Master Guitar-Maker John Monteleone

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Friday, March 18, 2011

In this week's Arts File, Kerry Nolan speaks with master guitar-maker John Monteleone. He's been producing hand-crafted archtop guitars and mandolins on Long Island for 40 years. Nineteen of his instruments appear in an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called “Guitar Heroes,” which traces the history of lutherie--or stringed instrument making--from Italy in the eighteenth century to New York in the twentieth century.

Archtop guitars have tops and backs that are arched in the middle, giving the instruments a somewhat rounded look. Acoustic archtops have f-holes like a violin or round or oval sound holes like a classical guitar. Monteleone has made more the 160 archtop guitars and more than 200 mandolins during his career, and often spends months if not years on a single project. Jayson Kerr Dobney, associate curator of the Met’s Department of Musical Instruments, calls Monteleone "a very intelligent, thoughtful builder-craftsman."


Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Monteleone created the Sun King after finding inspiration in an unlikely material: the scrap wood in his workshop. "That guitar happened very rapidly, just out of the very excitement of the design," he told the Met.


Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Monteleone created this Deco Vox in 2007. With its metallic blue hue and distinctive headstock, the instrument pays tribute to the Chrysler Building in Manhattan at sunset.

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Here's Monteleone with his series of guitars known as the Four Seasons. It took him between six and seven years to complete the project.


Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Grand Artist guitar is known for its large resonance chamber and the design comes out of Monteleone's extensive work with mandolins.

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

All three New York master guitar-makers in the "Guitar Heroes" exhibit have designed instruments in the the teardrop shape. The first was built by John D'Angelico in 1957 for a guitarist in band "The Teardrops."


Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Radio City model is an homage to the hallowed music hall in Midtown Manhattan and all of the musicians that crossed its stage. Monteleone says the "architecture, line, form, and design" of the building went into the instrument.



John Monteleone

Hosted by:

Kerry Nolan

Produced by:

Daniel P. Tucker

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