July 16, 2018
Arts & Entertainment
95° Scattered Clouds
  • Rafael Rider crafted a teal Stratocaster for his senior capstone project as a Broadneck High PVA student.
    Photo Provided
    Rafael Rider crafted a teal Stratocaster for his senior capstone project as a Broadneck High PVA student.
  • Ryan Hagler gave his Stratocaster a tobacco-brown finish.
    Photo Provided
    Ryan Hagler gave his Stratocaster a tobacco-brown finish.
  • It took five or six months for Ryan Hagler to build his custom Stratocaster for the PVA capstone project.
    Photo Provided
    It took five or six months for Ryan Hagler to build his custom Stratocaster for the PVA capstone project.

Runnin’ Down A Dream: Broadneck Grads Are Ascending Guitarists

Zach Sparks
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June 27, 2018

Jimi Hendrix was 24 years old when he capped a 45-minute performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in California by picking guitar strings with his teeth, playing the instrument behind his back and sacrificing his Fender Stratocaster in a miniature pool of flames.

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was 26 when he showcased his dynamic range during a 1970 concert at Royal Albert Hall in London.

Recent Broadneck High School graduates Rafael Rider and Ryan Hagler are just 17 and 18, respectively, and they are determined to make their own musical memories.

As part of their senior Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) project, both musicians created their own guitars and showcased them in late May during a string and percussion concert at Studio 39, the creative and performing space for Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ PVA magnet programs.

Hagler started playing guitar around age 8, but it wasn’t until he got to Broadneck High School that he seriously began to understand his instrument. There, he joined the Broadneck Big Band.

“Growing up, I listened to Led Zeppelin, the Black Keys, Tom Petty, a lot of classic rock until high school,” Hagler said. After taking courses at Broadneck, he expanded his playlist to include Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis and other jazz musicians.

“I really like the fact that no matter how much you practice, it’s different every single time,” he said of jazz.

Rider first played the guitar in middle school, later adding piano and drums to his skillset.

Given the choice between building a Stratocaster or a Telecaster for their senior capstone project, both chose the former.

“The Stratocaster has one of the most identifiable guitar sounds,” Rider said. “It’s bluesy, and it was used by Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. I’m so used to the Telecaster, but I wanted to broaden my horizons.”

They bought a kit, but they needed to complete the neck and headstock. Funding for the project was provided by the PVA program. Supplies were purchased through the Broadneck High School Music Boosters.

The project was unprecedented for Broadneck’s PVA program, which is in its sixth year. Paul Dembowski, department chair for the Performing and Visual Arts program at Broadneck High School, said past projects have been electronic compositions or recitals.

“At the beginning of the year, [teacher] Craig Tambascio and I brainstormed what we could do. What sets PVA apart?” he said. “What can’t they get in a normal school setting? Craig came up with the idea, and we decided they would go through the process of designing it, finishing it and wiring it.”

Tambascio helped with the construction, finishing and assembly of the guitars, but the students chose the look.

“I decided to sand mine down … and gave it a tobacco stain,” Hagler said. “I put some oil on it for a nice finish.”

Dembowski said, “Rafael liked the 1960 Stratocaster and he went with a teal, aquamarine gloss paint. [Both students] finished the body, finished the paint and added dozens of layers of lacquer.”

The process took about five or six months, Hagler said, as the teens patiently waited to play their new instruments.

“We were restricted to guitar class and lunch period. It got tedious,” Rider said. “It would be layer after layer, and I’d be like, ‘Are we done yet?’”

Once they finally were done, they flaunted their new guitars for the crowd at Studio 39. Rider chose “Hey Joe,” made famous by Hendrix. Accompanied by bassist Nate Stanley and drummer Ezra Geissler, Hagler performed “Limelight” by Rush.

It was a fitting way to finish their high school music careers. Tambascio called Rider “easily one of the hardest-working and most reliable students I've seen in PVA.” He called Hagler his most improved student. “Ryan's musicianship and guitar playing has improved tremendously during his four years in PVA,” Tambascio said. “He easily crammed six years’ worth of learning into four.”

Hagler will attend University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he plans to play in one of the school’s seven jazz bands. Rider and his bandmates from Old Mill High School will continue to perform as The Jackdäws. The band had its best show yet in May at the Fish Head Cantina, according to Rider.

They may not set their guitars ablaze anytime soon, but both guitarists are poised to gain attention for their musical chops.

“I like how I can get an emotional reaction through music,” said Rider, who writes original music and admires the songwriting of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. “I’d like to take that as far as it will go.”


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