Somehow, the obscurity of the school is part of its charm, which was made abundantly clear as soon as I opened the door and was greeted by Mitch MacDonald, one of the founders of the school in 2009. The small anteroom to the workshop is lined with hanging guitars, pictures, testimonials and the like, an ordered chaos that suggests, well, nothing at all. This is a place to build guitars, never mind all that other stuff.
Probably, most people would talk about the school by starting with master guitar builder George Rizsanyi, but in retrospect I'm glad Rizsanyi wasn't there the day I visited---he was off to Toronto to start a satellite school; nothing against Rizsanyi, but no doubt his story is told often (I'll get to it), while MacDonald's just as interesting story gets overlooked.
The short of it: There are still people, well, one person anyway, who give a shit about quality, who are interested in the old craft skills and workmanship. A native of PEI, MacDonald moved to Lunenburg in 2008 to enrol in the Heritage Carpentry program at the community college there. We don't talk enough about the importance of such programs in keeping the skilled trades alive in Nova Scotia; completely off the radar is the secondary role the programs play in building an artistic scene and attracting interesting people to this province.
Together with a third partner, Jeremy Nicks, MacDonald and Rizsanyi decided to open the School of Lutherie. Understand that MacDonald was then just 25 years old.
MacDonald tells me that the school attracts a range of students, from high schoolers to the oldest, at 79, and from people who come in for a one-day course, for $325, all the way up to the four-month course for $1,380. (See the complete range of courses at the schools website, canadianschooloflutherie.com.) "But most students want to walk out with at least one guitar," he says. "While a lot of people leave with three---an acoustic, an electric and maybe a bass, or some other instrument."
I'm the first to admit that I don't have the musical expertise to judge the sound quality of the students' creations, but the growing reputation of the school speaks for itself in that regard. For myself, I'm just happy to see a business devoted to serious craft work achieving success.