1995 Guild of American Luthiers
14th Convention/Exhibition

Overview | Presenters | Music | Exhibition | Auction | Miscellaneous | Open House | Staff & Helpers

Who'd Have thunk it? We always think there’s no way we can top the previous convention, but somehow it always happens. And this one proved to be the biggest and best GAL Convention in our entire 24-year history, far exceeding everyone’s expectations. We leapt from 1992's record 400+ participants to over 600 this year, and also broke the 100-exhibit record which had stood since 1980, registering 104 exhibits. And we went to five days of activities instead of our traditional four. Lutherie is alive and well!

Again we opted for the Guild's hometown of Tacoma and the beautiful Pacific Lutheran University campus, site of successful conventions in '77, '86, and '90. Todd Brotherton, a valuable volunteer convention worker behind the scenes for years, now occupied the convention coordinator's role. He handled the thousand details of planning and was generally in charge at the convention site. Todd was indispensable to this convention's success.

Things got rolling immediately on Wednesday as hundreds of conventioneers buzzed around the registration table, getting dorm keys and name tags, and settling in for the lutherie endurance test that was about to begin. The real action started that afternoon with demonstrations by Dale Brotherton, Charles Fox, Cyndy Burton, Robert Lundberg, Dan Hoffman, Dan Erlewine, Bryan Galloup, Frank Ford, and Al Carruth (see photo captions for details). It rains year 'round in Tacoma. Everyone knows that. Except when there's a GAL convention, that is. Then it's hot! After dinner at the cafeteria, the next round of demonstrations began with Tom Ribbecke, Steve Andersen, Al Carruth, Fred Campbell, and Ervin Somogyi.

Thursday morning was kicked off with our first full-group lecture by Frank Ford and Dan Erlewine. Held in the spacious Eastvold Auditorium, it was an opportunity to really see how many people were attending. Pretty dang impressive! Workshops by Bryan Galloup, Dan Erlewine, Roberto Gomes, Gulab Gidwani, Maurice Dupont, and Paul Schuback rounded out the morning.

The three days of exhibition began after a hasty lunch. In 1986 the exhibition filled the large Chris Knutzen hall. The 1990 exhibition filled the plush, spacious, new Scandinavian Center, just down stairs. This time we needed both rooms to accommodate all the instrument builders and suppliers, and they still spilled out into the hall! Table registration was hectic, but once everyone had chosen their spots the exhibition was fantastic. Chris Knutzen was definitely the noisier hall favored by the wood and tool dealers. The GAL benefit auction display tables were also there, and luthiers spent much time checking out the dizzying variety of donated items. The Scandinavian Center held mostly instrument exhibits. Paul Gudelsky’s fine exhibit of D’Aquisto archtop guitars was also on display behind ropes in the corner of this hall.

Thursday evening’s lecture was a special one. This was the time scheduled for Jimmy D’Aquisto to speak. After Jimmy’s sudden and tragic death, his pupil and friend Paul Gudelsky consented to fill in with a lecture on D’Aquisto design innovations. Paul not only spoke about Jimmy’s work but also on Jimmy as his teacher, mentor, and friend. Paul Schmidt, who has written about D’Aquisto’s life and work in his book Acquired of the Angels, gave a few brief thoughts about his memories of Jimmy before the lecture began. Another round of evening workshops given by Dana Bourgeois, Greg Byers, Bill Boxer, and Dr. Teri Novak followed. It was during this time that the D’Aquisto exhibit was opened for a special impromptu listening session with Paul Gudelsky.

Immediately after Friday morning's lecture by Harry Fleishman, we all spilled out onto the steps of Eastvold Auditorium for the biggest GAL group photo ever. Wow! Thatsa lotsa luthiers! The rest of the morning was devoted to workshops by Harry Fleishman, Eric Meyer, Lawrence Smart, Dana Bourgeois, and Guy Rabut. By this time the exhibition was going full-force. Luthiers displayed their latest creations, dealers displayed their latest products, and everyone ran between the two rooms trying to squeeze in as much blabbing and buying as possible.

Anytime you get hundreds of luthiers and hundreds of fine handmade instruments together the jam sessions will follow. Courtyards, lounges, entrance ways, staircases, and dorm rooms filled with music. Whenever there was a break, there would be someone playing.

