Since its founding in 1902 by musician/entrepreneur Orville Gibson, the Gibson Guitar Corporation has been recognized around the world as a leading manufacturer of top quality string instruments and musical accessories. In recent years, Gibson has concentrated on its mission of corporate social responsibility by creating and sponsoring a number of charitable organizations throughout the country. Toward that end, the Gibson Foundation was founded in 2002. Its mission statement is to make the world a better place by creating and supporting non-profit groups that specialize in advancing education, music and the arts, in addition to community welfare and health issues.
Among Gibson’s most notable charitable efforts has been the co-creation of Music Rising, a charity that is responsible for replacing tens of thousands of musical instruments that were damaged and lost during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Co-founded in November 2005 by U2’s The Edge, music producer Bob Ezrin and Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitars, Music Rising has enabled thousands of musicians to resume careers that came to a halt with the onset of Katrina.
In April, 2006, when the landmark Preservation Jazz Hall performing arts venue reopened in New Orleans, its instruments were all replaced thanks to the contributions and donations raised by Music Rising. Additionally, the group also replaced the historic Baldwin piano belonging to legendary musician Fats Domino, which was destroyed when he lost his house to the destructive hurricane.
In its most recent initiatives, Music Rising has replaced instruments of thousands of musicians and music students living along the Gulf Coast. In 2008, the organization also covered the expenses so that the Mardi Gras Indians, a costumed performance group, could march at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Since its founding, a number of prominent musicians have contributed both time and money to the group, including Willie Nelson, Arlo Guthrie, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
Today, Music Rising is in Phase Three of its funding efforts, which includes ongoing funding efforts for musical and cultural events and organizations throughout New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. At present, Music Rising has replaced tens of thousands of instruments in schools and churches, and has replaced more than 3,000 instruments for individual musicians in the region.
Gibson’s popular GuitarTown Project is a public arts display featuring guitar art sculptured by well-known artists. Created in 2004 in Gibson’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, GuitarTown Project showcases a collection of 10-foot tall fiberglass guitars that replicate famous Gibson Les Paul or Chet Atkins models. Each work is installed in a high-traffic area near a Nashville landmark or prominent business.
Most of the sculptures in the GuitarTown Project are partnered by a country music star and financially backed by a corporate sponsorship. By bringing together the music, art and business communities in Nashville, Gibson has been able to raise large amounts of money for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the United Way of Nashville and the DISTRICT, a group dedicated to revitalizing and maintaining the historic districts of Nashville.
As part of its mission, GuitarTown is slated for expansion to other cities over the coming years. After the success of its first GuitarTown in Nashville, Gibson chose Waukesha, Wisconsin for its next GuitarTown installation. Waukesha is famous among Gibson aficionados as the birthplace and resting place of legendary guitarist Les Paul, and the Waukesha GuitarTown project showcased a series of 10-foot fiberglass Les Paul guitars. These were created by local Wisconsin artists and installed near prominent city businesses and landmarks.
In early 2012, Gibson opened another GuitarTown in the famed Los Angeles Sunset Strip area. As with every other GuitarTown project, each guitar sculpture celebrates a local musician or artist, and each is sponsored by local businesses and patrons of the arts.
Partnered by Gibson and created by famed British artist Tim Wakefield, Soundwaves is an art project that involves capturing the graphic sound imaging of iconic, popular songs, digitally forming and colouring them and then transferring each song individually to a huge canvas. This canvas is signed by Wakefield as well as the artist who performed or wrote the song, and the piece is auctioned off to benefit a number of Gibson Foundation charities.
So far, musicians involved with the project have included Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Gregg Allman, Eric Clapton, Jay Z, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Rod Stewart, Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam and Tina Turner.
In addition to its ongoing foundation initiatives, Gibson also supports other organizations, including Notes for Notes, a musical outreach program located in Nashville, and regularly contributes to major charitable auctions around the country.
Throughout its long life, the Gibson Guitar Company has established itself as the maker of some of the world’s finest guitars, mandolins and other stringed instruments. Today, Gibson continues to distinguish itself not only as a top maker of quality instruments, but also as a major supporter of a large number of charitable organizations. Thanks to the ongoing work of the Gibson Foundation, Gibson will continue to stand out not only as a maker of top-quality instruments, but also as a proponent of charity and goodwill.
Joseph Sedillo is a guitarist and songwriter. He enjoys blogging about many music-related topics, especially ones related to guitars. If you’re looking to purchase a guitar, consider a Gibson Guitar from Music Junkie.