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Guitarists of all ages and skill levels have participated in the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra since 2004. The group kicks off its spring session with a focus on world music from China, South America, Cuba, Scotland and Spain. Courtesy photo/Encinitas Guitar Orchestra
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Consider Joining the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra

Consider Joining the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra

ENCINITAS — Feel like you can strum a guitar chord pretty good? If so, guitarists of all skill levels are invited to participate in the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra’s upcoming session. 

The Encinitas Guitar Orchestra spring session’s theme is A World of Guitar Music, featuring music from China, South America, Cuba, Scotland, Spain, and more. Up to 40 orchestra musicians will practice then perform classical and contemporary selections adapted for four or more parts for a guitar orchestra. 

The session goes through the end of May, with a concert on May 24. Rehearsals are Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Encinitas.  

The orchestra is comprised of 30 to 40 local guitarists from beginning through advanced levels who learn classical guitar technique and ensemble skills under the supervision of noted local guitar performers and teachers Peter Pupping and several professional, and semi-professional assistants.

Courtesy photo

When it started

Pupping said the group started in 2004 and has been growing since. He himself directed guitar orchestras as a professor at MiraCosta College from 1989 for 10 years. 

As a result of private teaching, Pupping and colleague William Wilson were able to start a group of about 16 players for its first session. 

“Now we average 30 to 35 players per session,” he said. “After many years we were also able to start an advanced ensemble with an average of 16 players in order to tackle more difficult music.”

Today the orchestra is divided into four to eight sections with multiple players on each part. As for trying out for the orchestra Pupping said: “We’re inviting beginners who can read music on the guitar at an entry level. This means reading notes in the first position. We offer private lessons to those who need to get up to that level and can prepare someone in about six months to join the orchestra.”

Guitar star

Pupping has been teaching and performing in Southern California for more than 30 years, and has released many CDs with his band, the Peter Pupping Band, and solo albums. He earned his bachelor and master’s degrees in music from San Diego State University.

He spends much time organizing and directing the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra’s two, three-month sessions each year, along with several advanced and smaller ensembles. He also teaches private lessons in Encinitas.

And if you think being part of a guitar orchestra is a new phenomenon, it has become much more popular in the last three decades, Pupping said. 

“The idea of plucked instruments playing together in an orchestral setting goes as far back as the music of the Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi with his mandolin orchestras. In Russia the Balalaika orchestra goes as far back as 1919,” he said. 

But what makes this guitar orchestra special? Pupping said: “With a shared love for the guitar, the orchestra gives players a chance to enjoy some camaraderie. Guitar players growing up in the school system rarely get to participate in school groups such as concert band and choral groups.”

In fact, Torrey Pines High School just started a guitar ensemble class directed by one of his former teachers, Robert Wetzel. 

“Playing together in an organized setting with special arrangements develops musicianship and an authentic experience,” he said. “Each player experiences how each part plays a special role in the success of the whole. Since each player reads music, we have limitless sources for music of all styles. If you’ve never heard a guitar orchestra live it’s magical, like being surrounded by a giant harp.”

If you are interested in hearing the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra, Pupping said videos and a performance schedule are available at It performs twice a year in Encinitas and sometimes more in San Diego County. Also, its advanced ensemble offers one or two concerts per year.

“The guitar, like the piano, can play chords and melody all at once,” he said of the fascination of playing guitar. “Instrumental guitar works well in all styles of music; the portability of the instrument and the endless possibilities of expression are just some of the best things. The sound is directly affected by the touch of hands to the strings which allows the player to be part of the instrument.”

The hardest thing about playing the guitar is establishing good technique as it’s very physical,

he said. “Once that’s established, the sky’s the limit,” he said.

To those thinking about learning to play the guitar, Pupping said, “You can get into songs quite quickly if you are strumming chords to accompany singing. You can be engaged right from the start with songs that are fun. 

“Playing at solo levels requires time and hard work,” he continued. “As I mentioned before the technical challenge during the first year is the greatest challenge with a huge reward. I love the sound of one note on the guitar. It spells me. There is a saying ‘if you like the way one note sounds you might play two.’” 

For more information, see the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra’s registration tab, or contact Peter Pupping at Guitar Sounds, (760) 815-5616 or [email protected].