Baxter in the workshop
A veteran of the US Marine Corps’ Amphibious Reconnaissance (Marine Recon), Baxter Keller is a designer, inventor, and entrepreneur who is changing the world of guitars.
In 2013, while working to overcome depression and PTSD following his earlier service in Afghanistan, Baxter found himself working at a gunsmithing shop in Texas restoring black powder pistols from the civil war. The fine-detailed work was demanding. It required great manual dexterity from his hands, and strong intuition for design and physics from his mind. Baxter found it to be wonderfully therapeutic.
Before heading to Afghanistan in 2009, Baxter had bought an inexpensive travel guitar. He’d taught himself to play between missions. As time passed in Texas, he decided to again pick up the guitar, but couldn’t find an affordable one that he liked.
His boss suggested, “Why don’t you just build one?”
So he did.
Unknown to Baxter at the time, what began as a project to save himself some money was in fact the beginning of Volta Guitars.
Charlie Colin playing Baxter's Guitar
Baxter taught himself every aspect of guitar-building. His first attempt yielded a guitar that many luthiers might consider their crowning achievement.
While at a trade show in Las Vegas, Baxter was introduced to Charlie Colin, Grammy award-winning bassist for the band Train. It turned out Charlie wanted the same style guitar that Baxter was building, a small parlor guitar made of cedar and maple. Baxter ended up selling his very first guitar to Charlie later that year. Charlie was so impressed by the guitar’s sound and feel that he asked for another, and Baxter, sensing an opportunity, said "Yes!"
As Baxter worked, he discovered that the creative and complex technical challenges of building instruments, much like the work of restoring antique guns, provided him a workable coping strategy for his PTSD. He began envisioning a company that would employ veterans struggling with similar challenges and offer them the opportunity to benefit the way he had.
Hitting the Road
Over the next few years, Baxter worked various jobs as his vision for the company began to take shape. On a stint as a diving instructor in the Florida Keys, Baxter instructed a group of friends who work in the entertainment industry. They were so impressed with Baxter’s ability to simultaneously employ “big picture” and detail-oriented thinking that they asked him to come on the road with them.
As an LED Technician, Baxter built LED video walls, operated stage cameras, and extinguished backstage fires (both figurative and literal) to ensure that broadcast shows such as the Country Music Television Awards and the Bellator MMA Fights came off without a hitch. He also worked concerts for the likes of pop singer Katy Perry and opera singer Andrea Bocelli. Taking every opportunity to question guitar techs and backline personnel, Baxter got to learn the ins and outs of sound and light from some of the best people in the business. He also gained a keen understanding of what professional musicians found most challenging about their instruments.
Getting to Work
In response to the musicians’ needs, Baxter began experimenting with custom designs that allowed his instruments to overcome the limits of traditional designs. One such experiment culminated in an electric violin with controllable LEDs for Andrea Bocelli’s violinist, Caroline Campbell, who asked Baxter to design a violin that could light up at different points in her performance.
Caroline Campbell and her LED violin
All said, Baxter’s most significant achievement has been the development of prototype designs for a new breed of guitars that would address the most challenging problems facing the current generation of instruments.
Volta guitars with their signature dogtags
Launching a Business
Realizing that to carry out his ideas he needed to better understand manufacturing technologies, Baxter taught himself to use Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems. His new skills allowed him to implement several innovations for which he currently holds patents.
Finally, Baxter embarked on writing a business plan for his new company, Volta Guitars.
After a year of working and reworking his plan, Baxter’s vision is ready to become a reality. He’s actively seeking an investor who shares his passion for design, technology, and music, as well as his desire to do good in the world. Together, they will revolutionize the guitar industry, and provide servicemembers with the opportunity to transform any lingering effects of trauma into the most beautiful, technologically advanced guitars in the world.