On Friday evening, most people grabbed a quick dinner in order to get over to Lagerquist Hall for David Franzen’s wonderful classic guitar concert. David used instruments by Jeff Elliott, Bob Ruck, and Bob and Orville Milburn. Lagerquist is the new recital hall at PLU. This is strictly a music facility, with no curtain, wings, or flyspace. The no-compromise acoustics of the room are impressive, with dead-silent air conditioning, adjustable wall padding to control reverberation time, curved, nonparallel wall surfaces, and squeakless seats. It is an absolutely beautiful room that seemed like heaven after the heat, bustle, and cacophony of the exhibition, and this unamplified concert brought out its best. The Bob Mattingly Memorial Fund made it possible for the next speaker, Jos‚ Romanillos, to travel from Spain to give his lecture on the Spanish classical guitar. Then it was back to Lagerquist for more music. Local acoustic jazz favorites Pearl Django wowed the audience, using guitars by D’Aquisto (thanks to Paul Gudelsky), Maurice Dupont (thanks to Paul Hostetter), and group member Shelly Park. Anyone still able to remain on their feet walked over to PLU’s Cave coffeehouse where the Bruce Harvie/Dan Erlewine Blues-Rock All-Stars were already heavily involved in working it on out. Several people sat in with this rockin’ combo during the evening, including Pat Smith, Paul Bristow, Evan Davis, Tom Ribbecke, Eric Meyer, and Matt Souza. GAL gal Bon took over the sticks and was joined by her brother Bill on guitar for “Shakin’ All Over.” It was a perfect, loud, sweaty end to a full day.

Oh no! It’s Saturday, traditionally the most tightly-packed convention day! The morning started with Guy Rabut’s lecture, then the last set of workshops, given by Jos‚ Romanillos, Dana Bourgeois, Byron Will, and Eric Meyer. Hard to imagine this was also the final day of exhibition. Everyone scrambled to get one last look at all the tables, have just one more conversation over someone’s work, make one more purchasing trip to their favorite supplier, and clear everything out of the two halls by closing time. It was a beehive of activity, and to get the bees even more riled up, the silent bid auction items were sold off toward the end of the exhibition time. It was pandemonium, but no one seemed to be complaining.

A quick dinner, then on to Lagerquist to see Carmona Flamenco put on a spectacular performance of flamenco guitar, song, and dance, then bring luthier Bob Ruck up on stage to acknowledge the applause. Nice touch. More performers ought to do that, don't you think? Members had just enough brain power left to comprehend Ralph Novak’s fine lecture, then it was GAL auction/party time (see page 42).

Are we getting older or just partying harder? Getting up Sunday morning after late-night revelry seemed a bit tougher than in previous years. Maybe starting a day early had something to do with it. In any case, R.E. Bruné’s excellent lecture was well worth the early wake-up call. The “Steel String Guitar Today” panelists Jean Larriv‚e, Richard Hoover, Bob Taylor, Ren Ferguson, and Bill Collings, lead an informative and candid discussion to round out this year’s intense lecture schedule. As always the GAL membership meeting closed out the event with appropriate thank-yous to the many who deserved it.

An event like this takes a ton of work, not only while the convention is happening but many months before. This year’s King of the Hill award goes to Todd Brotherton, the official convention coordinator. There would have been no convention without his tireless efforts and ability to sweat the details of an event this huge. Thanks, Todd! As always the GAL staff of Tim and Deb Olsen, Bon Henderson, Jon Peterson, Dale Phillips, and new guy Kurt Kendall put in many hours of overtime. Dale and Kurt carried dozens of heavy boxes to various store rooms and halls on campus. It reminded Kurt of his old job repossessing appliances. Extra convention workers Nancy Donaldson, Ola Peterson, Bill Henderson, and Margaret Dougherty (our Auction Girl) were there when there just weren’t enough staff members to do all the jobs needed. There are always a few Guild members who will step forward and forfeit part of their convention experience to help out. This year once again we couldn’t have made it without the unselfish efforts of Bob Desmond and Dale Blindheim (photography), American Lutherie contributing editor Nick Von Robison (who worked like a dog and also set up a display of 500 individually labeled wood samples) and Cyndy Burton, our other contributing editor and valued advisor. Paul Gudelsky drove nonstop from San Diego to hand-deliver his collection of D'Aquisto archtops and graciously allowed them to be displayed. Joe Johnson came from his new position as curator of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to expertly mother-hen the D'Aquisto exhibit. Steve Andersen also worked behind the scenes on the D'Aquisto exhibit. Tacoma residents Dick Fiscus and Dan Most came through with a beautiful display of antique instruments in the University Center display case. Lars Kirmser and his students at Renton Technical College prepared wood samples for the French polish demonstration. Elderly Instruments lent guitar stands for the D'Aquisto exhibition. Many other people, such as Michael Sanden and Jeff Elliott gave rides to and from the airport and otherwise made themselves useful. Jeff also lent tools for the Romanillos workshop. Thanks to everyone!

Ken and Gayle Sribnik (King and Queen of the Cake Reception) had to leave early due to a medical emergency. Bummer! Did you know we had a honeymooning couple at the convention? Yep, it was longtime Canadian member C.F. Casey and his bride Kate Ferris.

Watch the next dozen issues of American Lutherie as all the great information from the convention is put on the record for the other 85% of us who weren't there, those who were but could only be in one place at a time, and generations yet unborn. We'll be slow but thorough. It will take us a while to recover from this one. See you next time!

Top of Page