By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Little did Jonathan Spangler know that being selected by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of his employer to be a member of the company band would result in launching a very unique guitar manufacturing company.
“I was tapped to be the Paul Shaffer of the band,” Spangler says with a laugh in referencing the longtime musical director, band leader, and sidekick of David Letterman. “I look more like him than I play like him.”
The company was NuVasive Inc., a San Diego-based spine surgery company, and Spangler was Vice President and Chief Patent Attorney. He explained that the CEO, a fan of the late night television format, adopted it for NuVasive’s quarterly meetings.
Because Spangler played the guitar for fun and frequently took his within him on trips, he personally experienced the proverbial pain point that travelling guitarists face. Their cases are too large to fit under a seat, and many times they have to be checked as regular luggage, resulting in damage. Those musicians might be going daily from one city to another, lugging their luggage, the large case that contains their guitar, and who knows what other related items.
What about a folding guitar that would be carried in a backpack and fit under an airplane seat?
With his background in patenting, Spangler looked for others who had developed something similar before filing a patent application for his unique folding guitar. He’s secured protection for the core components that allow the guitar to fold – “identifying the friction and then solving it,” he explains.
Spangler founded Ciari Guitars in March of 2016, produced his first prototype in 2017, and had his first truly playable version at the end of that year. In early 2018 while participating in the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s “Project Music” accelerator, he met Joe Glaser, a well-known Nashvillian who has operated Glaser Instruments for decades and is described as an icon in the guitar repair business.
“He’s become a key member of our advisory board,” Spangler says. Glaser is also one of the reasons that the guitars are custom-made in Nashville just South of the downtown.
What is very important is the fact that the foldable guitars are not just for hobbyists or occasional pickers, but also for professionals.
“Per Guitar Player Magazine, our Ascender is the first guitar that can be used professionally as a backup guitar or even as a main instrument,” Spangler says. The website further describes the unique guitar this way: “With the Ascender, it is quality first, convenience second. A concealed lever ‘detensions’ the strings and unlocks a hinge at the neck, which allows the guitar to bend completely backwards as the strings follow the fold under light tension. The Ascender can fit in a backpack and takes up less space than any travel guitar on the market.”
Ciari launched pre-sales in mid-July 2019 with plans to start delivery in early 2020. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Ciari was able to deliver only 50. Spangler is optimistic that 2021 will be a much brighter year, in part because of the increase in guitar playing during the pandemic as people stayed at home more.
He’s launched an equity-based crowdfunding campaign on the Wefunder platform (see our recent article on Wefunder here) which runs through April 30 and has raised nearly $725,000. Funds will allow Spangler to scale the company and expand the product offering to include mid-tier, less expensive models including mid-tier electric and a carbon fiber acoustic model.