Taylor Guitars, one of the world's leading manufacturers of premium acoustic guitars, is excited to launch an engrossing digital experience called The Ebony Project. The eight-part story takes people on a virtual journey to the African country of Cameroon to learn more about Taylor's efforts to improve the ebony trade after purchasing a sawmill there in 2011. The experience blends incredible footage of the Congo Basin Rainforest with written storytelling, video interviews, and photos, offering a deeper appreciation for the people and effort involved in sourcing ebony used for musical instruments.
For centuries, ebony has been a highly relied-upon wood for makers of stringed musical instruments because of its durability and aesthetic appeal. As a company that relies on African ebony and other tropical tonewoods to craft its guitars, Taylor recognizes that it has a responsibility to be an ethical steward of these natural resources in order to support their sustainability for future generations.
The Ebony Project traces Taylor's path toward more sustainable ebony sourcing practices, from its decision to co-purchase the Crelicam ebony sawmill with Spanish wood supplier Madinter to the upgrading of the milling operation to the pursuit of groundbreaking research on ebony's ecology, which has led to an innovative community planting program that aims to put thousands of ebony trees in the ground over the next several years. Along the way, The Ebony Project focuses on the importance of providing Taylor's Crelicam colleagues with the tools and training to improve their economic livelihood and create a more sustainable future for their families and their local communities.
Taylor Guitars co-founder Bob Taylor serves as one of the main storytellers in the videos featured on The Ebony Project. His perspective on what he has learned in Cameroon sheds light on the complexities of sourcing and processing ebony in Cameroon, and the importance of helping our Cameroonian colleagues, who are important partners in the ebony supply chain, improve the quality of their lives through better ebony processing capability at the mill.
"For almost 44 years I've invested my life into building one of the world's best guitar companies, and now together with our Crelicam partner Madinter, we face the challenge of creating a better future for ebony," Taylor says. "To say this is one the greatest challenges of my life would be an understatement. But it's also one of the most rewarding."
Taylor's Director of Natural Resource Sustainability, Scott Paul, a former Director at Greenpeace, appears in many video segments to add insights on a community-based ebony replanting initiative being developed as part of a diverse model of agroforestry in Cameroon. The replanting efforts led to the recent signing of a Public-Private Partnership agreement between Taylor and the Cameroonian Ministry of Environment. Under the agreement, formal analysis will explore the scalability of the replanting program across southern Cameroon.
Paul notes that a product like an acoustic guitar provides a uniquely compelling platform to promote sustainable practices for the future.
"The acoustic guitar is made with wood from forests from the four corners of the world that come together to make a universally beloved musical instrument," Paul says. "It is designed to tell stories and express human emotion. If more people realize what goes into providing the materials for these enduring instruments, it can lead to the greater likelihood of preserving these resources for future generations."
Taylor's work in Cameroon was recognized by the U.S. government with the Secretary of State's 2013 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE). The annual award recognizes U.S.-owned businesses that play vital roles around the world as good corporate citizens in supporting sustainable development, respect for human and labor rights, environmental protection, open markets, transparency, and other democratic values.
Taylor hopes that sharing the story of The Ebony Project will give not only guitar players but everyone a deeper understanding of where this valued wood comes from, the lives and ecosystems that are vital to the ebony trade, and why developing replanting programs is a vital investment in a more sustainable futur
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Founded in 1974, Taylor Guitars is one of the world's leading manufacturers of premium acoustic guitars. Renowned for blending an innovative use of modern technology with a master craftsman's attention to detail, Taylor guitars are widely considered among the best sounding and easiest to play in the world. Many of today's leading musicians make Taylor their guitar of choice, including Jason Mraz, Zac Brown and many others.