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Musical Instrument Making

Identifier: MF158

Scope and Contents

Interviewees talk about violin, guitar, drum, harp, and cello making, as well as playing instruments and music shops.


  • Creation: 2003


Conditions Governing Access

For digitized items free from access restrictions, we are working to upload this material (pdfs, mp3s, jpgs) for public access, but it is an ongoing project. If you don’t find what you are looking for here, contact Special Collections (

Conditions Governing Use

Rights assessment remains the responsibility of the researcher. Known restrictions on NA3036.


11 items

Language of Materials



While most of the material is digitized (see below), there is also a non-digitized folder of research material.

NA2951 Fred Gosbee, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, March 12, 2003, Round Pond, Maine. Gosbee discusses his original interest in the lute; learning guitar making from a book in the 1970s; different guitar making methods; harp making; guitar design; lute making; building a harp for Julia Lane; Lane’s harp playing and instruction; harp design; harp materials. Gosbee and Lane perform Celtic music as Castlebay. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series.

Text: 7 pp. partial transcript Recording: mfc_na2951_c2082_01, mfc_na2951_c2082_02 61 minutes

NA3029 Joel Eckhaus, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, April 3, 2003. There was a problem with the recording of the interview and therefore there is no audio or transcription of the interview. Included in this accession is information from Eckhaus’s Website (

Text: 2 pp. text Photos: P 13056 - P 13063

NA3030 Robert Childs, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, May 2, 2003, at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Childs discusses violin making; his violin making instruction under Ivie Mann in 1976 through 1977; building furniture in Amherst, MA; Ivie Mann’s violin making instruction under Allie Batchelder; different violin making techniques; connection between the violin maker and the violin player; musician Otto Soper stories; Ivie Mann’s family; Ivie’s violin making students; violin maker Matthew Burk; Maine violin making vs. European violin making; Ivie violin design; violin maker Jonathan Cooper; different sound posts; violin materials; violin maker William Halsey; handmade violin making tools and traditional Maine carving tools; using traditional Maine carving techniques for violin making; violins in Brazil; creativity; fiddle playing for the Old Grey Goose and the Smokey McKeen Group; performing at the National Folk Festival; making violins independently since 1986; violin design; making a Guarneri Del Gesu, and Stradivarius violin copy; violin wood stamp; wood for violins and violas, instrument numbering, violin folklore; visiting Neil Tomer with Jeff “Smokey” McKeen; influence of the radio on Maine fiddle players; fiddle player Leo Murphy; Native American folklore; Hillie Bailey’s dance hall. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series. Also included “The Work of Robert M. Childs Violinmaker”, 4 page document - located in Control Folder.

Recording: mfc_na3030_cd2543_01 - mfc_na3030_cd2543_10 50 minutes Text: 29 pp. transcript, 4 pp. document and copy of Child’s business card (CF folder)

NA3031 Dana Bourgeois, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, unknown date, at his guitar shop in Lewiston, Maine. Bourgeois discusses his shop Bourgeois Guitar; learning guitar construction; repair work; classic design; wood materials; construct and production; outside suppliers; famous people who own his guitars; agreement with Pantheon Guitars and web site; factory; production schedule; records of his guitars; Maine climate; molds; neck suppliers; design since 1930. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series. Also included: Reprint of article in Acoustic Guitar Magazine (March/April 1994) by Bourgeois titled “Tapping Tonewoods: How the Selection of Species Helps Define the Sound of Your Guitar.” Reprint of transcript from Bourgeois’ lecture at the 1990 Guild of American Luthiers convention, which appeared in American Lutherie #24 titled “Voicing the Steel String Guitar,” and “A Few Things that Make Bourgeois Guitars Unique.”

Text: 26 pp. transcript Recording: mfc_na3031_c2369.1_01 44 minutes Photos: P 9634 - P 9657

NA3032 William Halsey, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, March 27, 2003, Brooklin, Maine. Halsey discusses violin bows; folk musical instrument interest during the 1960s; violin restorations in the 1970s; learning bow making from William Salchow in the 1970s; bow instruction by Lynn Hannings and George Rabbino at the University of New Hampshire; pernambuco stick wood; International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative; modern instrument design; varieties of stick wood; preparing the bow stick; bow making history; bow parts; French and English Hill system of bow making; bow maker tools; building a foret; art vs. craft; metals used in bow making; re-hairing a bow; metal work in bow making; working with mother of pearl; bow cost and demand; boat building; Michael Sowden and bow hair; history of bow design; art and bows; American vs. French view of bow making; bow making vs. violin making; bow varnishing; continental and international business. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series.

Text: 51 pp. transcript Recording: mfc_na3032_c2370.1_01&02, mfc_na3032_c2371.1_01 123 minutes Photos: P 9658 - P 9673

NA3033 Jay Witcher, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, April 25, 2003, at his home in Houlton, Maine. Witcher discusses harp making; his background as an aerospace engineer; building harpsichords and clavichords; researching harp making in California in the 1970s; harp history; Irish, Scottish, and Scandinavian harps; building a reconstruction harp for the San Francisco Museum; harp materials; harp design; harp sizes; harps around the world; impact of Renaissance fairs; harp players; hardwood in Maine; moving to Houlton, Maine; Maine harpists; friend and harpist Granagh Yeats; customizing harps; harp construction; his Middle-Eastern music group; harp apprentices; his wife’s cancer without health insurance; repairing pipe organs. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series.

