Have you ever wondered how a guitar is made? That question never crossed my mind until I read an article in the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper a couple of months ago. I don’t play the guitar, but I do sing and know music, so the article perked my interest. The story was about a company founded in 1833 by Christian Fredrick Martin Sr., who emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania. The present CEO is Christian Fredrick Martin IV. The factory is now located in Nazareth PA and is one of the world’s oldest and largest maker of guitars.
My wife and I were headed to my 60th high school reunion in the Adirondack Mountains of NY and it was sort of on the way, so why not stop and see if they had a tour. Their website gave a glowing story of the company along with daily tours, so thanks to my trusty (sometimes) GPS we arrived about 15 minutes before the 11:00 a.m. tour.
I expected a smallish building with grizzled artisans cutting, shaping and stringing a guitar, maybe taking a week or more to finish. My picture was not even close to what I saw. The factory was large. Upon entering the pleasant and colorful reception area, we were greeted by a very kind and knowledgeable receptionist, and asked, since we had about 15 minutes before the tour, to visit their museum. Again, I believe about every guitar and ukulele known to man, was displayed along with its history. I found out Martin Guitars are treasured worldwide for their impeccable craftsmanship and sound. Life size pictures of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley with their Martins strung over their shoulders impressed me with who has played these fine instruments.
Soon we heard the announcement to gather at the receptionist area for the tour. Our very able tour guide, who also used to help make the guitars, handed us remote ear phones, and we all adjusted the volume to suit our hearing. He was very knowledgeable, informative and fun. Our tour lasted one and a quarter hours. We visited every station of the building process from rough lumber to a beautifully crafted guitar.
We learned there are over 300 steps to complete a guitar. There are 400 worker/artisans and talking to them I could see they take a great deal of pride making the world’s best guitars. As the brochure said “Our exquisitely crafted guitars have helped define virtually all genres of music from classical and country to folk and acoustic rock.”
The city of Nazareth and the home of Martin Guitar should be on your bucket list of places to visit.
OLLI member and Member of the OLLI writers group