The small, two-room apartment of Leni and Mike Stern in midtown Manhattan is filled with clutter—dozens of instruments of every description, audio equipment, travel cases and plants—plus two white cats. “Welcome to Mike and Leni’s House of Guitars,” Mike says, as Leni giggles.
Leni owns 21 guitars, including a birthday gift from Mike—a 1963 Gibson ES-335 (serial number 10,000)—and her favorite possession, a 1959 Fender hardtail Stratocaster—a truly rare instrument because it doesn’t have a tremolo (bar). “I use them all like a little guitar orchestra because I have something in every range,” she says. There is also a big-bellied, four-stringed Indian instrument called a tanpura as well as many thumb pianos. “I collect instruments wherever I have a gig,” Leni says. “I use the tanpura for my vocal exercises because of its rich, strong sound.”