From Rowdy Rock Concerts to Blockbuster Movie Scores, Discover the Endeavors of LA’s Busiest Guitarists
Written byLinda Grasso
Photographed byShane O’Donnell
Step into Bandrika Studios (owned by Nathan Barr) in Tarzana, where Kevin Enstrom is fresh off the heels of laying down guitar tracks for the upcoming film Mystery of Her, and it’s immediately apparent: He feels most at home holding a guitar. The Canada native says his love affair with the instrument began in 7th grade in Ontario when his homeroom teacher began playing for the class.
“I was immediately obsessed with the beauty of the sound. Classical guitar is like a miniature orchestra. You can imitate a cello, a violin, percussion. You can play bright like a trumpet or warm like a viola. This captured my attention immediately. It was no longer four chords and a band. The music can be so complex, but the outcome is a simple emotional experience.”
“I own seven guitars, but this is my go to Classical—a 1968 Ramirez. In my mind, It has the tone and volume of a miniature orchestra.”
The 30-year-old says his game was seriously upped when he met and began learning from the American classical guitar virtuoso Christopher Parkening. When Kevin was in 9th grade he took a master class taught by the musician. The experience was a confidence builder and Kevin ultimately became a protégé of Parkening.
“A big lesson he taught me was to strive for excellence rather than success. Excellence will pit you against yourself to grow each day, compared to no other outside factors. Success, on the other hand, has no clear lines and tends to lean toward financial or societal success.”
And in what can only be described as a full-circle mentorship, the two currently work together at Pepperdine University. Kevin’s mentor holds the chair of classical guitar at the university, while Kevin is an adjunct professor of guitar.
While he hopes one day to work as a soloist with the LA Philharmonic or the London Symphony Orchestra, Kevin says his life is full.
“I am someone who eats, sleeps and breathes music. I think it’s very important to listen to different artists of all different genres. You can learn so much from the brilliant musicians throughout the world and throughout history. In my mind I am still at the beginning of this journey. I hope to dedicate the rest of my life to furthering the classical guitar and helping to grow new artists.”
With long, dark, curly hair and striking features, and sitting on a leather sofa at Cow on the Wall Studio in North Hollywood, Oumi Kapila looks like a rock star. Which he is—best known as lead guitarist for the band Filter. So it comes as a surprise to discover that Oumi’s roots are in classical guitar.
“I started playing classical guitar at 9. Then when I was 13 one of my teachers at school said she needed a bass player in her folk band. It was my first professional paid gig and I was stoked! By the time I was 16, I was playing through concertos by Giuliani, Rodrigo and Vivaldi. Later in my musical life, I’ve drawn a lot of influence from that.”
“I got this Fender Telecaster when I was 15 years old. I bought it because of Ritchie Kotzen, who used to be in Poison. I was really influenced by him when I was younger and I imitated him for a while. It just sounds beautiful.”
A pivotal moment in Oumi’s career came in 2014 when he met Filter frontman Richard Patrick. Oumi helped the band finish an album in the studio and within a month was recruited to play lead guitar. Filter’s album Crazy Eyes was released in early 2016, kicking off a worldwide promotional tour and sending Oumi on the road—a working relationship that lasted until 2017.
“It was cool to be a part of such a great lineage. Filter had a good hand in influencing many rock and alt bands that followed from the ’90s onward, and I’d enjoyed their music many years before I was involved. I still think Rich has one of the greatest rock vocals ever.”
Gifted with a passion to compose, Oumi shifted gears to pursue opportunities in film and TV. You can hear his work in films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Chernobyl, The Undoing and Clint Eastwood’s The Mule. Oumi’s score is also prominently featured in the upcoming Cary Elwes-starring film, The Hyperions.
In Oumi’s mind, his future is anything but linear. The 37-year-old says he’d love to work with Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails but he wouldn’t mind getting away from “the heavy rock thing. I’d love to do something like Cirque De Soleil, a cool theater production, or a mellower gig like Peter Gabriel or Bryan Ferry.”
Ask Andrew Synowiec if he is in a band and he laughs, “I’m in 100 bands.”
You may not know him by name, but chances are you’ve heard his masterful playing. Andrew’s credits include the blockbuster films Spider-Man: No Way Home (he worked on the entire soundtrack) and Frozen, The Who’s 2019 album Who, and countless commercial and TV projects. Having accompanied artists ranging from Ariana Grande to Elton John and recorded for artists from Barbra Streisand to Michael Bublé, his range is broad, to say the least.
“This is a 1960’s Hofner. I reach for it when I need something with an old or rusty character to the sound. Guitars are like paint colors—I like to have a broad palette available.”
“Need a classical guitar solo? I can do it. Theoretically, I can create any sound on the guitar you’ve heard.”
He won a Grammy in 2015 as a member of the acclaimed Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and has contributed to more than 25 Grammy-nominated recordings. Accolades aside, it’s the steady flow of work in the entertainment industry that Andrew is best known for. The 41-year-old has worked on Cobra Kai since its first season. He is also currently working on The Simpsons and The Orville.
With a quick smile and friendly demeanor, surrounded by his guitar collection at his Sherman Oaks studio, Andrew breaks down his professional approach.
“The experience of working with me should be easy and fun, and that might mean something different for each person. A composer on a deadline might need me to deliver something as quickly and seamlessly as possible, while an artist making their first record might want to experiment with every guitar I own.”
Growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, Andrew started guitar in the 4th grade. As the child of an accountant and a schoolteacher, he realized he needed a leg up to tackle the music industry. He graduated from the prestigious music program at the University of Miami, moved to LA, and the work has just kept coming.
Does his success surprise him? “‘Success’ is a difficult word in the modern music industry. If 15-year-old me could have looked into the future and seen that I would one day record for The Who, that would’ve felt like massive success. Yet the day-to-day reality of running a business can sometimes overshadow the joy of doing something you love. So I try to stay in touch with that 15-year-old kid and never lose that edge and drive.”