DOBSON — Student response to Surry Community College’s Luthier class has been gratifying for at least one official there.
“One student we have in the class comes in from West Virginia and we have another (Nick Lampo) who plays cello in the Charlotte Symphony and drives in from Charlotte,” said Terri Cockerham, director, Occupational Extension Programs. She said the class has a dozen students participating and is held in Mount Airy in the Center for Public Safety’s woodworking shop.
Cokerham said while the passion in participation from students came as a bit of a surprise some other issues, such as the cost of Luthier tools, were not.
“The tools were pricey for this. It was an expensive start up,” Cockerham said. “We received so much interest in the course we received $10,000 for tools with a donation from a student which was matched by his employer. The first night I went to look in on the class it had been going on for two weeks. I couldn’t believe the enthusiasm I saw. They were so excited about what they were doing. They have a passion for music and the instruments.”
Cokerham said instructor Joe Thrift recently attended a luthier’s event which was out of the area and participants asked him about the course.
“Joe is loving this,” said Cockerham. “Typically he teaches one student in his shop and he is really loving teaching more than one student. The first night he got there early to set up for the class and a lot of them were already there and they just followed him around while he was setting everything up. I think it overwhelmed him just a bit.”
She said she has also enjoyed being a part of an extension class which is unique and said she is proud to be a part of a program which offers students such an opportunity to learn the craft at the tuition price of $183 for a class that typically runs from 9-10 weeks.
“I feel occupational extensions outreach is being met with this,” said Cockerham. “Really this course falls into the category of heritage arts. We are already thinking about continuing it. We look to start another class after this one finishes up.” She said Thrift’s busy travel schedule will probably keep him from expanding the program. Cockerham speculated the school may even look toward setting up another program where students learn to make a banjo or dulcimer, which would tie in with the areas Old Time music background.
Thrift also helped students locate a supplier of wood for the instruments they are making to add another personal dimension to the process they are learning. Cockerham said she also learned the students formed an impromptu jam session before one class when they realized they had their instruments with them.
“The most striking thing from this diverse group of students, my biggest surprise was their enthusiasm and the passion,” said Cockerham. “That has been the best part from the very beginning, event though being unique is also good.” She said Thrift’s being well known in the field has also helped the program.
“I love it (teaching the larger class),” said Thrift. “It’s intense but I love seeing what people think I say and turn around and try doing it. They’re some clever people in this class and they often come up with something I never thought of with a technique. I’m seeing other aspects of it.”
He said he has also been impressed by his student’s ability to take his instruction to another level no matter the skill set they brought into class with them.
“I don’t sit still with this class. I am on the go all the time (in the classroom),” Thrift said. “I’m listening I’m giving advice and I just like to let them go and see how they tweak what they are doing. It’s exciting. I’m impresses with the level everyone seems to work at do matter their different woodworking experience. I like the process of seeing them achieve it. Our varnish experiment is next.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.