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Kristen Porter-Utley

Acoustic Guitar

Kristen Porter-Utley“I remember the day that I decided to learn how to make my own acoustic guitar. My search for a school of lutherie in the New England area began on the Internet. The more I looked around, the more I kept finding encouraging information about the Whetstone School of Lutherie and the skilled founder, Scott Hausmann.

The things that impressed me were the testimonials and the fact that the School highly recommended that students in the Acoustic Guitar class have some woodworking experience. Other schools did not make that recommendation, which gave me the impression that the Whetstone School really meant business.

I contacted Scott and told him about my academic background and my passion for building a guitar, but confided that I had “absolutely no woodworking skills whatsoever.” He suggested I enroll in the class, but also encouraged me to register for the spring semester in Advanced Woodworking at Keene State College. In my college class, we could choose a semester long project, and Scott helped me pick a project that would help me acquire the basic skills I needed to be successful in his course. I chose to build a small jewelry box, which introduced me to various aspects of woodworking including joinery, hand tools, materials, inlay, and working with stationary machinery.

Despite that experience I was nervous when I first arrived for my orientation at the Whetstone School. In fact, I remember telling my husband that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do the work required to make a decent guitar. Nevertheless, as we all got settled in I felt more at ease. Scott emphasized that the course would require focus and hard work, and he cautioned us that we would all inevitably make some mistakes. However, he went on to explain that those mistakes would be great learning opportunities, and he assured us that despite their imperfections, we would be delighted with our guitars and proud of what we had accomplished.

My first impression was that Scott was encouraging, a little stern, and honest – all excellent qualities for any teacher. In addition, his work space was immaculate. I am a biology professor, and I have rarely walked into a molecular lab as organized as the classrooms at the Whetstone School. I knew that Scott, my professor, was thoughtful and he was going to help me make the best first guitar I could possibly make.

Kristen Porter-Utley

I will be honest – the course was challenging. Scott has high expectations and he demands that his students are focused and not just going through the motions of a planned program. In other words, you are making a cut in “X” way, but why are you making the cut in that way and not another? That approach forced me to really think about each step of the process and take responsibility for my learning experience. I also made mistakes – and I had to remember how to dust myself off, get back up, and keep on working. All and all, the course was exhausting and I could barely keep my eyes open at the end of each school day.
That said, building my guitar with Scott and my classmates was one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. Each and every day I accomplished things that I would never have imagined myself achieving. I walked around with a self-satisfied grin on my face and really felt wonderful after finishing every piece of my guitar (even when I made mistakes).

I was definitely stepping outside of my comfort zone by taking this class, and the reward was a really amazing experience and a guitar that I will cherish forever. I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to hold my finished guitar, the one that I built with my own hands, on the last day of class. Whenever I go to parties or get-togethers, friends ask me to bring my Whetstone guitar. They love the way it sounds and plays! The products of the Whetstone course were better than I could have possibly imagined – a better me, and a great guitar.”

Kristen Porter-Utlety
Milford, NH