With kids headed back to school this month, you might find yourself wondering about whether a lutherie school is a good way to improve your skills and support your business aspirations. There are a broad range of educational facilities, teaching skills at every level, so there is plenty to consider. Luckily, LMI lists all the schools (that we are aware of) on our website, so getting started with your research won’t be difficult. Please note, this list does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement from LMI. It is up to you to find the perfect school for your purposes.
Among the more typical schools
(Listed on our website):
- Build a guitar in one compact session:
Robbie O’Brien, in addition to his online courses, takes in students for individual courses where students build a single instrument during carefully orchestrated, marathon building sessions. Get your feet wet fast! Charles Fox (The American School of Lutherie) and others teach in a similar format. The emphasis and the location of the course vary for these types of courses.
- Live-in, comprehensive courses:
The Galloup School, The Summit School, Timeless Instruments, Vermont Instruments, the Roberto-Venn School and Red Wing Technical College are all long-established schools (there are others) where students attend daily courses over a period of months, learning building of acoustic and electric instruments and repair in preparation for a career in lutherie.
- Weekend programs:
Institutions such as Palomar College, Red Rocks Community College, Colorado School of Lutherie and SIMSCAL offer courses to students pursuing other studies or otherwise employed during normal work hours.
Additional forms of lutherie education (Not on our website):
Some guitar makers offer apprenticeships, both paid and unpaid, following the tradition of violin makers and other craftsmen, especially in Europe. Unlike the Europeans though, there are no governing bodies that regulate apprenticeships or define the levels of progress. Each program is individual and must be evaluated based on what you are seeking to learn.
- Colleges and High Schools:
We see a growing number of general woodworking programs venturing into lutherie to meet the demand of students. Normally, this is a very rudimentary program but if it is available in your community, it might be a good way to receive some guidance.
- Conventions and Symposia:
Both the Guild of American Luthier’s convention and the Association and Stringed Instrument Artisans (ASIA) symposium offer a broad range of classes and lectures – plus the opportunity to network with both established and upcoming builders. You won’t find A to Z building instruction at these events. The classes are usually on well-defined, special topics.
You should understand that any course you take, long or short, is going to be just the first step in mastering the craft and developing a business. Expect that you will have to further your education after learning the basics by gaining experience on your own and/or enrolling in a ‘master class’ with an established luthier (such as those offered by Ervin Somogyi, Tom Ribbecke, Kent Everett, Charles Fox and many others).
Research each school carefully and, if possible, talk to an instructor and former students of the program. Keep in mind that although many programs offer a ‘diploma’, there is no certification for lutherie in the United States and no real agreement on what constitutes a complete lutherie education. To find employment you will probably have to demonstrate your skills, first hand.
Finally, finding success in lutherie requires the humility required to keep learning and growing, top-tier workmanship, a facility with dealing positively with people and listening to musicians’ concerns. And, of course, nuts and bolts business smarts are a must.
See our list of SCHOOLS.