The Tidewater Guitar Orchestra was founded in 1996 by Sam Dorsey. Inspired by a similar orchestra in Costa Rica led by Luis Zumbado, the TGO was formed based on the concept of a large group of musicians playing on three different types of guitars. The orchestra is composed of traditional classical guitars, supplemented by soprano guitars, tuned a fifth higher, called requintos, and bass guitars, tuned a fourth lower, called bajas.

One of the only guitar orchestras of its kind in the United States, the TGO has made numerous appearances locally and represented the United States at the International Guitar Festival in Costa Rica in October of 1999. The orchestra’s local performances have included sold out concerts with Virginia Symphony Music Director, JoAnn Faletta as part of the Virginia Arts Festival. Also in 1999 they premiered a commissioned piece by Andrew York, of the acclaimed Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, for the 300th Anniversary Celebration in Williamsburg. The piece is titled “Ask the Sphinx” and can be heard on the TGO’s first CD “Prelude.” TGO most recently has performed with Ben Verderey and Ufonia, again as part of the Virginia Arts Festival, where they premiered selections from “Tidewater Music” composed by Ben Verderey for the TGO.

The musicians in the group come from diverse backgrounds. Several members of the orchestra are established guitarists, performing and teaching throughout the Hampton Roads Area, while many of the other musicians come from professions outside the field of music. The Orchestra’s repertoire ranges from traditional Central and South American music, contemporary works dedicated to the TGO, original compositions by members of the orchestra, and, classical compositions from Bach to Bartok arranged by members of the TGO.