“Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing
for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.”

D.H. Lawrence

In grade school I was a guitarist. I didn’t actually know any chords, because we played broomsticks rather than real guitars, but we rocked the Monkees and I could sing all the tunes (until my voice changed). I was mesmerized by my brother Blair’s LPs, with their visceral music and trippy cover art – Santana, Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, Credence.

The company of treesI was also starting to backpack, and this must have distracted me, because it didn’t occur to me to get a real guitar until my little sister did first! I immediately went to Heck Music Co., bought the same model (a $35 classical), and joined the same folk group.

Soon there was a steel string Aria, then a Fender Precision Bass, a Gibson Melody Maker, an SG, a Martin D-35, and finally…YES!…a wine red Les Paul. With an uncertain baritone voice, my bandmates told me to shut up and play, and so I did: hard rock, Southern rock, folk, worship music, funk, soul–even the soaring lead to the Theme From Rocky at a huge outdoor concert, a heady (and never repeated) stadium moment.

I started tinkering with instruments, using tools from years of making intricate wood models, but a traumatic experience changed that course. Here is a blog post about how I started in lutherie, detoured into furniture making, and finally came back.

Carved furniture detail, Cuban mahogany
Carved furniture detail, Cuban mahogany

The detour turned out to be a blessing. Along the way I studied at James Krenov’s fine furniture program at the College of the Redwoods, the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine, and with several other stellar makers, which brought breadth, rigor, and refinement to my already detail oriented sensibility.

Generous members of the lutherie community then helped me integrate these decades of music and woodworking, particularly Jeff Elliott, Lynn Dudenbostel, Woodley White, Tom Harper, and John Greven. These teachers, along with helpful dealers and players, also exposed me to some of the finest instruments and craftsmanship in existence–an inspiration and challenge every day in the shop.

Likewise, many fine performers and music educators have been generous with their guidance and encouragement, among them Anne Loewen, James Hill, Peter Luongo, Suz Doyle, Sarah Maisel, and Craig Chee. They have opened my eyes to the (sometimes completely unexpected) potential of these instruments.

I am deeply indebted to my teachers and mentors; some are renowned masters, others less well-known, and a good number wouldn’t think of themselves as teachers at all, but all have been wonderful and influential in my life.

———————

Ann, Tilman, and I on Tumalo Mtn in central Oregon

What? You’re still reading…after the thank yous!?

OK, I grew up in Ventura CA, where my family goes back quite a ways, to when the county was renowned for…lima beans! They were better known for oranges by the time I came along, thankfully.

My grandfather introduced me to the Sierra Nevada mountains at a tender age. They have a special place in my heart and I can’t resist sharing a few pictures here.

I studied mathematics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where along with combinatorics and game theory I absorbed Tolkien’s stories and Monty Python. Considerable phone bills and writer’s cramp were also a staple of this time as I courted my future wife Ann, who attended school down in LA.

Thenardier sells young Cosette.

Ann and I have lived at the base of Vineyard mountain outside Corvallis Oregon for decades. Our three kids grew up here alongside a menagerie of pets, and trees we planted as seedlings now envelop us in delightful color each autumn. Not raking really helps with the enjoyment!

I was a software R&D designer/engineer at IBM and HP, and later founded a software company. If you’ve used HP calculators, or talked on the phone in a car, there’s a decent chance you’ve used my work. My colleagues at these companies shaped me profoundly with their commitment to excellence and cooperation, and practices of rigorous research, design, testing, and customer service.

My voice eventually matured, and though “The Last Train to Clarksville”–or anything by the Monkees–is out of range, I join in the occasional community theater production.

The crescent moon logo

Years ago I used the moon over Half Dome (inspired by Ansel Adam’s famous photo) as my potter’s mark in ceramic work. Much later, at key moments as I debated (and doubted) returning to lutherie, I would walk outside and spy the new moon beckoning in the sunset sky. The timing was eerie, and when I realized that instrument making was a path I was already on, the new moon had to be part of my logo.

When it appears each month–at least, when it’s not raining here in western Oregon–it bathes me in little wave of delight, and reminds me again of what I hope to share with others.

 

Pat Megowan Stringed Instruments LLC