Photo by Maha A Dalmy
My love affair with the guitar first began while studying mechanical engineering at Cornell University. After shelling out $199 for an electric guitar/amp combo during my junior year, I spent every day working on Led Zeppelin riffs whenever I wasn't attending lectures or crunching through problem sets. My interest in music and the guitar steadily progressed to the forefront and after graduating I decided to rethink my future in engineering. What better place to do that than in a garage three blocks from one of the best surf spots in Santa Cruz, California?
My primary concerns over the next few years became scheduling my work around low tide and religiously practicing guitar. By this point I had almost completely migrated to playing acoustic guitar after becoming exposed to both Leo Kottke, Doc Watson, and the thriving bluegrass scene in California.
Around this time the previously dormant mechanical engineer was itching to show his face again and after meeting a few local luthiers, the building seed was planted. Looking through luthier books was incredibly intimidating from both a skill set and tools perspective. So, after spending a few summers in the mountains outside of South Lake Tahoe and managing to save some money, I found Sergei de Jonge's guitar course in Chelsea, Quebec. My knowledge of luthiers at that time was essentially non-existent and my primary reason for choosing Sergei was because he offered vegetarian meals! Little did I know that I had inadvertently landed in the shop of one of the world's most respected luthiers!
During that first four week course I built two guitars spending almost every waking moment in the shop. One of the greatest joys of being a luthier is that moment when you first string up a guitar -- the excitement I felt finishing my first was absolutely incredible. I took Sergei's course once more a year later and soon returned to become his full-time apprentice. Working and living with Sergei and his wonderful family in the beautiful Gatineau hills for nearly three years was a life-changing experience. Sergei's complete willingness to openly share his vast knowledge with humor and optimism is truly inspiring.
As my time with Sergei drew to a close, I was faced with the wide open question of where to go next. Having spent many weekends exploring Montreal's incredibly vibrant music and art scene, it was an easy decision. In the fall of 2008 another of Sergei's apprentices, Jeremy Clark (52instruments.com) and I set up the Mile End Guitar Coop and quickly established ourselves by hosting monthly shop concerts, the occasional art exhibit, as well as taking in and teaching new and aspiring luthiers. We have since expanded into a much larger shop that is now shared by ten luthiers and our reputation as a unique and important part of Montreal's music culture and hub of lutherie continues to grow. I feel incredibly honored to have shared a shop with some of the best people/luthiers in the business today such as Dion James (Dion Guitars), Nic Delisle (Island Instrument Manufacture), Lenny Piroth-Robert (Daddy Mojo Stringed Instruments), Joel Michaud (Michaud Made), Joshia de Jonge (Joshia de Jonge Guitars), and many others!
Over the past few years I have been incredibly fortunate to have my guitars receive more and more recognition in the world of high-end instruments. In addition to participating in many of the best luthier showcases (Montreal Guitar Show, Healdsburg Guitar Festival, Woodstock, La Conner, Holy Grail, etc.) my guitars have also been for sale by some of the top dealers in North America and the UK (Dream Guitars, Guitar Gallery, The Acoustic Music Company, Twelfth Fret, Music Emporium, Rudy's Music). Various publications including Acoustic Guitar and The Fretboard Journal have also had articles detailing my work!
In addition to my guitar building pursuits, I am also an avid runner and very active in the Montreal music scene. I co-host a weekly old-time and bluegrass jam at Montreal's best bar, Grumpy's, regularly play bluegrass gigs around the city, and proudly play drums and sing as one-third of the crunchy folk/electric/country/basement/indie trio The Vlcheks!