Letters

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 9:15pm
Category: 

Thank you, Mr. Kaufmann

To the Editor:

I read with interest last week’s article “At 92, still making music,” about Carl Kaufmann’s guitar building. I, and my students, have many fond memories from when Carl mentored a guitar building class at the school. It was one of those projects where I learned more than my students. It started when a high school student came up to me and said that he signed up for Woodworking 1 and wanted to build a guitar. I explained that guitars and stringed instruments in general were difficult to build and probably not realistic for a first project. He told me that Carl Kaufmann built guitars and had offered to help. Well, I knew who Carl was but I didn’t know that he built guitars. About a week later, Carl gave me a call and explained that he would be willing to mentor the project if I was willing. I explained that these kids were taking basic woodworking and might not have the requisite skills, not to mention that their teacher had no experience in this area.

He said that shouldn’t be a problem as long as everyone was game and that he would check out some sources for materials. In the meantime, the student who had first approached me had talked to all the rest of the students who had signed up for woodworking (the beauty of a small school), and now they all wanted to make guitars!

A short time later Carl contacted me and said that Martin Guitars had agreed to help by supplying the materials for the project; we needed only $200 in the budget for a box of these supplies, which we had. In a few weeks we received a box full of roughed-out necks, material for tops, backs, and sides, bridging stock, edge banding, tuning machines, frets, etc., worth way more than $200. We took a field trip to Carl’s workshop and there he gave us a general overview of the guitar building process. He explained that the first thing we needed to do was build guitar-building boards (a platform to construct the guitar on), and we were off and running. At this point I knew that I would have to build one, too, if I was to be of any help.

This was a wonderful project where we all learned — I learned some valuable lessons about teaching that served me well throughout the rest of my career. First, have a concrete, tangible goal that the students will buy into (the goal was the guitar and the students were enthusiastic). Next, develop a road map that breaks the project down into logical steps. Carl developed a step-by-step manual for us with notes and reference material. We would meet when he wanted to demonstrate a certain operation or check on our progress. Each demonstration was designed to allow us to complete the next step and the explanations were very clear and logical. When mistakes were made, which they were, the focus was on how to correct the error, because you couldn’t move on to the next step until things were set right. The lesson here was to have short, clear, explanations and demonstrations that targeted the next step only and to have all the tools and materials on-hand so students could immediately proceed while the information was still fresh in their minds. Carl’s love of guitar building and enthusiasm affected us all, which resulted in students helping each other through some of the difficult steps to arrive at the goal of a finished acoustic guitar.

Thank you, Carl, for your many hours of help and patient instruction, for the use of your specialty tools, and for encouragement, which resulted in a learning experience that none of us will forget.

John Warfel

Dunn Town Road

Support gun control

To the Editor:

Guns are tools used to hunt animals or to kill people. On Block Island, the first usage benefits the health of islanders. Alternatively, the need to inhibit the second usage is generally recognized. Thus, as reported in The Block Island Times, the Rhode Island Governor has initiated legislation to ban assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and the presence of guns in and near schools.

Our local leader, the first warden, has contributed greatly in his time and purpose to the town, but is opposed to the state initiative. Why? Is there a relationship to the national partisan divide on gun control? Why does partisanship on this issue exist?

It is reported that State Sen. Susan Sosnowski has requested the position of the town and school board on the issue. We hope that there will be a positive response in support of the state initiative.

George Mellor

Cat Rock Road