I was fortunate to grow up in an academic and artistic family. I was exposed to art and music from my earliest childhood. As a boy, I refused to go to sleep without Vivaldi or Mozart playing in the background. I began building guitars at the age of 19, while in college. It was simply a sudden crazy notion, but I was lucky enough to live in the same town with an established maker, Harley Day, with whom I apprenticed for the making of my first guitar during 1970. Our influences in those days were the Spanish guitars of Ramirez et al, and we were inspired by the development of classical guitar in America during those days, including musical evenings at Hart Huttig’s house in Miami. Hart was an avid flamenco enthusiast, an importer of everything Spanish and one of the early supporters of guitar building in America. Evenings there often consisted of visits by constructors and guitarists alike, Richard Bruné, Bob Ruck, Juan Mercadal.
Brandy, guitar playing and Flamenco singing (not me, that was Hart) was very typical when we got together. I had a zeal for the music, the building and the romance of it all and set up my own shop right away.
In 1972 I moved to Olympia Washington, where at Evergreen State College I designed for myself a program of studies of historical instruments. In 1973 I returned to St. Petersburg and continued building guitars. Harley meanwhile was completing his third harpsichord. In 1974 Harley and I formed the partnership Day & Batell. Although we continued taking commissions for guitars, we specialized in Harpsichords, Lutes, Vihuelas and Viola Da Gambas. We sold to many universities, professionals and their students and attended and spoke at many early music symposia and conclaves during the 70’s.
By the early 80’s, after various recessions and due to personal economics, Harley returned to his former career of structural engineering. By the mid 80’s I also was forced to find an alternative career. I formed my own company in the field of architectural millwork and by the late 80’s I was specialized in the making of traditional and historic windows and doors, mostly for Landmarks projects in New York City. I was quite successful and enjoyed working with architects, studying historic architectural millwork and applying my woodworking expertise on that larger scale. I built a large and sophisticated plant in Florida, developing techniques for window construction unique in the industry.
By the mid 2000’s however, I became intensely conscious of the need for a general change in lifestyle. Everything in my life at that time was pointing to Berlin, and I moved there in 2007. The recession of 2008 spelled a decline in project volume. Consequently, I closed my Florida plant and continued in the industry as a consulting liaison between German manufacturers and US clients wishing to buy European windows. This afforded me the time to set up a new workshop in Berlin. I’ve never been able to live without a shop.
Experiencing the highly cultural environment and lifestyle of Europe and of Berlin in particular, I was inspired to return to instrument making and by 2010, I was once again focused on classical and flamenco guitars, taking them to a higher level of musicality and consistency than any of my prior work of 30 to 40 years ago. I am at present phasing out of architectural consulting altogether and I am building instruments full time. I am enjoying reviving old relationships in the field of music and instruments and making new ones at a fast clip, particularly in Europe.
From Rich: My many conversations with Michael and playing his 2 guitars, the Spruce a bit more, getting ready for recording, tells me without a doubt, the man is a fine builder. He has built at least 30 classical guitars before renewing his luthier career in 2010, and then of course, as he has written, numerous historical instruments including lutes and viola da gambas. His ear is as finely tuned as any luthier I’ve come across. His engineering skills and meticulous attention to detail allow him to build to the most minute of specification, and more importantly, recreate them within certain tolerance. The perfect infusion of engineering, acoustics, luthierie, skill and knowledge. He is another man who is fiercely proud of his work, and his work ethic is above reproach. His guitars are a wonder to play.
Please contact Rich at: sales at savageclassical dot com to inquire about Michael’s Classical Guitar Inventory with us here at Savage Classical Guitar