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The Well-Unpublished Luthier

The Well-Unpublished Luthier

by William R. Cumpiano

Originally published in American Lutherie #6, 1986 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume One, 2000

Gather around and listen to a strange tale; a saga of oppression and self-imprisonment and of unending, grueling effort; of frustrated expectations and missed opportunities. But it is a sad story with a happy ending.

My story begins ten years ago when I, a budding young luthier, hired a booth in a large Northeastern crafts fair. It was the dawn of my career: I was green and I was anxious and I could not have known then that craft fairs are worthwhile for makers of multiples, such as ceramic pots and leather bags, but a waste of time for guitar makers. But I had to learn that for myself. Think of the exposure, I was told. Just think of the exposure...

Yes, I was to learn. There I stood, an innocent with a hopeful smile on my face, my shiny wares hanging on a makeshift masonite wall behind me, each one of my little babies stamped with the mute evidence of all the care, sacrifice, and painful experience that had brought them into the world.

“Wow!” a voice in the crowd exclaimed, “what are you asking for one of those?” Haltingly, I responded, a little tongue-tied: “Sev... six... five... five hundred and fifty dollars.”

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