Handmade music: Santiam High students, adults learn specialized skill

April, 2018 Posted in Community, School

image004By Mary Owen

Santiam High School sophomore Shelby Bate has been fascinated with electric guitars for a long time.

“I’ve always been into art and music,” said Bate, 16, one of four Santiam students who, thanks to a $1,200 grant from the Santiam Youth Golf Tournament, is building, personalizing and taking home an electric guitar at no cost.

Ken Cartwright is teaching Bate, Matt Brady, Randy Turpin and Takisha Kendall-McKinney how to build their guitars on Friday afternoons at his Mill City shop, Cartwright’s Music Repair. Additionally, he fosters arts and entertainment and manages the local radio station.

“A lot of the really hard work is done because it’s a kit, but there is plenty to do including wiring and the finish as well as assembly and setup,” Cartwright said. “They will learn how to read blueprints, electrical schematics, sand, add finishes, assemble, setup and follow instructions. The takeaway will be a high-quality instrument they own, can say they built, and are learning on.”

Cartwright said his students will learn new skills in woodworking both by hand and machines as well as basic electronics, finishing, and “working as a team.”

Cartwright believes the next generation is hungry for the shop skills that he had when he was their age.

“It will instill pride in them as they learn to make what they use, not just run out and buy it,” he said of the project.

Randy Turpin is excited about the class. The 15-year-old sophomore likes to build things and see how they tick.

“Or take them apart and see how they work,” said his mother, Elaina Turpin.

Currently taking lessons in his music class, Turpin’s goal is to learn a song by the end of this semester.

Cartwright also teaches adults how to build their own instruments. Linda Willnow, a retired transportation planner living in Silverton, is building a mandolin at the shop.

“Although I’m not a musician, I enjoy listening to local bluegrass musicians and going to annual festivals,” Willnow said. “Building the mandolin is giving me a better appreciation of the complexities of the instrument and the various elements that affect the sound.”

Willnow became intrigued with building an instrument when her friend began to build his guitar.

“Since I love the look and sound of mandolins, I asked Ken if he would be willing to guide me through the process of building an F-5-style mandolin from a kit,” she said. “Ken agreed, ordered the appropriate kit, and has proven to be a patient teacher and mentor.”

When finished, she plans to give the mandolin to her partner, a banjo player and bluegrass musician.

Willnow said she is having a good time working on her project, and joins her friend Joanne DeMay, who is building a fiddle, for several hours a week.

“Music has always been with me,” said DeMay, who admits she is rarely bored. “I now go to blues and bluegrass performances regularly.”

DeMay and Willnow both commended Cartwright for being an experienced and patient teacher as well as a talented musician.

As well as teaching adults, Cartwright continues to seek grant funding to teach students in other school districts or those who are home-schooled.

“I enjoy passing my skills on to those who want to learn and who may want to work in this field of ‘luthiery,’” Cartwright said.

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