Friday, August 23, 2019

School for makers of stringed instruments in tiny town is starting a nonprofit to manufacture them, hopes to hire 60

Doug Naselroad, director of the  Appalachian School of Luthiery in Hindman, Ky., population 777, plays a butternut travel guitar made by Paul Williams, a member of the luthiery's staff. (Photo by Kim Kobersmith for The Daily Yonder)
A small Appalachian county seat that has never had a factory is getting a different sort of manufacturer: a luthiery, which will make guitars, mandolins and other stringed instruments.

"The nascent Troublesome Creek Instrument Co. will build high-end guitars in a small manufacturing facility out of Appalachian hardwoods, some of which have never been used in instruments before, like black locust and red spruce," Kim Kobersmith reports for The Daily Yonder.

“These Appalachian trees produce some of the best tone wood in the world. They really make beautiful, resonant instruments,” said Doug Naselroad, director of the Appalachian School of Luthiery, which was founded to maintain and develop the craft. It is part of the Appalachian Artisan Center, created with local efforts and government grants.

The not-for-profit company is getting its main funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a regional economic-development agency.

Knott County (Wikipedia map)
"This is a place in need of more economic opportunity," Kobersmith writes. "Nine of the 30 poorest counties in the United States in 2017 were in Aastern Kentucky, according to the Census Bureau. Naselroad says there are few jobs and no help-wanted section in the newspaper. There has never been a manufacturer in Hindman, and an outside company is not likely to build one any time soon."

The company will use "a hybrid of digital fabrication and old-world hand skills," Kobersmith reports. "The goal is to create 60 well-paying, highly skilled jobs for the community." Naselroad said the company will support other local businesses such as a the lumberyard.

"Naselroad said he also hopes Troublesome Creek Instrument Co. can be part of addressing another pressing problem in the region – addiction recovery," Kobersmith reports. "Each week, the School of Luthiery opens its doors to participants in the Culture of Recovery, an arts-based recovery program run by the Artisan Center. He said promising candidates from the Culture of Recovery program will be encouraged to apply for employment with the instrument company. Crucially, a felony conviction – a frequent result of opioid addiction – will not automatically disqualify job applicants. One person who completed county drug court has already been hired in the first handful of employees."

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