Shaffer's parents moved around a lot. His dad went from job to job, climbing the corporate ladder. He grew up in places such as Huntington NY, Newhall, CA and then onto high school in Saratoga, CA. After graduating in 1981, Shaffer received a congressional appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. Shaffer then went on to attend The University of Connecticut where he earned a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Economics.
It was at UCONN that he found his love for playing guitar. "It just spoke to me. Even just being able to learn and strum a few chords really touched off a passion inside me." Rusty found his eureka moment a couple of years later after graduating and returning to live in Silicon Valley, the heart of inventing at the time. He envisioned a guitar that would speed the learning process by lighting up chords and scales right on the fretboard, showing the player where to place his fingers. “I was at a point in my playing where I was trying to learn scales. For me and for most players, going back and forth from chord and scale books to the guitar was slow and agonizing,” Shaffer recalls. “I kept thinking, why can’t this information be put where I really need it – right under my fingertips?” He would later credit Steve Jobs of Apple fame and his Father for allowing him to believe that anything could be accomplished. "If you can think it, you can do it." Shaffer recalls his father saying, "That really stuck with me."
In 1987, Shaffer invented the Fretlight Guitar and forever transformed the experience of learning to play. During the following 3 decades Shaffer would go on to build the company and make it what it is today.
Shaffer remains the CEO today and besides driving the Fretlight vision, he still answers sales calls. When asked why he replies, "Because I'm still a customer of Fretlight myself! I love talking to customers about where they are and pinpointing how Fretlight can help them advance." Rusty has performed with with the legendary band America on stages from Florida to California and many venues in-between. He's recorded two albums, tons of songs and has a collection of guitars and amps to rival the best.
Along with his musical accomplishments Shaffer is also an intellectual property attorney and a member of the Massachusetts State Bar as well as a certified flight instructor and commercial pilot. He currently lives in Reno Nevada with his wife and their blended family of 6 kids.
Based in Carson City, NV, Optek Music Systems is the manufacturer and distributor of the groundbreaking Fretlight Guitar and learning system. The company celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. In 2015, the company celebrated successfully selling Fretlight guitars into its 75th country. In 2016 the company launched the Fretlight wireless Bluetooth line of guitars.
In August of 2018, the Fretlight wireless guitar became compatible with the award winning Guitar Pro 7 software. Customers now had multiple choices to connect their wireless Fretlight to PC/Mac computers or iOS/Android mobile devices. Also at that time, Shaffer discovered and immediately employed the use of the Katana Fret-Leveling system. "We can do better for our customers," said Shaffer, "There's got to be a way to set-up a guitar so as to virtually guarantee it will play great when the customer takes it out of the box." To date, customers have been blown away by the Fretlight's playability.
Tens of thousands of players worldwide are using Fretlight and it continues to grow. The Carson City facility houses the company's corporate, warehousing and distribution facilities. Read the in-depth Music and Sound Retailer Interview with Rusty. Success stories from all over the world prove time and time again that the Fretlight is more than just a guitar - it's the only guitar that shows you where to play and the only guitar that has helped guitar players young and old achieve their guitar playing dreams!