20-Year Luthier

An area resident who transformed his passion into a career has created an exhibit that celebrates his 20-year anniversary of making guitars.

Several stringed instruments created by Trinity Guitars owner Jim Holler, over the course of his more than 20-year history as a luthier, are currently on display in his Jamestown shop. But, the guitars in the exhibit are more than just for display, Holler has invited the public to pick up and play some of the rare pieces he has created or acquired.

The exhibit, which will continue through the holidays, includes: the first stringed instrument Holler ever made, a dulcimer; his first and second guitars; one of his patented bent top design guitars played by French classical guitarist Roland Dyens; an example of a wedge guitar that James Piorkowski, who is the head of the guitar department at SUNY Fredonia; performed with professionally, a recreation of a 16th-century parlor guitar; examples of the custom boutique-level steel string guitar work he is currently doing with Stephen Gallagher of Gallagher Guitars and others. It also features some of the rare wood Holler utilizes to create the guitars, such as sinker-mahogany from around 1650 that was discovered in a river in Belize.

According to Holler, he built his first guitar in 1993, so the display is meant to represent the gamut of guitars he created over his 20-year history of serving as a Jamestown luthier.

“I think there are a lot of folks that never get a chance to see or even play one of the guitars that I’ve built,” Holler said. “So, it’s a unique opportunity to see some of the things that typically aren’t available.”

Holler, who earned a degree in Wood Product Engineering from The School of Forestry in Syracuse, took a leap of faith into the guitar-crafting realm after leaving his day job as an engineer at Bush Industries, and buying what was left of Don Banzer’s business in Ohio to move it to Jamestown. One of Banzer’s guitars is also on display as part of the exhibit.

“I wanted to buy a Martin – but I couldn’t afford it,” Holler said. “So, I said, ‘I’m just going to build one.’ It took me a couple of years to finish it, and it came out really decent. I’ll still put it up against the others here (on display).”

Although Holler’s specialty now is classical guitars, his first creation was actually a steel string guitar. Yet, it wasn’t very long after the first that he realized he needed a classical guitar, and thanks to some words of wisdom from his former instructor Marty O’Connor, of Erie, Pa., Holler set out to make his second creation a classic.

“He told me, ‘You’re taking classical guitar lessons; you really need a classical guitar,’ and my response was, ‘Alright, I’ll call you when I get one done,'” Holler said. “There was no intention when I built those two guitars of ever being in business or making it my full-time endeavor.”

Before finishing his third guitar, Holler was already receiving orders for more. Thus began his continued career of providing the tools for local musicians to succeed in the arts community.

“My background has always been in furniture and woodworking,” Holler said. “The wood products engineering degree, the love of guitars and furniture building came together and this is the result of it. It’s satisfying – there’s no question about that.”

In addition to hosting live performances once a month for its In Our Back Yard-Live series, Trinity Guitars also hosts benefit shows for St. Susan Center called “Soup And Song.” The next show is set for Thursday, Jan. 16, and will feature students from Infinity Visual and Performing Arts, as well as the Bill Ward Band.

Trinity Guitars is located at 800 W. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information, call 665-4490, visit www.trinityguitars.com or search for “Trinity Guitars” on Facebook.