The Historical Society of Islip Hamlet—in cooperation with the Islip Public Library and the Islip Schools Fine and Performing Arts Department—presents a cinematic selection to inspire and …
The Historical Society of Islip Hamlet—in cooperation with the Islip Public Library and the Islip Schools Fine and Performing Arts Department—presents a cinematic selection to inspire and delight music lovers, documentary film buffs, those interested in exploring the creative process, of a master in their field, in addition to anyone who wants to help support fine arts in Islip Schools. The society is pleased to be co-hosting an evening with John Monteleone on Thursday, April 27, in the Islip High School auditorium, located at 2508 Union Boulevard, in Islip. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., to a performance by the Islip High School music students, followed by introductions promptly at 7 p.m.
Lifelong Islip resident John Monteleone, one of the world’s preeminent instrument builders, and Trevor Laurence, director, will introduce their feature-length film, “John Monteleone: The Chisels are Calling.” There will be a question-and-answer session following the film.
Monteleone is an Islip Schools alum and a 1965 graduate of Islip High School, so returning to his alma mater marks the completion of a cycle for him. “It’s coming full circle. I graduated from that school. It’s rather fascinating to return after all this time. It’s pretty strange to imagine it, to transplant myself back to 1965 and say I’d be returning one day,” he said of the apt location for this retrospective on his life and career.
Dubbed a modern-day Stradivari of guitar, Monteleone’s instruments are on permanent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The autodidact craftsman builds instruments, which inspire awe, not only for their impeccable sound quality, but also for their visually arresting and innovative designs. His arch-top guitars are sought after by jazz and rock guitarists alike, including Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and many other notable musicians.
Laurence became involved in the project through the late, world-renowned finger style guitarist and educator, Woody Mann, who died Jan. 27, 2022. Mann appears in the film and was a producing partner. It’s bittersweet for the director and Monteleone to see this project come to fruition, without Mann being here to witness it, although his powerful presence will be felt through this film, and the legacy he’s left behind will continue to reverberate throughout the acoustic guitar world.
After playing Monteleone’s iconic arch-top guitars for years, Mann pitched the film idea to Laurence, who had been seeking ideas for his next film project. The documentary film follows Monteleone from his childhood, being inspired by his woodworking father and motivated by necessity, the mother of invention.
“I grew up in that kind of environment. I was familiar with a lot of techniques such as tools and materials, and I grew up loving music,” said Monteleone, a guitarist, who still plays daily, in addition to attaining living-legend status as a craftsman, with a home and workshop in Islip. The initial impetus came to the precocious artisan at a young age and blossomed into an unexpected and rewarding lifelong vocation and passion.
“The thought came to me back in junior high. I can’t afford a guitar, so I’m going to build one. It was a matter of necessity,” Monteleone said, matter-of-factly. “Little did I know it could become a career. It’s serendipity. It’s something I never would have dreamed of,” he said.
The celebrated arch-top luthier knows, from personal experience, the life-changing effect that music and the arts can have on a child, which can shape their entire life with the creativity and precision evocative of one of Monteleone’s singular instruments.
“These are called acoustic arch-top guitars. They are carved on top and back, as would be a violin or a cello,” explained Monteleone of the niche instruments, which are his forte and serve as functional works of art. “It used to be typically associated with jazz. In my case, I always tried to stretch this to different genres,” said the groundbreaking craftsman.
Never one to shy away from challenging projects, Monteleone recalled one of his most audacious designs, which a client commissioned, for what he refers to as the “thematically based instrument.” This provides a unique spin on the egalitarian guitar, which Monteleone calls, “the people’s instrument.”
The maverick-builder recalled being asked to design an arch-top guitar based on the Chrysler building. “I said, ‘No, it’s impossible’, but the idea never left me for two years. I know how to do this,” he explained regarding his towering achievement. This lesson in fortitude and creative problem-solving in the arts, music, and beyond, is one which Islip students will hopefully take to heart—as they embark on their own life paths—inspired by those who came before, such as Monteleone, a hometown hero of craftsmanship, music, and the magic of believing in your dreams.
The admission fee is $20. Tickets are available through eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-with-johnmonteleone-tickets-526064562267. A portion of the proceeds will fund an Islip High School scholarship, in honor of John Monteleone, to be awarded to an Islip student enrolled in music and/or art.
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