People from around the world come to the Appalachian School of Luthiery in Hindman, Ky., to learn the craft of instrument-building. The school is part of the Appalachian Artisan Center, a nonprofit organization that helps develop the region’s art economy.
The school’s head luthier, Doug Naselroad, recently co-founded Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company. The nonprofit company plans to become commercially sustainable by manufacturing high-end custom guitars, mandolins and mountain dulcimers while helping local people earn a livelihood through luthiery skills.
In February 2019, the federal Appalachian Regional Commission announced a $12 million investment for addiction recovery and workforce development in Kentucky’s Appalachian counties, including more than $867,000 for Troublesome Creek.
Appalachian School of Luthiery staff serve as the company’s workforce development arm and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program is providing financial assistance for training, which requires school tuition. The six-month program combines digital fabrication with old-world hand skills.
Troublesome Creek is also partnering with Hickory Hills Recovery Center and Knott County Drug Court to engage with people who are recovering from addiction and are interested in luthiery.
In an area that contains some of the poorest counties in the United States, Naselroad’s goal is to produce high-paying and highly skilled jobs, with seven of those paid instrument-building positions currently filled. He also plans to support local businesses by utilizing Appalachian hardwoods such as black locust and red spruce.
“These Appalachian trees produce some of the best tone wood in the world,” said Naselroad in an interview with The Daily Yonder. “They really make beautiful, resonant instruments.”
— By Hannah McAlister