The Electric Guitar Symposium

Wichita holds the distinction of being the first to feature the electric guitar to the world’s stage, thanks to the initiative of local guitarist Gage Brewer. His relationship with the electric guitar’s inventors in Los Angeles afforded him the opportunity to bring the first examples to Wichita. Already a popular performer, Brewer’s introduction of the new instruments in October of 1932 caused a sensation, and soon Wichita was establishing some of the earliest studios and guitar stores in the nation. The exhibit, “The Electric Guitar: Wichita’s Instrument!” celebrates our supporting role in what has become the world’s most popular instrument.

Symposium Presenters

What is the origin of electric guitar? The question has resulted in so many confusing and conflicting theories that a reasonable answer has been elusive. These presenters of international significance and authority will explode myths, eliminate confusion, and answer contentious questions.

  • Deke Dickerson – Author, Collector, Guitarist
    Expertise: Mid Century guitar culture
  • Alan DiPerna – Music Journalist, Author
    Expertise: Music culture
  • Wayne Goins – University Distinguished Professor, Director of Jazz Studies, Kansas State University, Guitarist
    Expertise: Charlie Christian
  • Mathew Hill –Author, Scholar
    Expertise: Early electrical musical instruments
  • Emanuele Marconi – Conservator, National Music Museum, Vermillion, S.D.
  • HP Newquist – Executive Director, National Guitar Museum, Author
  • Arian Sheets – Curator of Stringed Instruments, National Music Museum, Vermillion, S.D.
  • Richard Smith – Curator, Fullerton Museum, Author
    Expertise: Rickenbacker and Fender Guitars
  • John Troutman – Researcher
    Expertise: Hawaiian Guitar Music History
  • Lynn Wheelwright – Author, Collector, Guest Curator, Owner of Pro-musician, Clearfield, UT
    Expertise: Early electrically amplified stringed instruments

Symposium Schedule

Friday, May 6 • Afternoon Session • 1-4 p.m.

  • “Wichita & the Electric Guitar,” illustrated lecture addressing the coming of the electric guitar, Gage Brewer and its debut in Wichita – presented by Eric Cale, Director, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum
  • PANEL DISCUSSION – Wichita Guitar Stories: Gage Brewer, June Frisby, Lowell Kiesel, Milo & Bob Wiley
  • “The Guitar, Then & Now” – presented by HP Newquist

Friday, May 6 • Authors Event • 5-6 p.m.

  • Off Site at Watermark Books & Café, 4701 E. Douglas – free & open to the public

Friday, May 6 • Symposium Jamboree • 7-9 p.m.

  • Off Site at Barelycorn’s, 608 E. Douglas – free & open to the public

Saturday, May 7 • Morning Session • 9 a.m.-noon

  • “Electric Mele: The Hawaiian Pre-History of Electric Guitars” – presented by Dr. John Troutman
  • “Charles Christian, Seminal Electric Guitarist” – presented by Dr. Wayne Goins

Saturday, May 7 • Afternoon Session • 1-5 p.m.

  • “The Hidden Story – Electrification of the Guitar” – presented by Dr. Mathew Hill
  • “Vivi Tone – Recent Discoveries and Revised Timeline” – presented by Arian Sheets
  • “Diversity in Early Pickups” – presented by Lynn Wheelwright
  • PANEL DISCUSSION – The significance of various technology and marketing developments in the 1920s through 1930s

Sunday, May 8 • Morning Session • 10 a.m.-noon

  • “Electric Guitar Culture” – presented by Alan DiPerna
  • “The Bigsby Guitar Story” – presented by Deke Dickerson

Sunday, May 8 • Afternoon Session • 1-5 p.m.

  • “Eguitar Origins: So. Cal’s Rickenbacker, Kauffman, and Fender” – presented by Richard Smith
  • “Italian Electric Guitar Manufacturers and the Impact of the American Market” – presented by Emanuele Marconi
  • PANEL DISCUSSION – Exploding myths and defining firsts
  • Special Instrument Demonstration

Symposium Tickets

Single Session Tickets – $25 (members $20)
Includes Museum admission. Individual session tickets can be purchased at the door.

Full Symposium Package – $150 (members $125)
Includes all sessions and lunch on Saturday and Sunday.

Make reservations for the full symposium by May 3rd:
Email or call 316-265-9314

The Exhibit

The Museum’s exhibit features an exceedingly rare collection of instruments assembled from prominent collections and 16 individual lenders. Artifacts range from the most historically significant to celebrity-owned instruments, including guitars owned by Joe Walsh, Les Paul, Charlie Christian, and Alvino Rey. These artifacts tell the story of the quest for volume and the development of the electrically amplified guitar. Visitors can hear the earliest electric guitars produced at a sound sample station within the exhibit.

Since the “Let’em Hear You Play” exhibit was developed by the Museum in 2002, the Museum has created four exhibits focused on the electric guitar and Wichita’s unique role, gaining international recognition for sharing the story of our critical place in music history. Our most recent exhibit was inspired by an opportunity to partner with premier science center Exploration Place, hosting “Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World!”

The Museum is indebted to collector and scholar Lynn Wheelwright of Utah for co-curating “The Electric Guitar: Wichita’s Instrument!” Wheelwright has been a stalwart supporter of the Museum since 2008, and his scholarship and generosity as a lender have made our guitar exhibits possible.

The Museum is also grateful to The Arts Council, Sharon and Alan Fearey, Matthew Hoofer and Melissa Wefald, Peter and Kay Janssen, Barbara and David Rolph, Sara Sluss and Marty Pawlocki and Lee and Ron Starkel for their support of the exhibit and its programming.


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