Instrument Repair & Restoration
From my Navy Days
Guitarist and Luthier
I began my musical life at age 11 playing the trumpet in the school band of my hometown, Manson, Iowa. By age 14, I received my first guitar and began the lifelong task of teaching myself to play. Upon graduation from high school in 1972 I auditioned for and was accepted into the United States Navy Music Program as a trumpet instrumentalist.
After completion of the Navy's Basic Music Course I was stationed at Navy Bands in San Diego and San Francisco, California. At both of these Bands I was officially a trumpet player, but my abilities as a guitarist put me in Navy Rock bands performing in support of Navy Recruiting. In 1976 I separated from the Navy and headed for Boston, Massachusetts to attend The School of Contemporary Music to formally study music. After two years I decided to go back to the Navy, both for the performance opportunities as well as the financial benefits it offered. This time I auditioned as a guitarist. In 1979 I won a spot as guitarist with The United States Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, Maryland where I performed primarily with the Navy's premier Contemporary Music Ensemble, The Electric Brigade. Among the benefits of membership in the Naval Academy Band are permanent duty, so I spent the remaining 25 years in the Navy in Annapolis. Performance duties of Navy guitarists require many facets, including the ability to sight read music and to play multiple styles, so in addition to the rock/pop band, I also performed in an 18 piece jazz band, small combos ranging from duos to quintets, solo performances, as well as occasional concerts as a member of the concert band.
In 2004 I retired from the Navy as a Master Chief Musician and began a second career as a freelance musician, playing whatever is required by the opportunities presented. I perform weekly as a member of the jazz trio "Oreo," play weddings and corporate events along the east coast as a member of the 9 piece variety band "Raggs and the All-Stars," and play in various lounge and restaurant groups.
In addition to my musical skills, I am a luthier with over 30 years experience. On my arrival in Annapolis in 1979, I was presented to opportunity to learn guitar repair by a gifted musician and technician, Mr. Steve Fowler of Fowler Music Service. Steve is a band instrument repairman, but he has the ability to see a problem with anything mechanical and find a solution. Anyway, under his guidance I built and repaired guitars of all types. During my 8 years at Fowler Music Service I repaired instruments for such luminaries as Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass, Charlie Byrd, Joe Byrd, Martin Taylor, Emily Remler, and Larry Coryell.
From 2003 to 2013 I built and repaired guitars at Atlantic Woodworks in Annapolis, an authorized Warranty Service Center for the Fender, Gibson, Martin and Kaman Guitar Companies. The owner, Mr. Peter Paglia, is a cabinet maker and luthier who specializes in building flat top acoustic guitars and does all the finishes. I did most of the repair work and build guitars on a special order basis.
In 2013 I moved my shop to my home and started a working relationship with Brass On Ivory Music in Edgewater, MD to act as a store front for me. Clients may drop off or pick up instruments there, or with an appointment, come to my shop and meet with me. Peter Paglia will continue to do my finishes. Cunningham Guitars is an authorized Service Center for the Martin, Gibson and KMC brands.
In addition to my repair work I am proud to participate in Martin Taylor's guitar retreats as a guest instructor. (https://martintaylorguitarretreats.com/) I present workshops in basic guitar setup and maintenance as well as assisting the featured instructors in their workshops. These instructors include Martin Taylor, Woody Mann, Robin Nolan, Lawrence Juber, Frank Vignola, Richard Smith and John Knowles.
Repair prices and services are listed under Services and Pricing. Custom built guitars, please inquire. Click the Facebook logo at the bottom of the page for more examples of interesting repairs.