Angeles Electric 8.
- Nicholas Deyoe (2013-2019)
- Jeremy Kerner (2013-2018)
- Tom Frazer (2014)
- Brandon Schmidt (2013)
- Hugo Aguayo (2010-2013)
- Ken Rosser (2009, 2012-2013)
- Philip Graulty (co-founder 2007-2013 / Rejoined 2019)
- Tom Farrell (2009-2013)
- Kai Kurosawa (2010-2013)
Marc Nimoy (co-founder 2006-2013 / Rejoined 2017)
- Chelsea Green (co-founder 2007-2012)
- Alexander Sack (2008-2010)
- Ben Harbert (co-founder, director 2007-2010)
- Andy Nathan (2007-2009)
- Johnpaul Trotter (co-founder 2006-2009 / Rejoined 2010)
- Brandon Mayer (co-founder 2007-2008)
- Bryce Wilson (co-founder 2007-2007)