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Airport Museum Strikes a Chord with Local Guitar Makers

by Public Relations | Published On: Sep 27, 2019 | Last Updated: 

PHOENIX – What does a pilot, a lumber company and the jungles of Nicaragua have to do with a world-renowned guitar making school in Arizona?

The answer is the creation of the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery. More than 60 years ago, a pilot named John Roberts was scouring tropical forests for mahogany to begin a hardwood import company. When he brought his venture to Phoenix, local guitar-makers were captivated by the wood and envisioned its potential for creating instruments. The idea took root with John Roberts, and in collaboration with Robert Venn (an electric guitar maker) and William Eaton (a business major) they officially founded The Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in the heart of Phoenix.

Exploded-guitarThe Phoenix Airport Museum’s exhibition, Shaping Sound: The Art of Guitar Making, illuminates how students at the school turn raw materials into unique instruments. For the last 40 years, the school has taught students from around the world the skills they need to become professional guitar-makers, or Luthiers.

Passengers traveling though Sky Harbor can view nine hand-crafted guitars including both acoustic and electric style. Exhibition highlights include Scott Walker’s hand-painted “patina” guitar, where the wood body of the guitar resembles oxidized metal, an unusual 26-string harp-guitar by William Eaton, and Joe Vallee’s electric mandolin, whose instruments are collected by prominent musicians like Steve Miller. Visitors can also see displays of the guitar-making process. Parts of a guitar are presented in an exploded view showing how a guitar is constructed, as well as the various stages of shaping the wood components of a guitar.

‘Tune in’ to the museum exhibition in two display cases at Terminal 4, level 2 near ticketing through May 2020. For more information, visit:

The Phoenix Airport Museum is one of the largest airport museum programs in the country. There are more than 900 pieces in the Airport Museum’s collection, and in 2018, the Phoenix Airport Museum celebrated its 30th anniversary.


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Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, America’s Friendliest Airport®, has an annual economic impact of more than $38 billion. Every day approximately 1,200 aircraft and more than 120,000 passengers arrive and depart at Sky Harbor. PHX Sky Harbor is funded with Airport revenue. No tax dollars are used to support the Airport.