Eddie Van Halen Talks Innovation at the Smithsonian


On February 12, Eddie Van Halen will speak on a matter he knows a great deal about: innovation.

That will be the subject of the guitar icon's talk at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Zócalo Public Square. His presentation will take place as part of the national What It Means to Be American program.

A Dutch immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, Van Halen will talk about his American journey, his role in creating one of the biggest American rock bands of all time and how he has reinvented the way the guitar is played and designed.

He'll also answer the question, "Is rock and roll about reinvention?" Entertainment journalist Denise Quan will moderate.

Though the event is sold out, it can be seen on February 13 at www.whatitmeanstobeamerican.org.

As probably every guitarist knows, Eddie is among the great modern pioneers of the instrument. A self-taught inventor, he has developed guitar technology, technique and instruments that have redefined how the guitar is played and heard.

His company, EVH, is known for its innovative approach to guitars, amplification, pickups and accessories, all of which draw from Eddie's own experience and preferences. 

For the event, Eddie and Fender Musical Instruments Corporation will donate a master-built replica of his famous white-with-black-stripes Stratocaster-style guitar, which he built himself and used when Van Halen first broke through to fame in 1978. To show the path of progressions in his instrument designs, a Stealth-finished EVH Wolfgang guitar will also be included to represent his modern-day workhorse.

Van Halen and Fender will also donate an EVH 5150-III amplifier and cabinet to represent the journey and progression of his amplifier designs from the early Seventies through the modern day.

Program Background

The National Museum of American History and Los Angeles-based Ideas Exchange Zócalo Public Square have partnered to present What It Means to Be American, a collaborative three-year initiative aimed at engaging leading thinkers, public figures and Americans from all walks of life to explore how the United States became the nation it is today.

The What It Means to Be American initiative will inform the museum’s upcoming exhibition projects centered on exploring the themes of democracy, immigration and migration, and the nation people build together. Additional events will take place in the museum’s Liberty Square, an interactive events space scheduled to open in 2016.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.