Aug 28, 2013 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Banjos, fiddles, guitars and mandolins can be fun, but 31-year-old North Syracusan Matt Kielecki is deadly serious about his work building and repairing stringed musical instruments.
Boasting a wealth of experience that would be the envy of many a luthier twice his age, Kielecki (pronounced Kah-LEK-e) now offers his services at the Family Music Center, 914 Old Liverpool Road.
He previously worked for American Music & Sound, was the national guitar tech for Fernandez Guitars and managed quality control for Kaysound Imports which services thousands of retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“Most of my business is vintage instruments,” Kielecki says. “I like a challenging job.”
He points to a gorgeous violin hanging on the wall at Family Music Center, a European-made copy of a Giovanni Paolo Maggini violin. While Maggini died in 1630, credible copies of his excellent violins were constructed in Germany and France in the late-19th century.
“That instrument came from a dumpster,” Kielecki recalls. But you should hear it now. “It has a real dark-sounding, vibrant sound,” Kielecki marvels. Family Music hopes to sell it for $8,000.
While he’s proud of his work on that fine fiddle, Kielecki’s “real love,” he says, “is building guitars and repairing banjos.”
As an accomplished five-string banjo player, Kielecki’s own musical tastes run to bluegrass, Celtic and Americana styles, but when it comes to stringed instruments themselves, he’s completely universal.
“I can fix anything,” he said simply. “I guarantee my work.”
When he goes the extra mile on repairs, Kielecki absorbs the cost of extra hours of labor lost. “Sometimes I lose some money,” he observes, “But I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing it’s fixed.”
Because of the high quality of his work, Kielecki charges between $3,000 and $6,000 for a new, custom-made instrument. He can make a guitar utterly unique with custom shell inlays, using abalone for instance or mother of pearl. “You can inlay photos, a name, almost anything,” he says. But no ivory. He won’t use any materials, neither wood nor animal products, which come from endangered species.
Family Music Center offers the most inexpensive instrument repair service in CNY, says Phil de Anguera who owns the shop with his wife, Gena.
“Whenever my personal stringed instruments are in need of repair, I take ’em to Matt,” de Anguera says. “He’s a wizard! He’s great on neck resets and refinishing work along with injury repair, and when Matt repairs something that’s been damaged — let me tell you — it doesn’t show.”
Recalling how much he learned from craftsmen such as the late Martin Guitar specialist Mike Longworth, Kielecki’s glad to share his expertise with aspiring local luthiers such as Seth Dittler, who constructed the practice fretboard that sits gripped in the vise in Kielecki’s workroom at the Family Music Center.
Tugging the fretboard from the vise, Kielecki shows how he double-checks the height of the frets. If the straightedge bounces along like a teeter-totter, he demonstrates, “the frets aren’t even.” On a superior instrument, he explains, the frets are going to be exactly the same.
Another of his students, Justin Gluck, is a skilled electric-guitar repairman, but now, under Kielecki’s tutelage, he’s learning the fine points of fixing acoustic guitars as well.
Kielecki himself started young. In his early teens, the budding banjo player was already replacing nuts and tuning pegs and messing with fret metal and pick guards. “In my teens, I got serious,” he said. “I’d been exposed to the guitar in our home, but my interest really skyrocketed in my teens.”
“For the past two calendar years, Matt has been the go-to professional for stringed instrument repairs, restorations, appraisals and bluegrass lessons here at Family Music Center,” de Anguera said.
Now Kielecki provides in-store maintenance and plans to teach a class called “Build Your Own Stringed Instrument.” To sign up for the class or to chat with Kielecki about fixing your stringed instruments, call the Family Music Center at 457-7375.