My Story
 
 
 
 
 
The Beginning
 
“Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.” - Khalil Gibran
 
At times, we live our lives with an intense feeling that there is something out there, beyond the horizon – waiting for us.  We go on with our daily lives, busy with work, education, relationships and hobbies but there is a constant pull… a person, an event, something… waiting to be discovered.
 
This is how I felt while attending Penn State University. I’d played in a band or two, studied philosophy, fine arts and literature – all of which I had great interest in then, and still do today, but I remained unfulfilled and unfocused.  One day I bumped into an old friend carrying his guitar through campus, and as a player myself, I asked to see it.  It was a beautiful arch-top guitar, which at the time was quite intimidating to me.  One thing I noticed right away was the lack of label or brand name; that’s when I was amazed to find out that he had made it himself! Intrigued, I pressed for more information and this is how I learned of the Galloup School of Lutherie.
 
I had no idea what Lutherie was or what it entailed, but after that one interaction, I felt that pull from across the world begin to well up… I knew that I had to experience building an instrument.  So, I left Penn State.  Between working in coffee shops by day, for a custodial company at night and a bit of help from my enormously supportive family, I was able to save enough to begin the 6 month master course at Galloup.
 
The moment I walked into Bryan Galloup’s shop I was hooked – The smell of freshly cut wood and drying shellac, the textures of ebony, spruce and mahogany, the way that the tools felt in my hand – I didn’t know how to articulate it then… but I know now, that I was home.  I had found that thing beyond the horizon…
 
 

 
The Apprenticeship
 
“Far from wishing to awaken the artist in the pupil prematurely, the teacher considers it his first task to make him a skilled artisan with sovereign control of his craft”  -Eugene Herrigel
 
Bryan Galloup called me over to his end of the shop once and told me point blank that I was too stubborn and creative to ever successfully work for someone else.  I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but coming from Bryan, I knew that I needed to start working hard at becoming more conducive to employment.  Ironically, a few months later, he offered me an apprenticeship with him at the school.  Honored, I accepted, and I can’t imagine having a better mentor in this craft.  Bryan’s expertise in restoration, repair and building incredible instruments, along with running a successful business, provided all the components to make it the best apprenticeship anyone could ask for.
 
Like most apprentices, I started off sweeping the shop, building shelves and workbenches, making coffee [lutherie requires copious amounts of coffee], and more sweeping.  Eventually I began making jigs and fixtures for both the shop and school; it doesn’t entail the most romantic aspects of lutherie but I believe it was one of the most crucial parts of my career, giving me a solid foundation, work ethic and invaluable fundamentals that I use daily.
 
 
 
Under Bryan’s watchful eye I learned about the restoration and repair process, as well as complex building techniques. As my skills improved, I was then given many opportunities to assist instructors at the school and even try my own hand at instruction.  I enjoyed teaching; it forces you to think critically about the “why” in a craft and helped condense my learning curve in such a way that I began to explore paths that I may not have otherwise taken.  Teaching was an extremely instrumental part of my apprenticeship and in one form or another, I plan to always teach.
 
After a year and a half at Galloup, I’d acquired a ton new skills and information that left me eager to test it all out in the real world.  Long hours, endless amounts of work and very few weekends – my apprenticeship at Galloup was demanding however I will never be able to express my appreciation for it and who it’s made me today.
 
One day Bryan stopped by my bench with an e mail from a well-known arch-top guitar maker in Healdsburg Ca, Tom Ribbecke.  Tom’s shop foreman was moving on with his career and Tom knew that contacting Bryan would get him the right individual to work in his private shop.  I had known of Tom and was a huge fan of his design sense and color work… needless to say, my answer was yes! 
 
Within months, with my car packed to the brim, I said my thank yous and goodbyes, then hit the road…. Off to California…
 

 
Ribbecke
 
A long apprenticeship is the most logical way to success. The only alternative is overnight stardom, but I can’t give you a formula for that.” – Chet Atkins
 
Tom felt that the best way for me to become familiar with his instruments was to get nose deep into the curves and lines by focusing on sanding, buffing lacquer and developing a great appreciation for finish work.  From there I began shaping necks, binding and other more advanced woodworking procedures which lead to my position as shop foreman.  I enjoyed working with Tom…he always treated me like an equal and made me feel valued by integrating my ideas into his own.  He pushed me to problem solve and encouraged me to trust my gut and take risks; it was in Toms shop that I found my confidence as an instrument maker. 
 
One of the most exciting and memorable projects that we worked on together was the reverse teardrop. 
 
Midway through my time with Tom, we were joined by young luthier, Maegen Wells, who incidentally I’d known since my first term as apprentice at the Galloup School when Maegen was a student.  Maegen and I had become great friends over the years and I was very excited for the collaboration.  Tom, Maegen and I worked well together as a three-part lutherie team for the better part of three years.  The bond we built will last a lifetime and both of them played different but equally important parts in shaping who I am today…as a person, and luthier. I am incredibly proud of the instruments I had a part in making during my 6 years with Tom…and walk away with great honor and pleasure of being able to say that I worked intimately with 50 some Ribbecke guitars.  Once again, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.
 
 
 
 

 
Today
 
Sonoma county was a dream to live in, but ahead of me was a new dream, Stuart Day Guitars. In 2013 I decided it was time to make my own instruments… it wasn’t long before once again I had my car packed to the brim, took one last trip down to the river with my dog Coda, said my thank yous and goodbyes and moved cross country to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania – a gritty, high contrast city with an amazing history and loads of new inspiration.  I have since learned that I come from a long line of boat makers and carpenters in Germany and Ireland.  Before my grandparents, nearly all of the men in my family were woodworkers of some kind.  I’m not a fatalistic person but it does make one wonder…maybe wood is in my DNA.
 
I am now building my business on the foundation that Bryan Galloup gave to me, the confidence and experience lent by Tom Ribbecke, the woodworking heritage of my ancestors and my own artistic vision and design sense.  My desires are simple – to build high quality instruments that will outlive me by hundreds of years, and to inspire my clients to seek what it is that’s beyond that horizon for them.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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