Italians are great! There I said it. There are so much more to Italians than mobsters and the Jersey Shore crew. Considering that Italy is about the size of Florida and Florida is full of alligator eating, cat fish fisting red necks, Italians bring a wealth of culture, craftsmanship and technology to the world. Did I mention the food? Well you know how good Italian food is.
Italians are known for their wine, cheese, art, music, leather craftsmanship and finally gaining recognition for their musical instrument craftsmanship. Italian Americans have brought their craftsmanship ingenuity to America. In Long Island N.Y. there is a 64 year old craftsman John Monteleone who builds the greatest of guitars completely by hand. He works alone but has the spirit of his father working side by side with him. His father, Mario Montelone was a talented sculpture. He was able to learn tips from his father in crafting a fine piece of wood into an instrument.
Each guitar he makes is considered a work of art. He is so highly recognized that his work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is featured in the exhibition called Guitar Heroes. Unlike the game that teaches you nothing about actual guitar playing, his guitars are beautiful looking and playable works of art. The game only has four strings, but features some of the best samples of rock guitar anywhere. Kids are playing Alice Cooper’s School’s Out without even knowing what Alice looks like on a four stringed press the button thing. Imagine if they made the toy with six strings. A lot of kids would be playing close to the real thing.
His work is featured in the museum along side the famous Antonio Stradivarius violins and guitars. Stringed instruments that were made in the 1700’s. If we only knew what was in the glues and concrete that keeps the musical instruments together and the massive buildings together for centuries. The museum focuses on three American masters. Starting with John D’Angelico who opened his workshop in Little Italy in Manhattan in 1932.
In his small shop he made about 1,200 instruments during his lifetime. D’Angelico had a devoted following of musicians like legionary jazz guitarist Bucky Pitzarelli. He showed one of these great guitars to Les Paul the creator of a type of Gibson guitar. D’Angelico did not have children but gave his shop to his apprentice James D’Christo. He was like a son to him. He built guitars for Paul Simon and Steve Miller.
John Montleone has his fans too. Mark Knoffler of Dire Straits liked it so much he wrote a song about the guitar. He made a instrument for Elizabeth Taylor’s son. His instruments sell for about $40,000 . His accomplishment is called The Four Seasons which is a group of four guitars meant to be played together. It took him 6 years to make them. They were played together at the Metropolitan Museum.
He is proud that his work has made it into the museum during his lifetime. However, it is sad that beautiful works of art like these instruments are behind glass and not being played by all musicians. Ah! The Italians. They still believe in love, romance good food and beautiful music. Bravo!