Andrew's Arsenal

Below is a list of my favorite instruments, all of which have been used on the CD recordings and at mass here at St. Joachim Church. I have managed to obtain all of them either for free or at very low cost by being patient, opportunistic, resourceful, lucky, and down-right cheap.

I have 2 Martin 0-18s. 

Molly is a vintage 1944 Martin 0-18 and couldn't be a more mechanically perfect instrument. For a small guitar she has an enormous sound with excellent balance from bass to mid-range to high-end.
A friend of mine working at a music store phoned me after a kid walked in with it,  trading it in for a "Bright Yellow Electric Guitar". I could never have afforded this instrument otherwise, so I was very grateful for the call  as well as the "family deal" my friend was able to broker on my behalf. (It's a "Church" guitar, we argued!) While she's been around a while and isn't much to look at, she is my most treasured instrument.

Maggie is a 1969 Martin 0-18. I needed a guitar to take some of the daily heat off of Molly and at that time my wife had expressed an interest in owning a guitar which she could use in her elementary school classroom. As her birthday was approaching I asked her "Do you want a cheap guitar that is ALL YOURS, or do you want a really good one that I'll be borrowing a lot?" She chose the latter, and after some perusing through the "Recycler" magazine a few weeks, along came Maggie. My wife played it once or twice and now she rarely sees it! (Usually hanging around my neck at mass!)

Since this one doesn't quite qualify as "vintage" Martin, I went ahead and hooked her up with some fishman electronics so that I could "plug in" at mass. This gives me the advantage of mobility (Not having to stand in front of a mic like a statue) as I jump around directing the choirs at mass, and the added advantage of being able to manipulate  the sound, amping it up for the evening masses. Maggie is my daily "workhorse" while Molly comes out for special occasions like weddings and funerals and on occasions like recording dates, when mic-ing the guitar is optimal.

Nylon String: I recently acquired a Yamaha Hybrid Acoustic/Electric nylon string guitar which I have been using for instrumental solos at weddings/funerals thus far. I am endeavoring to become proficient enough to use it on Sundays with the choirs on songs which either have a Latin-American vibe or songs that could use a classical touch. I've not yet named this instrument because I don't yet know if this is "The One" that I will settle on for this purpose. It was a good deal but I've had my eye on higher quality hybrid guitars.

Rory is my '72 Chestnut Fender Telecaster electric guitar. I played it much more back in my Hillbilly Country Music days in CO but I whip it out here and there on an occasion like a Choir All-Star performance at the church Fair. It's all original and, "All American" and of medium Fender Vintage. (Pre-CBS before '68 are most prized) Since I don't use it much I've been tempted to sell it lately, the upside being money with which to record the choir. The downside is that one shouldn't sell a vintage instrument in a "down" market.

Violins/Bowed Strings:

Didi is an early 1800's violin from the German/Chek border. It has a super rich mid to low range which can be heard on recordings like "Canticle of Zechariah"  (Psalms-Canticles) and "Come Holy Ghost" (I'll Follow) She is my "fiddle" which I've played with in many Celtic groups such as Finn MacCool, and the McGrath Bros. With Didi I can also play the part of a  Cowboy pretty well, playing in Western Swing bands like the Electric Tumbleweeds, the Pale Riders, and the High Desert Band. (I have a old (non digital) photo of me fiddling in this band when Gregg Allman joined us for a few songs one night!) Didi also took the place of the banjo on a song called "Upstream" on my "If I'm Alive" CD

Mike's Violin is a beautiful Italian violin made in 1804 by a master craftsman. It is far more delicate than Didi, has a brilliant high-end and I have to be in rare form to maximize its potential. The difference in holding these two violins is like the difference between holding a crystal wine glass verses holding a beer stein.
I use it for classical violin situations, it's VERY sensitive and I know that I have to be at my best to get it to sound right. It is on loan from my brother, Mike, so I don't want to name it and thus become even more attached than I already am to an instrument I don't actually own. There are some up and coming recordings on which I used this violin, mostly because of its bright tone and fast fingerboard ("How Great and Glorious Are You" and a jig called "Shepherd's Haste" which is a prelude to our version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" at Christmas time.)

Violeta, my Viola is of medium quality, but sings and covers its part well. Marve Watkins King gave me this instrument when I expressed an interest in buying it. It's good to have musical friends, and she could use a few prayers for her good health lately.

My Cello is of similar quality, but I've only had it as a "free" loaner from Mo's Music. When they heard I could play it reasonably well they presented me with it along with the challenge to teach the instrument along with everything else. At that time I went back to my instructor for a while to bone up on my cello skills, and although I don't perform on cello much I have become a more valuable teacher on the instrument at Mo's Music.

Erhu I also own a weird Chinese instrument called the Erhu, which is the Far-East version of the violin. It uses a small drum instead of a wooden hollow to resonate the sound of a bowed string. Our Cantor, Bernadette brought this to me after a recent vacation trip. It's very odd but I've learned to get a pretty decent sound out of it and it is effective in connecting me to Asian music, which is so completely different than any on earth. Now I want a "Guzheng"!


