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In Memoriam: James L. D’Aquisto

In Memoriam: James L. D'Aquisto

November 9, 1935 — April 18, 1995

by Gila Eban

Originally published in American Lutherie #42, 1995 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Four, 2006


James L. D’Aquisto passed away unexpectedly on the night of April 18, 1995.

An unassuming man working mostly alone on Long Island, he has affected many lives and the work of many luthiers in different instrument-making disciplines.

Photo by Tim Olsen

I first visited Jimmy’s workshop in 1978. That visit led to many others as I divided my time between studying with him and making my own classical guitars in Michigan.

Jimmy is at the very core of my guitar making. We made different types of guitars, but the way he understood them so well and the way he understood sound and tone so well could readily apply to any string instrument. I am certain that were it not for him, I would have only the faintest idea of how to evolve my guitars to the fullest extent I am able to.

When I was growing up, my father used to emphasize that there is a huge difference between schooling, in the sense of formal training, and education, meaning wisdom and knowledge. Jimmy, who loved to work and loved to have a good laugh, who brought an abundance of common sense and penetrating insight to all things he saw, did, or said, was one of the most educated men I ever knew. He was a great teacher who has changed me as a person as well as a guitar maker. I am sure he has had that strong and intense influence on other luthiers, however briefly or intermittently they might have known him.

Farewell, dear James. We miss you. You are always in our thoughts. You are always in our hearts. You are always in our work.