Guitars and Clean Water

February 11, 2014 — 2 Comments


Holden Village Taylor GS Mini

Holden Village Taylor GS Mini

New Guitar Days are always special, and I just bought a new guitar that I’m really excited to tell you about.

It’s a Taylor Guitars Holden Village GS Mini. The GS Mini is a very popular travel model that Taylor has had a lot of success with. Sized in between the Baby and Big Baby Taylor, it has a few “real acoustic guitar” features that neither of those two models have, including scalloped bracing and a more traditional neck joint.

I’m not normally a Taylor guy, as I tend to like guitars that are stronger in the midrange. My two acoustic guitars are a Collings D2H and an Avalon Legacy S32. Both of these guitars have rosewood back and sides and sitka spruce tops, with the Collings being a dreadnought size and the Avalon a smaller concert. I’m totally in love with each of them – the Collings a big traditional strummer and the Avalon a slightly more complex, softer sounding instrument perfect for finger picking.

What I’ve really been wanting for a while is a travel/mountain guitar. I don’t enjoy taking chances with the other two, being that they are both very expensive instruments. I’ve kept my eye open for something less expensive and smaller that inspires me. My wife, Theresa, has a beautiful Larrivee Parlor Maple Special Edition guitar that I love but, it’s hers and I get the evil eye when I play it too much!

A few months ago, a friend of mine who is the Director of US Operations for El Porvenir, a clean water mission that operates in Nicaragua, shared with me the story of the Holden Village GS Mini and it captured me.

You can read the complete story here (pdf link). It starts in Holden Village, a remote Lutheran community in the state of Washington. Holden was originally a mining town and, due to old mine tailings contaminating Railroad Creek, the village needed to cut through an old-growth forest to re-route the creek and avoid further damage to the environment. Friend of Holden Village David Olson recognized that some of the trees set to be removed were Engelmann Spruce, a valuable guitar tonewood. David contacted Pacific Rim Tonewoods, the mill that supplies wood to Taylor Guitars and many other guitar builders. Conversations began with Taylor Guitars about the idea of a special edition GS Mini that would be produced with Englemann Spruce tops from the Holden Village mine remediation project. Holden Village donated the logs to PRT, and a plan was hatched to allow this beautiful forest to be transformed. The soul of this guitar, the soundboard, is made of this “rescued” old-growth Engelmann spruce. The best part of the idea? The profits (about 40% of the purchase price) would go to two clean water missions, El Porvenir, and Living Waters for the World. Taylor agreed, and now it’s a perfect full-circle story: Spruce trees cut down for the purpose of saving clean water in Washington are being used to make guitars that help fund other clean water projects elsewhere in the world.

According to David, “The whole thing has been motivated out of a spirit of volunteerism on everyone’s part. No one’s making money except the folks providing clean water to those who have none.” The story alone was enough to convince me to put my money down to reserve one of these guitars. Then El Porvenir loaned me a prototype of the guitar and, after playing it for a little while, I couldn’t be happier. The sound of this guitar (even with the brand new top nowhere near fully opened up) is much bigger than I had expected. It’s balanced and rich. It’s a little better instrument for finger picking than it is for strumming but will handle both well. There are some sound samples available here. And the size is perfect for late night personal writing or worship sessions on the couch as well as tossing it in the car for a trip to the mountains. With a pickup added, I’m certain I could use it at the acoustic service of Broomfield United Methodist Church, the 505. The price for the guitar is $549. At this price, as you’d expect, it’s got a laminate back and sides but with a gorgeous flame maple veneer. It’s a short 23 1/2″ scale and the nut width is 1 11/16″ (smaller than a traditional acoustic guitar). The fingerboard is ebony and the guitar comes with a GS Mini hard gig bag. To enhance the special edition nature of this guitar, Larry Breedlove designed a stunning 12th fret inlay that portrays water flowing from between two mountains. It has to be seen to be appreciated. The pictures below help, though.

The Holden Village GS Mini can be ordered directly from Taylor via this link. If you are at all in the market for an instrument like this, consider purchasing one. You won’t be disappointed and will have an instrument that comes with its own story even before you start playing it. You will have also donated around $200 to give clean water to those who need it.

Find the guitar on Facebook here.

Interesting thread on The Acoustic Guitar Forum about this guitar.

*I’m not receiving anything for promoting this instrument, I just love the story and want to see it told.

Holden Village Taylor Guitars GS MiniHolden Village Taylor Guitars GS Mini

Holden Village Taylor Guitars GS Mini


  • Dave Olson

    This is such a great review, Joe, thank you for getting word of the Holden Village GS Mini out there.

    I like to think of this project as having been made possible by a series of deliberate acts of generosity by many disparate groups. To take this wood out of this remote place, and to put this level of care into the construction and aesthetics, and to sell it at this price was only possible because all of the activities and materials were donated. The donation by all parties involved is the common denominator that is anything but common – it is precious and dear. It makes possible not only the best series of GS Mini’s that has ever been made, but it also makes it possible to pass that donation on to folks who need a precious resource that we take for granted.

    The continuation of that chain of generosity is shown by Joe Mazza in his excellent review, and in many many other positive comments on social media by those who have made this purchase (for example, in the interesting thread referenced above). And in the stories that will be
    told and the music made with this instrument. It points to an often neglected side of philanthropy and the work motivated by philanthropy – the absolute joy that can occur when we realize that giving away evelates not only ourselves and those whom we serve, but also that which is produced when we are at our best.
    Blessings, and thanks again Joe!

  • Joe Mazza

    Thanks, Dave, for all the work and passion you put into making this project happen. I pick up this guitar just about every day. It’s one of my favorite guitar purchases in a long time. I keep telling people about it in hopes that all of these limited edition instruments can find great homes!