Shannon is my beloved 5 String Banjo, which I took up in High School and played ferociously through '96. I was charting new territory for the instrument, attempting to become the world's first "Banjo Rock Star"  before developing an overuse injury in '96. (More info on the "Albums" page under "If I'm Alive") She is a 70's model from the "Ome" company which is a supreme banjo maker near my hometown (Colorado Springs) in Boulder CO. It held up very well to the punishment I delivered  and I still currently use it for teaching and for performing slower pieces.

Recently I was wondering what the choir would sound like with a banjo playing sweetly and softly. (I know that sounds strange in your head, so you'll have to hear it!) I was writing a Christmas Carol at the time so I tried it out and I think it worked rather well. You can hear it on the new recording "Heaven and Earth Are Wed" which you can click on in the "Choir News" page.

You can also hear sound clips by going to the Albums page and clicking on the many recordings from the "If I'm Alive" CD. It's also the banjo used in the famous "Pizza Song", available for download or listening on the same page. (You MUST hear the Pizza Song!)

Octavio, named for its eight strings, is a 60's model Martin Mandolin. It's a beautiful "A" model with a rich sound, but it plays a bit slower than the more classic Gibson models. For as little as I use the instrument it does just a magnificent job.

Other Stringed Oddities: 

I have in my garage the following: A Dulcimer, an Autoharp, 3 Charrangos (A small 10 string instrument from the Andes Mountains which uses an armadillo shell for its body) and several cheap, beat up versions of all the above instruments.

String Wish List: I hope to one day own (at low-no cost) a better Cello, a Harp-Guitar, a quality Nylon String and 12 String, a Cuban Laud, a Mexican Vijuela, a Russian Balalaika, an Arab Ud, and the aforementioned Chinese Guzheng. If you've got a connection, please help. (And forewarn them that it must happen "on the cheap"!)


Yes, dorky as this may sound, I love this instrument, and though I don't play it well, I own 4 of them! (They're easy to get these days since most of them in existence are either collecting dust or being discarded) My favorite is a small 24 bass Hohner because it's very basic, allowing an amateur like me to get a couple of decent songs to fly. You can hear the accordion on the "If I'm Alive" CD on the song "Heart Beats Like a Child"

My Uncle unloaded a beautiful 120 bass model on me which is a real challenge to play, and it needs some expensive repairs. A friend of mine also left me with a Russian Bayan Accordion which is so bizarre that I only keep it as a novelty in my music class to torture my students with once every 3 years when we study Russia.

I also picked up an old Cajun Squeezebox at a rummage sale. Its cardboard bellows have long since been compromised by bugs, so this too has only been useful for classroom purposes. I'd love to own a fresh, termite-free model! They're very cool (for an accordion!) and rhythmic.

I hope to one day own an Argentinian "Bandoneon", so if you know of anyone discarding one of these, please pass along their address along with any information regarding their trash pick-up day.


Cecilia is my 5 piece Ludwig drum set from the mid seventies. When I was 11, I saw that Ian Pace of Deep Purple was getting up in his years, so I had designs to practice hard and take his place one day. (I just saw him playing the other night on a reunion tour. He's still quite amazing!)

I got Cecilia used for a very low price, since it belonged to a guy my older sister was dating. (Hey, you get a deal anyway you can!) It's has a classic tiger-stripe finish and by throwing papers, mowing lawns and selling candy door-to-door, I manged to surround it with a variety of Zilgean and Paiste cymbals by the time I got to High-School, where I excelled in Snare-drum line and played in the Jazz Band. I played in several bands during my college years, but strings eventually overtook my attention. You can hear Cecilia on Psalms and Canticles, and any other recordings which have a drum set.  The "If I'm Alive" Banjo album is chock full of Cecilia.

Hand Drums

I have 2 Djembe drums. One is a fiberglass Remo model which is practical and easy to tune. It became famous by leading off the Psalms and Canticles album on the song "Canticle of Zechariah".

The other Djembe is a fine hand carved drum from the Mali Region of West Africa. With a real goatskin head it has an extremely deep and warm sound. You've perhaps heard it on the "I'll Follow" album on the song " He Is Risen" and "When Angels Sound the Trumpet Call".

My Dumbek is another favorite. It comes to us directly from Alexandria Egypt, has a good low-end sound and a VERY tight and snappy high-end "crack". You can hear this one as it leads up the song "Come Holy Ghost" on the "I'll Follow" CD.

I share a pair of Congas with Mireya, our fabulous evening group percussionist. Though they have fiberglass shells, they do a great job. My son Kadrick can be heard playing them on "Resucito" during the Easter season each year, a job that he has owned since he was 8.

Auxiliary Percussion:

You name it, I've probably got it in my garage somewhere! Cowbells of different shapes and sizes, Claves, Guirros, Cabassas, Maraccas, Twongas, Shakers of all sorts and probably a lot of things I can't recall.


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