Music has always called to me, since I was a young age. I used to turn the dial on the radio (a real analog dial, remember those?) enamoured with the fact that any number of sounds would come out of the speakers depending on where the needle pointed. First it was classic rock, but then one day, I happened on public radio, and couldn't help wondering about this "classical music" that seemed so impenetrable like a math problem. Vastly complex compared to really anything, I started into nerd-dom buying classical and world music discs and records at the age of 18. Jethro Tull was a folk favourite at the time, and coincidentally, their music was changing as I went through the years. 1977, Songs from the Wood. 1978, Heavy Horses. Lots of mandolin. I didn't yet really know what it was, but I found one at an antique store in Norfolk, Virginia, and I bought it for $200.
Not knowing what I was going to do with it, two years later I was opting for a course at Virginia Tech which allowed me free reign of the wood (and metal) shop. I wasn't ready for mandolin, but feeling fancy for some traditional Irish music at the time I decided to build an Irish harp. So, that semester, I did. I ordered all the metal parts, the plans, and some wood. In no less than three days of intensive work, one of the best times of my life, I built my first true musical instrument. In 2000, I decided to build my second, using no power tools. It was a larger version of the first, inspired by the cover art of Robin's Merry Band (with Sylvia Woods), built on the floor of my apartment in the Blue Ridge Mountains, cutting and planing on the front stoop.
I had no workbench, but I relished it that way. I have always loved a challenge, that's in part why I build. I remember at a young age being highly influenced by the films of Akira Kurosawa. In Seven Samurai, Kyuzo made a strong impression on me -- here was someone who lived for nothing but the perpetual challenge of becoming a better samurai.
That's who I wanted to be, as a human being, as a craftsman. Things resonate with us, and we don't know why. But we can't help but follow the path. Two years later, I built my first mandolins. Then, I kept going.