BioThanks for checking out the Bio Page. I'm Marcus Dominelli. I am a luthier specializing in the construction of double top concert guitars. I also make traditional classical guitars, flamenco guitars, and occasionally some period guitars and other instruments.
Lutherie has been my full-time occupation since 1998. I also have an interest in doing restorations and repair work to fine instruments when I can fit this work in. But over 90% of my time is spent filling orders for new guitars. I live in Victoria, British Columbia , Canada, with my two sons, Ruben and Leo.
Here’s the story:
I grew up near Vancouver, B.C. on the edge of the mountains, and next to the ocean. I built my first guitar in 1996. I had been a mechanic (both cars and bikes), a woodworker, university graduate, world traveler, and a few other things before that. I realized I loved working with my hands as a young boy. I liked the meditative aspect of getting lost (or found) in my work. I would loose track of time.
I grew up in a musical family. There were always a couple of guitars around the house for us to pick up and play. I was a teenager during the 80s - that decade of the “Electric Guitar Hero.” I had an electric guitar and a huge 100watt tube amp as well. It was a fun time to be learning the guitar. I took formal lessons in both acoustic and classical guitar, but mostly I was self taught. A lot of musical inspiration came from my family and friends.
I spent a good chunk of my 20's working in the forest sector, attending university, and traveling. I picked up several nice instruments during my travels to India, Cuba, Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America. I was also learning the basics of flamenco guitar and some other musical styles. My biggest failing as a musician was that I could not commit to playing a particular style for very long.
While undergoing a cabinet making apprenticeship in my mid 20's, it occured to me that I could learn to make my own guitars! (What a concept!) I built myself an electric guitar, because it was an easy place to start. There were very few resources for learning the art of lutherie back then, aside from a few books. I decided to quit my cabinet making apprenticeship and go to guitar making school, which brought me to the Timeless Instruments School of Lutherie in Saskatchewan. Timeless was run by David Freeman, who learned from American lutherie pioneer Charles Fox, who is still an active builder and teacher. David taught me the basics of the Spanish Method of guitar construction, but more importantly he taught me that anything was possible. If I wanted to be a luthier I could be one, is what David said. This was significant, because I met many, many people who told me that it was not possible to make a living in this field. It was nice to get a positive message from David.
After graduating from Timeless I moved to Victoria, B.C., where I was offered a job at the Old Town Strings Instrument Repair Shop. Here I worked with two long time veterans of instrument repair, restoration, and construction, Dave Cahil, and James Hamm. This is where my education really got going. Dave was in charge of the fretted instruments, while Jim did the violin family work, and built double basses. Dave was fairly conservative in his approach to repairwork. He was a certified Martin Guitar Warranty specialist, so we got to work on a lot of nice vintage Martins. Jim was more of an "outside the box" kind of guy, highly creative and innovative in his approach to things, most notably around his innovations to the double bass, which he essentially re-invented. Sadly, Dave passed away in 2018. He will be missed by many people. Before his death, he passed the Old Town Strings business over to Dylan Rovere, a very fine guitar maker and repairman, who runs the repair shop now.
I learned a huge amount about instrument construction, design, and sound while working with Jim and Dave. Since then I’ve always believed that the best place to start a career in Lutherie is by studying the guitars of the great (and not so great) makers of the past and present. Many exceptional guitars came through the shop for work, and I felt honored to examine and work on them.
I worked at Old Town Strings full time for several years, and I made my own guitars on the side, during evenings and weekends. For a short while, about a year, I worked as a bass and cello repairman at Tipper Violins in Victoria as well. But after my kids were born, I decided to scale back on doing repairs and I launched Dominelli Guitars full-time.
By 2004 I got my first web-site up and running. I was supplying dealers in Canada and U.S.A at this time, building guitars on spec, and I was starting to get lots of commissions for new instruments by classical guitar players, so things were looking good for me.
Around this time I met the Hungarian/Canadian luthier Geza Burhardt, at the Guild of American Luthiers Convention in Tacoma, Washington. Geza was an influence and inspiration. His workmanship was the best I had seen, and he offered to teach me his method of french polishing. I’ve since mastered the art of french polishing thanks to his guidance, and I regularly teach it to other artisans - guitar makers, woodworkers, and furniture restorers.
Geza also taught me his method of v-joint neck construction, in trade for some exceptionally nice cedar I got from Haida Gwaii.
Getting feedback from famous luthiers and professional musicians has from the beginning been critical in my development as a luthier. Lots of players would come through town, or meet me at guitar shows, and take the time to test drive my guitars in a way which I cannot. Thank-you all!
I have been operating Dominelli Guitars for over 20 years now. Business has steadily been getting better, and I currently ship guitars all over North America, and occasionally to Europe and Asia. I appreciate the fact that people are willing to pay for quality and customization in this day and age of factory production. A fine handmade classical guitar is a delight to play, and can be a great investment.