StoryWood Donates Bass Guitar to Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Grammy Award winning bassist and Alumnus of Duke Ellington School - Ben Williams

Grammy Award winning bassist and Alumnus of Duke Ellington School - Ben Williams

StoryWood had an amazing experience this week!

Duke Ellington School of the Arts was presented with a bass guitar made from the same wood that was removed from the building during their recent extensive renovation. StoryWood Music partnered with professional bassist and alumnus of the school, Ben Williams, to build and donate an instrument made from the original historic building back to the school for future generations of students to enjoy.

“We were fortunate to come across a limited amount of this beautiful 120-year-old wood that was reclaimed and saved during the massive renovation of the school,” says Tyler Townsend of StoryWood Music. “We knew at that moment what a special opportunity this was and that our goal would be to give back to the school with an instrument. More than 45 years of beautiful music has been absorbed by these beams, and every guitar and bass we’ve made with it has been something special. Working with an alum like Ben, who is so supportive of his alma mater, has been a perfect fit.”


Ben Williams was on board from the first conversation. “It has always been my belief that instruments, especially those made from organic materials, absorb the energy of their surroundings. I can only imagine the energy this bass already possesses. I have so much love for my alma mater, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and I can’t think of a cooler way to give back than this beautiful instrument built from the very walls in which I honed my craft. I am extremely excited and honored to team with StoryWood in the creation of this wonderful gift to the school.”

Angela Jones, Duke Ellington School of the Arts Interim Director of Arts expressed, "it was a huge honor for Storywood Music to re-purpose wood from the historic Duke Ellington School into a state-of-the-art bass guitar. Their partnering with Alum and Grammy Award Winning international jazz bassist, Ben Williams to give this gift to our school and the Instrumental Music department made this extra special, and it will be cherished for the retelling of its story for years and years to come. It was an event highlight for this engraved bass to be received and played by Ben for the institution among various stakeholders given to during our annual Senior Awards ceremony on June 12th.”

Ronald Lee Newman, alumnus and former Director of Operations of the school adds, “Behind the music is our history! And thanks to the StoryWood family, the history of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts will live on with the sound of music. This gift will forever more celebrate the Western High School and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and honor the memory of the Ellington School founders Mike Malone and Peggy Cooper Cafritz!”

Parts vendors were also excited about the project and offered to help. Gator Cases provided their TSA-approved hard-shell case for the instrument, Hipshot Products provided a set of their Ultralite tuners, Babicz Guitars provided their full-contact bridge, and Ben reached out to Aguilar, who he endorses, who provided a set of their 70s Era jazz bass pickups.

The body of the bass was made from reclaimed Heart Pine beams from the original Duke Ellington school building, while the neck was made from 100 year-old maple reclaimed from Creighton University’s old gymnasium and rock walnut that spent a century under water in Panama. This combination of aged and old growth reclaimed wood adds a resonance and tonal quality as well as a beauty that is unlike anything you can buy off the shelf.

Ben Williams noticed a difference right away. “When I first started playing this brand-new bass, my ears were telling me that I had a vintage bass in my hands. Like it already had years of playing in it, which is all you could hope for. The students should really enjoy playing this bass for years to come.”

The bass guitar was presented to the school during their annual Senior Awards ceremony on June 12th, where Ben played the bass for a few songs with a group of Duke Ellington student musicians.

We have enough wood from the school to produce a couple dozen instruments, so contact us soon to reserve yours!

Tyler Townsend