By Andrew Catania
You may learn to become a luthier by profession, but, great luthiers are born, not made. And we have Michel Pellerin as a strong validation for this claim.
Born and raised in Quebec, Montreal, it was as if music and more specifically, the guitar-philia, was already in his genetic codes – his very blueprint. He knew he was born to be a luthier, a great one, and that is what kept him focused on the predetermined path right from the very start, without much divergence, or crossroads.
After graduating from the National School of Guitar Making in 1998, Pellerin’s career had a rhythmic, systematic start, beginning with a silo workshop in a quiet corner of his apartment, where he would practice his hands, repairing and improvising on the repaired and discarded instruments. This not only polished his skill but also laid the foundation of the luthier’s mastery he was yet to gain.
Later, destiny blessed him with a chance to work as an apprentice under two luthier maestros, Laurent St-Jacques who upskilled him in classical, while Serge Michaud refined his skill in acoustic guitars.
By the time he completed his apprenticeship, in 2001, he was offered training officer position in the Godin Factory, which he accepted. All the while, he was still keeping up with his workshop at home, for experiments and repairs. Having a firm knowledge, understanding, and expertise at hand, he decided it was a time he gave his profession a full swing, and in 2002, started his full-time luthier shop. Over the next three years, he got his hands on a variety of guitars, for repairs, fixes, and improvisation, and also, experimenting with his hand made guitars.
The repair shop was heading fast towards his dream, when in 2005, he had to give it a partial break, restricting it to part-time, for a guitar making and repair teaching position offered at a college.
From 2007 to 2010, Pellerin worked in collaboration with Gilbert Blais, combining their skills on acoustic guitars. The mutually beneficial partnership lasted for three years, and by the time they parted ways, Michel Pellerin joined Ervin Somogyi at Woodstock Invitational Luthier Showcase, enrolling in his voicing class as a student.
Pellerin hasn’t looked back since, having crafted over 170 personally designed signature, hand crafted instruments to date. He has a strong affinity to push the tone chord limits to extremes, touching new milestones and inventing fresh musical planes that can be tuned out of the guitar strings. It is his aversion to the contemporary techniques and inclination to experiment with the sonical potential that his hand-designed instruments hold in their essence a sonical grandeur, with textural tones and subtle nuances.
His idea of an excellent, masterpiece instrument is that the chords must connect with the rhythms of your heart and coupled with the wisdom of your brain. When this trical chemistry is established, you can extract the finest, magical tones out of your cords and fingers.
Pellerin considers meeting Claude Laflamme as his career hallmark. Joining hands with the acclaimed musician, composer, producer, and arranger, he has made six customized instruments for him so far. Travelling across the globe, Claude Laflamme plays Pellerin’s guitars in concerts, shows, and guitar exhibitions, bringing in his account a global recognition. His luthier creations have been exhibited at renowned music platforms such as Montreal Guitar Show in 2005, Woodstock Invitational Guitar Show in 2012, Ottawa Guitar Show (2014-2016), Holy Grail Guitar Show in 2014, Harp Guitar Gathering in 2013 and 2015, and Osaka Sound Messe in 2015, to name a few.
He has a couple of exhibitions lined up already; at Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebrations in September and Harp Guitar Gathering in October, to be followed by Osaka Sound Messe in April 2017 and the first ever Artisan Guitar show in Pennsylvania the same month too.
Along with classical and contemporary acoustics, his signature 6, 12 to 21 hand-crafted stringed instruments are in high demand at music stores in Quebec and British Columbia (Canada), Osaka (Japan) and the Acoustics Gallery in Seoul (Korea). His showroom has been established in Thetford Mines, Quebec, Canada and is frequented by acclaimed musicians, composers, and guitar aficionados.