Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Keeping Pontiac’s musicians strumming

CHAPEAU May 5, 2021
Hoolies, fairs, festivals and jam sessions; music has been alive and well in the Pontiac for ages. But what happens when an instrument breaks and the music stops? One Chapeau man won’t allow that.
Andrew Jones is the founder of Nichabau Guitars, which is run out of . . .

his home in Chapeau. As a trained luthier, Jones offers repairs for guitars and other stringed instruments, and even builds his own guitars from time to time.
Nichabau Guitars was a project Jones had been working on for the last couple of years, but has now chosen to dedicate his career to keeping music going in his home region.
“I’m kind of a lifetime musician, and I worked in construction as a carpenter for years,” Jones explained. “Basically what I kind of figured out is that I could mix the two of them together, woodworking and music. And that’s kind of how I got into lutherie, which is instrument making and repairs.”
Jones grew up in the neighbourhood of Nichabau in Chichester, which he described as a small hamlet with just about 10 houses. He first picked up a guitar when he was 14, and has now been playing for a little over 15 years. His love for music goes back further, but in finding his love for the guitar, his passion ignited.
“I just kind of fell in love with the guitar at an early age.” he said. “I was passionate about it from the beginning, I suppose. I only really got into lutherie in the last five years. But I played in bands over the years I’ve done a lot of music in and around the area … I also taught guitar lessons for a long time. It’s just been a big part of my life for a long time.”
After working in construction for several years and indulging in music on the side, Jones decided it was time to change that and looked for a different career path. His main goal: to make music a central part of his life.
With his trusty guitars as his weapons of choice, Jones searched for a way to make his dream a reality. But with a limited budget, it was hard to find a way to get his instruments the repairs and maintenance they needed. So he decided to take it into his own hands and, with the help of a mentor, slowly uncovered an interest in instrument repair. It was the perfect blend of his current carpentry skills and his passion for music.
“Once I started doing it, I realized that I really enjoyed it,” he recalled. “So what I did is I tried to find a way to see how I could get into the trade. I stumbled across the school program, and I signed myself up right away. And I got accepted. So I moved to Quebec City.”
He began taking classes at L’École Nationale de Lutherie in 2017, and in this time started doing repairs as a business on the side. When he completed his studies last year, he and his girlfriend moved back to his hometown in the Pontiac. He set up shop in his home and offered his lutherie services part time for the first few months.
Eventually he made the shift to full-time and has been doing so since December 2020. As to why he returned to the Pontiac, Jones explained it was a combination of getting out of the city during the pandemic, being closer to family and to offer a unique service that was needed in the region.
“The support so far, it’s been quite overwhelming, really,” he said. “I’ve really been blown away to see how many people are interested in this. And I think that is kind of proof that this service is really needed in the area. I know, there’s a pretty active music community and it’s just great to see that people are supporting me, and I’m very happy to be able to help in whatever way I can.”
Someday, Jones would like to be able to open a bigger shop and potentially offer some employment opportunities, but for now, he simply hopes to grow his business further, reach more people and hone his skill.
“It’s really just this pushing my craft as far as I can push it personally. I want to be able to make the best guitars that I can … And again, just just trying to make a local product that can be recognized. Something that comes from the Pontiac, and, you know, just just maybe put the Pontiac on the map a little bit.
“I want to keep the music alive,” he added. “You know, I just want to be able to provide people with the joy that it’s provided me.”