Text: 42 pp. transcript Recording: mfc_na3033_c2372_01, mfc_na3033_c2372_02 58 minutes Photos: P09674 - P09691

NA3034 Jonathan Cooper, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, February 28, 2003, at his shop in Gorham, Maine. Cooper discusses violin making; learning to play the violin; touring; repairing violins; learning to make violins; being an apprentice in Italy; German vs. Italian violin making; history of violin making; his shop in Portland, Maine, 1983-1984; his shop in Gorham, Maine, from 1990 to the present; wood materials; making violins for individuals; violin design; violin casting; ribs; violin construction; working with ebony; scrolls; assembling a violin; varnish; the relationship between the violin maker and player; music; cost of violins. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series.

Text: 26 pp. transcript

NA3035 Kwabena Owusu, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, April 4, 2003, at his home in Augusta, Maine. Owusu discusses his family background; his relocation to the United States from Ghana; African tradition; drum tradition; music and intention; African carving; assimilation in America; building a drum; drum care; traditional African percussion ensemble; wood materials; drum making in Africa; drum art; sankofa; skin materials; composing healing music, drums and language; African drum tradition; male and female roles in African drumming; education. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series.

Text: 26 pp. transcript Recording: mfc_na3035_c2374_01, mfc_na3035_c2374_02 64 minutes

NA3036 Nathan Slobodkin, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, March 13, 2003, at his music shop in Bangor, Maine. Slobodkin discusses his work at W. H. Lee in Chicago making musical instruments; unique education working with graduates from every major instrument-making school in the world; makes instruments in the traditional way and has sold every instrument he has made; traveled for a year and visited shops and worked in half a dozen of them; in New York visited Jacques Francais where he ended up working for 2 years; left because of the high pressure of the work; came to Bangor to go to school at the University of Maine where he studied violin and engineering; Ivie Mann, Woody Bailey and Larry Lancaster were instrument repairmen in the area; difficult to market his instruments in the Bangor area; spent several years making instruments for the Taiwan National Symphony; sells his instruments to a shop in Boston; has little contact with the buyers of his cellos and violins; makes instruments according to what dealers want, not individual musicians; ended up as cello maker because he was the biggest instrument maker in the shop and cellos are large instruments; uses local wood if he can find it; uses willow, European spruce, leaf maple, Englemann spruce, ebony; builds cellos and violins around forms which is the traditional Italian method; how many instruments he makes in a year; history of violin making in Maine; Maine Violin Makers Society in Portland; Nathan Taylor in Lewiston; Stanley brothers in Kingfield; Allie Batchelder in Frankfort; Trefle Gervais in Quebec; instruments made in lumber camps; nautical-themed fiddles in Ellsworth area; collects resin boxes and string boxes from local Maine music stores; V.C. Andrews; Vern Shaw; banjo orchestras; mandolin orchestras. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series.

Text: 24 pp. transcript Recordings: mfc_na3036_c2658_01 46 minutes

NA3037 Ron Pinkham, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, May 20, 2003, at his shop in Glen Cove, Maine. Pinkham discusses guitar playing; musical background; money and instrument making; traveling in the 1970s; Pinkham family history; his guitar shop; guitar repair work; his relationship with his customers; guitar sound; guitar materials; wood varieties; woodworking experience; guitar design; number of guitars that he has made; being self-taught; personal experience; labor and cost of a Pinkham guitar; plays several selections. Part of the National Folk Festival Instrument Makers series. In addition: information from the Internet about Woodsound Studio, Ron Pinkham owner and shop-master, 5 pp.

Text: 18 pp. transcript, 5 pp. from the internet (CF folder) Recording: mfc_na3037_c2375_01 45 minutes

NA3861 Nathan Slobodkin, interviewed by Pauleena MacDougall, June 5, 2003, at his music shop, Bangor, Maine. Slobodkin is filmed as he talks about his education as a musical instrument maker; copy of 1731 Guarneri del Gesu cello; types of wood used in construction of the cello; where he obtains his wood; how the cello is constructed; demonstrates the construction process; tools he uses; standardized measurements for musical instruments; how many violins and cellos he has made; how long it takes for him to make an instrument; how much the instrument will sell for.

Text: 9 pp. transcript Recording: mfc_na3861_c2659_01 28 minutes, mfc_na3861_dv002 29 minutes

Existence and Location of Originals

Located at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress: AFC 2012/047

Materials Specific Details

Audio files are the primary source material. Transcriptions are the transcriber's best effort to convert audio to text, but should be considered secondary to the audio.

Guide to Musical Instrument Making Collection
In Progress
Amy Dias
May 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History Repository

5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5729 United States