I never worked so hard to own another physical thing.

Eleven years old, and suddenly in love with rock music, I started mowing lawns with a vengeance. A week or two after my twelfth birthday, it was mine.

Even two months ago, it was a guitar that nobody else would choose. Dented and scratched, and completely lacking in pedigree, no collector would pick it. However, in all my years playing guitar, it was always the axe I always came back to. Over the years I tweaked it and customized and nearly destroyed it a number of times. Once I pulled all of the electronics out when I landed on the chord after a leap from the stage. The more that happened to it, the more I did to it, the more of a mutt it became, the more it sounded like me. Other, ostensibly better, guitars came into my hands over the years, and I enjoyed them all, but  this was my  guitar.

When I heard Aurora had pulled my cello and one of my guitars out of our office in the fire, I hoped and prayed this was the one, even though it’s the least valuable of the lot. It wasn’t. For a while it was completely missing, then I saw the case in one picture from inside the wreckage, but nobody knew where it ended up after that.

Today, I found it. The case is burned through in several places, and full of ash. It looks like it was lit on fire (which it was) then dropped in a river (did you know they poured EIGHT MILLION GALLONS of water on our office while it was on fire?). Inside, there it was, looking mean and mad. Completely caked in ask and soot, decorated with two new long cracks in the finish.

And still in tune.

The frets are a little rusty from the water damage, but the neck is straight, the electronics are fine, the body is sound.

When we lose things, we tell ourselves that things are only things, and that things don’t matter, people matter, but some things do have value. I feel like I just regrew a limb, even though I’ve hardly played guitar in ten years.

I’m off to buy some new strings and a case. Mahler can wait.

PS- You can hear the guitar in the solos on this song (recorded when I was 19, damn…. I think I was in a Carlos Santana (pre-90’s comeback) phase, can’t remember. Hang in there to the end, the last guitar solo makes the song, I think…. Very mid-Western sound…). Sean Flora, who sang lead and played bass, is now a top recording engineer in Portland, who’s most recent major credit is engineering the latest Shin’s album. He’s featured prominently in the current Mix magazine. Check it out. Well done, man.


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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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5 comments on “Indestructable”

  1. Jen

    Great story! My students and I have a little collection jar here in my studio, and whenever we get up to $25, we send it your way.

    Quote of the week? Scary…. now I’m sure I’ll never be a ringer for the OES! 🙂

  2. Anna

    I was pleased to hear your guitar made it through the fire and enjoyed hearing the song. Robin also has a love of the electric guitar, I don’t know if you saw a post january 31st 07, ‘force ten to be reckoned with.’ but you might enjoy it!

  3. Kenneth Woods

    Hi Anna

    Thanks for the comment. Would love to hear some of Robin’s playing, both electric and legit one of these days. On the one hand, “real” guitar players have an unfair advantage over people like me who never studied the instrument properly, but I was always so happy to have frets that I always thought of the guitar as very user friendly even though it wasn’t my first instrument. Could never play classical and deal with nails, though! Haven’t played acoustic professionally since I toured with New England ragtime Ensemble, which was also my only ever paid banjo gig. Now there’s an instrument!


  4. Anna

    Classical guitarist nails – the biggest source of stress in our lives!

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