Michael Gurian was born in 1943 in Brooklyn New York of Armenian descent. He took lessons on various instruments and developed a fondness for music and the art of Lutherie. After studying sculpture at Long Island University he took up classical guitar and taught music in Roslyn, NY.
Working in his studio apartment as a workshop, Michael built his first guitar. It was a copy of a classical guitar built by Victor Manuel Piniero, a student of Manuel Velasquez. He moved to a three-room shop in Greenwich Village in 1965, and with two assistants began building classical guitars.
The folk boom of the 1960s had created a strong demand for steel string guitars. The major manufacturers had geared up to meet the demand but in the process of churning out thousands of instruments allowed quality control to suffer. A niche was created for high-quality handmade instruments. The time was right: The folk boom favored the notion of individual craft and working with natural materials. Michael Gurian began building steel-strings around 1969 and introduced his own distinctive body shapes and construction techniques. The instruments were beautiful, distinct and sounded wonderful. The public bought them.
The company grew and moved to Bedford Street and then Grand Street. His assembly of apprentices grew to 15. In 1971 he relocated in Hinsdale, New Hampshire for a more favorable business climate.
Vintage instrument retailer Matt Umanov in New York City encouraged Gurian to build a cutaway. It was well received and became a standard member of the line. In 1979, a fire resulting from a boiler explosion destroyed all of Gurian’s guitars as well as his tooling and machinery. Following the half-million-dollar loss, he rebuilt and grew again, recovering from a defeat that would have sent a less devoted person back to guitar teaching. By late 1979 Gurian was employing over 24 people and serving nearly 200 dealers worldwide.
In 1982 Michael Gurian formed a new company: Gurian Instruments, Inc. as a supplier of fine tone woods, tooling, musical instrument parts, ornamentation and supplies for Luthiers and the instrument-building community. The company is located at 5350 30th Avenue NW Suite H, Seattle WA, 98107 on a floating factory called ‘The Barge’.
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ⓒ 2008, Leonard Wyeth