Every year I attend the Philadelphia Folk Festival. In 2013, it was where I met James Drury, luthier extraordinaire. We quickly became friends, and I began regularly visiting his workshop to learn more about guitars from the inside-out!
What is my luthier have to do with my philanthropic efforts?
James Drury was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2000. This information deeply saddened me when we first met- As I had already seen other friends living with the disease and as a speech therapist, been involved in the care of several late stage MS patients. I would not say it is why we became close, but I must admit it gave me a greater appreciation for how valuable our time together is.
Although he began exploring lutherie in high school, Drury continued to support himself as a carpenter until his symptoms were too severe. Now he balances his custom guitar building projects with instrument repair and maintenance work, as well as a vigorous schedule of doctor and therapy appointments.
Even though Drury is the one with the chronic neurological disease, our friendship has often been more about how he and girlfriend have supported me through my artistic growing pains. I affectionately refer to Drury and his girlfriend as my "Fairy-Fest Parents" because of how nurturing they have been. They taught me to perform with my eyes open without becoming self-conscious. They empowered me to wear cat-ears openly before it became trendy, and they let me practice, playing their beautiful handmade guitars and ukuleles.
The Art of the Handmade Guitar
When you hear the word "handmade", what comes to mind? If you have ever taken the tour of the Martin Guitar Factory, your definition may be quite a bit more modern than James Drury's! Imagine traveling back in time; Time before the industrial revolution, before assembly lines and interchangeable parts... Then perhaps you can get an idea of the unique process with which James carves and sands each of his handmade guitars.
As I mentioned, Drury has MS, a disease that slows down everything he does. Rather than allowing it to become an obstacle, he utilizes all of his energy with great patience. He works deliberately and gradually, like a sculptor, allowing the wood to reveal the instrument within. He has spent hours, days, weeks, months, years; devising the most efficient sequence of steps to minimize the effort and maximize the playing value of the final product. As Drury says, "It takes a long time to do everything by hand, and I want to do it right the first time."
Although his design is a piece of art, don't be fooled into thinking it is merely for decoration. James Drury has also spent years playing guitar. His first priority is the precision of sound his instruments deliver. He chooses the height of the action and length of the neck to optimize the tuning accuracy. The arch-top / arch-back design naturally amplifies the loudness and depth of sound. In addition, each guitar's exterior has unique birthmarks to discover. Where another woodworker might have seen an imperfection, Drury embellishes the beauty of nature's creation. Each is truly a one-of-a-kind treasure.
Volunteer Brand Ambassador
Obviously, I am a fan!
So imagine my delight upon being asked to become a Drury Guitars Brand Ambassador! A position as James Drury himself put it, "Just keep being you. Keep saying what you've been saying- and play our guitars!"
Of course, the position doesn't pay... But it comes with perks! I get to occasionally borrow Drury guitars~ Check them out, as if from a very exclusive instrument library!
I really look forward to the day when I can purchase one- Both for my musical benefit, as well as for the financial benefit of my fairy-fest parents! However, for the time being, Drury has to keep these items in stock and for sale in order to pay their bills!
How you can help Drury Guitars
There are many good ways to help support people with MS. You can join the annual MS Walk. You can donate to or volunteer for one of the many non-profits working to fight the disease... Or you can GIVE directly to a man living with the disease.
(Insert Patreon link)
Your donations will help him afford his medication, his doctor's visits, his rent, his utilities... and beyond his personal expenses, your generosity will pay to keep alive the craft of making guitars and ukulelees by hand!