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Excitement abounds as build looms

Curren Effinger, first-year student at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical, adjusts an electric guitar while familiarizing himself with tools of his future trade. (Republican-Eagle photo by John Russett)1 / 2
Second-year student David Kriesel stands at his work station with various pieces of wood which he will begin to shape into a guitar come January2 / 2

When Curren Effinger walked into Parsons Guitars in Seattle he expected it to be like many of the other guitar shops he’d been in throughout his life.

He was wrong.

On the wall in the back of the shop in Seattle he found a guitar with a photo next to it.

The photo was of singer-songwriter Jack White and the guitar was custom built for him by shop owner Randy Parsons.

All the guitars on display were custom made with many of the price tags reading close to $10,000.

Effinger said he spent close to an hour in the shop, talking to Parsons about what it was like to build guitars for musicians like White and Jimmy Page.

Effinger’s experience in the Seattle shop piqued his interest. When he returned home to Duluth, Minn., he began to look toward his future.

Now, as Effinger closes out his first semester at Minnesota State College–Southeast Technical, he is preparing to build his first guitar.

Almost 10 years ago, David Kriesel decided it was time for him to leave his small hometown in northern Wisconsin.

A friend of his was on his way to Red Wing for the guitar program at Minnesota State College–Southeast Technical and Kriesel decided to come along.

When Kriesel moved to Red Wing there was a two-year waiting list for the guitar program at the college so he enrolled in the Band Instrument Repair program instead.

However, Kriesel said his real interest was guitars. His father was a carpenter and Kreisel has been around music his whole life, so he sees the program as a melding of the two.

Kriesel said he spent the next seven or eight years playing gigs, bartending and biding his time.

When the college did away with the waiting list for the guitar program, he jumped at the opportunity.

“The time was right,” he said.

The two-year Guitar Repair and Building program at Southeast Technical draws students from around the country to teach them the art of building and repairing guitars.

Kriesel, entering his last semester, and Effinger, with one semester in the books, said they are both happy to be where they are, with the opportunity to learn in a program which is known for the highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals it produces.

“In the more than four months I’ve been here now I’ve learned a lot. And now I look at every single one of my instruments now I’ve played for years and I notice there’s a problem with all of them,” Effinger said.

Over those four months, Effinger said he has learned to do various guitar repairs and prepare the necessary tools – all designed to get him ready for his first solo build.

Sheets with specific dimensions have been filled out, wood orders sent and received, and a design chosen to ensure Effinger is ready to start his guitar.

“It’s a lot to take in,” he said.

Kriesel said building his own guitar was the highlight of his first year, and said he is excited to get started on another in January.

The first-year students have a few different designs from which to choose, as well as bracings and wood types. The second-year students are left to their own knowledge and imagination.

There are a lot of unknowns the first year, he said, and the second year is about pushing boundaries and seeing what you can do.

If you can dream it, you can build it, Kriesel said.

“I’m doing stuff this year that I never even thought of last year,” Kriesel said.

Effinger said he’s heard from second-year students about some parts of the build that are fairly difficult.

It’s slightly nerve-wracking but exciting, he said.

After his first build Kriesel said he is much more comfortable with the tools and the process, not to mention finally realizing his dream of building a guitar.

“I’ve got a guitar at home that I play that I built from raw wood,” he said. “There is a big difference in mindset.”

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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