Did You Build A Guitar When You Were In 8th Grade? By Thomas Amoriello Flemington Raritan School District firstname.lastname@example.org
n recent issues, TEMPO readers have been treated to music education writings pertaining to technology, therapy, rehearsal techniques, advocacy, and so many other informative topics in our profession. In this article we will gain insight in the area of luthiery. If the word luthier has never crossed your ears, a luthier is someone who makes or repairs guitars, violins and other string instruments. Though we will not discuss “how to” build a guitar in this article, we will hear from a NJ public school educator who uses his unique skills to help 14-year-olds build them. By the end of the second year of running the program, students have built 100 instruments including electric basses and ukuleles. If you were to ask any adult about their recollection of “shop” class from their youth they would probably mention smelling sawdust, wearing goggles, hearing loud machinery, and making birdhouses or shelves. But just outside of Trenton in Hamilton Township, guitar building is happening in the woodshop classes of Michael Freidman. “Woodshop Rocks” is a class that puts the student into the role of luthier, designing and building guitars. Lessons learned beyond the physical building of these instruments include: working with electronics (pick ups), nature (tone woods), mathematics (fretboard scale length) and many character building traits such as perseverance, patience, and discipline. So could this lead to a vocation with a music corporation or to a student simply considering music lessons? I was inspired to reach out to Michael after first seeing him on an episode of Classroom Close Up-NJ last season. The segment can be viewed here: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid61630332400 1?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAj36EGjE~,w53r2XdUtII0XxxdqYeLp1bOxU XrsIg0&bclid=0&bctid=3322519247001 Recently I had the opportunity to visit Friedman’s classroom in Hamilton. As I entered the building to sign-in at the main office, the first thing I noticed was a studentmade electric guitar hanging from the wall. As I was escorted to his classroom, I passed a display case in the hallway proudly displaying more of the guitar projects. Friedman has weaved his vision into the fabric of the school, creating an environment that screams music advocacy. The wild-looking electric guitars (exotic shapes such as the flying v, explorer, and razorback) that decorate the school hopefully will inspire future rockers to shred scales and sequences; picking sweep arpeggios; creating distorted bass string riffs; using two hand finger
tapping; fretting hammer ons and pull offs; chunking power chord progressions; improvising pentatonic scales over a 12 bar blues; and a variety of other slang techniques associated with the electric guitar. Yes again, this is music advocacy in action! In the past I personally have toured the factories of Gibson Guitars in Bozeman, MT and Martin Guitar in Nazareth, PA, but to see a classroom of eighth graders in NJ measuring fretboards, sanding bodies, and applying fretwire to necks simply appeared surreal. As the students worked independently and also with Michael shadowing and modeling from time to time, “Led Zeppelin II” blasted from the speakers of his classroom/workshop, creating the appropriate ambiance. Michael was kind to answer many questions, and his students were proud to display their work and enthusiastically pose for photographs. It was my pleasure to “test drive” and demonstrate one of the “final products” for the class as students gathered around requesting “riffs” by Aerosmith, Kiss and the Rolling Stones. I predict that one day a great guitar building innovator such as a Leo Fender or Christian Frederick Martin type will get a start on their first guitar in Friedman’s public school woodshop class. What Is Your Background In The Vocational/Industrial Arts? As a son of an Industrial Arts teacher and the grandson of a family furniture repair/refinishing business owner, you might say that Woodworking and Industrial Arts is in the blood. My father, Bill Friedman, taught middle school metal working, Woodworking, and mechanical drawing for 36 years before retiring in 2012. Ever since my older brother, Lee, and I were very little, my father would bring us to school with him on our days off. We would shadow him as he worked with students and helped them to safely build beautiful projects. We were always fascinated and knew at a young age what we wanted to be when we grew up. Lee is also an Industrial Arts teacher at Steinert High School in Hamilton, NJ. In addition to teaching, my father also continued my grandfather, Stan Friedman’s, business “Friedman Furniture Service.” My brother and I would also spend much of our time in our father’s shop shadowing him and helping him work on furniture and making house calls to customers. This gave us a very strong Woodworking background at a very young age.