My interest in stringed instrument building and repair started in high school, when I built a fretless banjo inspired by the Foxfire series of books. This led to fixing friend’s instruments, rebuilding abandoned flea market guitars, and general frankensteination of various unfortunate “donor” instruments, including guitars, basses, banjos, mandos, etc.
I attended The Galloup School of Luthiery in Big Rapids, MI after high school, where I learned the basics of both electric and acoustic guitar building. Assembling a tele kit and rosewood steel string with Galloup allowed me to start doing far more accurate repairs as well as building better banjos, replacement necks, bodies, molds, jigs, etc. in my little “shop” in my parents basement outside of Chicago. I was very lucky to land a job at The Guitar Works LTD. of Evanston, IL. Terry Straker, the owner and “flounder”, started me off the first day doing basic setups and made clear that what was important was being honest with customers, and performing clean, accurate repairs appropriate to the instrument/player at hand. It was with Terry that I really learned how to repair professionally and consistently as well as how to work with a variety of musicians, learning what works best for each style of playing and how to listen to the player to get the instrument to work to its full ability for the individual. Guitar Works is a big store with a small store attitude, loads of instruments and a smart, friendly staff.
In 2003 I decided to move to Pennsylvania . After a few months of getting repairs where I could find them and starting a small shop in a barn on family property, I got together with Keith Amos, of Amos Guitars in Reading and spent a few months doing repairs for him. Keith is a great guy, if you’re near Reading check him out.
Spending time with musicians in Northeast PA it wasn’t long before I heard stories of all kinds about Gene Matisko, a local builder and repairman whose talents with a chisel had caught the eye and ear of many a good player. I made what was supposed to be a fifteen minute appointment with him at his shop above Giannetta’s Music in Scranton, long story short, fifteen minutes turned into a ten hour day in the shop. I was very impressed with gene’s talent as a craftsman; his instruments are truly phenomenal, hand built, one of a kind, balanced guitars. By the end of the day Gene announced that he had plans to move to Texas , and would like leave someone in his shop able to take up his local customers and setup instruments for Giannetta’s, and if I’d work with him for a couple months he’d sell me his shop.
I ended up running that shop for five years, building guitars and expanding the repair business with the help of Mike Giannetta SR. & JR., and Tom Borthwick, who owns SI Studios in Old Forge, PA. When the Giannetta building was sold and the store was closed, it was necessary to pack it in and move, luckily not too far. Conway Rowe owns Gallucci music in Scranton and offered me a nice repair shop space in the lower level of his store on Washington Ave. I expanded my shop at home to give me space to build instruments and do major rebuilds and have built a nice satellite shop for repairs, fretwork, etc., in Gallucci. I am currently in the lower level of Act Out Theatre Group Performing Arts Theater 408 N Main St, Taylor, PA 18517