The GAL (Guild of American Luthiers) Convention, 2011

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011:

Left San Jose, California, at about 8:00 a.m. today (driving), arriving in Eugene, Oregon, at around 5:00 p.m. Stayed in the Eugene Marriott Residence Inn (using a $100 gift card from my brother and sister-in-law) --- very , very nice suite, with a little kitchenette and all!!! Very, very nice to have such luxurious accommodations, even if for only a night!!!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011:

Drove from Eugene, Oregon, to Tacoma, Washington, arriving at around 1:30 p.m. to register for the convention. Was assigned to the Ordal dormitory. The luthier community is primarily comprised of men, so, on my dorm floor, there were only a couple of us women; thus, we had exclusive access to the bathroom on our floor, which was rather nice. Here are my luxurious accommodations:

Actually, it wasn't that bad. The good thing about staying in the PLU (Pacific Lutheran University) dorms is that it is quite close and handy to all the workshop, exhibit, and concert venues, and, of course, quite close to the dining hall.





Attended a 2:30 workshop given by John Greven, on "How to Build 48 Guitars a Year with Almost No Tooling." Then, at 7:30 p.m., attended a wonderful, unique concert featuring the Daneshvar Ensemble, a group featuring traditional Persian music and instruments.

Thursday, July 21st, 2011:

At 8:30 a.m., attended a workshop given by R.E. Bruné, entitled "Lutherie: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow." At 1:30 p.m., there was a classical guitar listening session, in which various luthiers' guitars were demonstrated by Edel Muñoz, a renowned Cuban classical guitarist, who would also be playing at the Friday night concert. At 1:30 p.m., attended a workshop titled "Acoustic Guitar Repair: Sweat the Details," given by Brian Michael and Alex Glasser, who both work at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California. Very practical workshop!

Then, from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m., the various luthiers and suppliers were able to exhibit their wares, in two different exhibit halls. Lots and lots of wonderful instruments and materials!!!

The final major event of the day was the wonderful concert given by Mark Hanson and Doug Smith, a steel string acoustic guitar duo. Here's a link to one of the pieces they play: Bye. Bye Blues.

Friday, July 22nd, 2011:

The first workshop of the day was given by K. Carlos Everett, of Atlanta, Georgia, on "Guitar Workshop Evolution: One Luthier's Journey." Then, at 10:00 a.m., there was a group photo, of all the convention attendees. At 10:30 a.m., a steel string acoustic guitar listening session, in which Mark Hanson (of the previous evening's concert) showcased various luthiers' guitars. At 1:00 p.m., John Greven gave a workshop entitled "Voicing the Steel String Guitar."

Then, again, from 3:00-6:00, another exhibition time.

The evening's concert was Edel Muñoz (who had demonstrated various luthiers' classical guitars on Thursday).

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011:

At 8:30 a.m., there was a panel discussion with David Cohen, Don MacRostie, and Lawrence Smart, on "The Mandolin Family: Traditional and Contemporary Perspectives." At 10:30 a.m., a wonderful workshop given by Charles Fox on "Production Techniques for the Custom Luthier."

From 1:00-5:00 p.m., the final exhibition of luthiers' and suppliers' products, this time open to the public.

At 2:30 p.m., the sale of silent auction items (lutherie items donated by individuals, all for the benefit of the Guild).

Then, one of the highlights of the convention, at 8 :00 p.m., the Guild Benefit Auction, always an entertaining time for all.






Sunday, July 24th, 2011:

The final day of the convention....At 9:00 a.m., Stephen Marchione shared his expertise in a talk entitled "The Archtop Guitar, with an Italian Flair." At 10:30 a.m., the final workshop was given by Joe Konkoly on "Vintage Restoration: Playability versus Collectibility."


It was a wonderful time. So many wonderful seminars, exhibits, and activities!!!! The best part of it all, however, was the camaraderie and connections made among all the members of the lutherie community, which wonderfully tends to be a very friendly, sharing group of people, all sharing the same passion of building musical instruments.

For me, it was memorable for a couple of reasons. First, I was able to meet many people who expressed appreciation for my website, many whom I've previously "met" only through email over the years. It's always nice to connect a face to a name. Secondly, I always come away from these conferences with many new ideas and tips on building; the lutherie community is always so willing to share their learnings and ideas.

Oh, yes, and here's a little article that appeared on the front page of a Tacoma newspaper: "Guitarmakers from throughout the World Gather at PLU".


However, the most memorable moment for me, this time, happened at an informal ukulele listening session that happened on Friday, in which I was talked into submitting my recently-finished harp ukulele. I was kind of shy and hesitant to do this, but several people managed to encourage me to do it. Kimo Hussey, a renowned Hawaiian ukulele player and teacher, played my harp ukulele, and it was a hit!!!

The first thing he did was to take my ukulele up and down the aisle, so that the audience members (there were about 30 or so people there) could see the instrument. It is such a unique instrument, that many (including Kimo) had probably never seen such a thing before!

It was super-fun and gratifying to hear it played (especially by such a good player) and to have it receive such a positive response by the audience. When I first had strung up the ukulele (just days before I left for the convention), the instrument was still "tight" and had not opened up yet; by the time of the listening session, though, it had loosened up quite a bit and sounded nice and warm and full.

A cute thing that happened was that Kimo, after playing just a little bit, felt compelled to stop and comment on his surprise at how the sub-bass strings sympathetically responded to the chords he was playing. Also, it was really cute in how he (not really being familiar with how to use the sub-bass strings in this unique instrument) stopped in three places to pluck a corresponding bass string.

To the right is a little video (taken on my iPhone camera) of Kimo playing my harp ukulele.


Here's a great blog account, by Adam Chan, of his experience at the GAL Convention this year:

Adam Chan's GAL 2011 Blog: Part 1

Adam Chan's GAL 2011 Blog: Part 2

Adam Chan's GAL 2011 Blog: Part 3






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