The Vancouver International Guitar Festival will present Michael Dunn with its Luthier Industry Builder Award, which it awards annually to an individual who has made a significant and lasting contribution to the evolution of the guitar building industry. This year’s presentation will take place at the festival on August 11 with Dunn in attendance.
A career retrospective of Michael Dunn guitars will be displayed during the festival, which runs August 11-12 at Vancouver’s Creekside Community Recreation Centre in the former Olympic Village.
Over a half century Dunn has built more than 600 guitars for some of the world’s foremost players and collectors and has mentored more than 100 luthiers in his East Vancouver workshop. He is renowned as an artist and innovator who continually breaks the mold to create instruments that are works of sculptural art with extraordinary qualities of sound and playability.
Among prominent players of Dunn guitars are Chet Atkins, American guitarist Bob Brozman and Debashish Bhattacharya a famous slide guitar player from India.
“To call him a master doesn’t even begin to describe the genius of Michael Dunn,” says VIGF co-producer and luthier Meredith Coloma, who apprenticed with Dunn when she was starting out. “I basically stalked him until he agreed to take me on. I could not have had a finer teacher and role model. No one matches his creative output, in terms of style and sound.”
“I was a kid in the late 60’s when Michael Dunn returned from his apprenticeship in Spain and set up his bench next to mine in the Mediterranean Guitar Shop, changing my life forever. I am probably the first of a long line of contemporary luthiers who owe their careers to Dunn.” Bruce Sexauer, luthier, President of the Northern California Association of Luthiers.
Dunn is best known for his Selmer-style guitars built in the Gypsy Jazz tradition made famous by Django Reinhardt in the 1930s. Having played and studied guitar since he was a child, Dunn is also acclaimed for his Gypsy-style performances in Vancouver jazz clubs. Dunn has said luthiers must build 100 guitars to really understand what they’re doing. “There’s a romanticized view of guitar making,” says the 75-year-old master. “It’s a lot of bloody hard work.”
His output covers a wide range of styles, including Weissenborn-inspired lap slide guitars, Hawaiian guitars, OM acoustics, harp guitars and ukuleles, lutes, even a 21-string African kora. But his first love is the Selmer with its characteristic D-hole construction, mandolin-style bent top behind a floating bridge, and interior resonator box that redirects sonic waves into a parabolic reflector that projects sound at higher frequencies.