Archive for the ‘Meet the Luthier’ Category

Guitar Tasting with Franco Marino of Sicily

On Sunday Dec. 20th we were very pleased to host Sicilian luthier (guitar builder) Franco Marino and his wife Carmen for our first Guitar Tasting!

Franco Marino of Messina, Sicily

Franco Marino of Messina, Sicily

In attendance:

  • Adam Levin
  • Devin Ulibarri
  • Apostolos Paraskevas
  • Steve Rapson
  • Peter Janson
  • Kevin Collins
  • Lin and Anni Hymel
  • Aaron & Catherine Larget-Caplan

Franco Marino Guitar Tasting Photos • Like Franco on FB

Special thanks to Catherine and Caroline Larget for creating a wonderful atmosphere and to all who brought nibbles and their musical gifts to our home.

Read an interview for the Boston Classical Guitar Society with Franco in 2010: Interview




Sicily and Reggio Calabria

Following my trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, I flew to Rome where I met Catherine.  We rented a car and started our drive to Sicily.   The close to 12 hour ride was beautiful and full of adventures.  We stopped often for espresso, only a euro and asked many questions as we had no phone or GPS (thank you Verizon).  The ferry ride was exciting only as we crossed the same straight that had stranded sailors for over two thousand years, but was mastered by Ulysses.  What I can say is:  WOW!!

Check out a few photos:
Flicker: Master classes at the Conservatory di Reggio Calabrian
FaceBook: Master class in Reggio Calabria 

Guitarist Nicola Oteri organized three days of master classes at the Conservatorio di Musica F. Cilea in Reggio Calabria where he teaches.  Working with the teenage and young adult musicians was a joy.  Sharing stories imparted to me by those with whom I had classes with as a student: Leo Brouwer, Ricardo Cobo, Sharon Isbin as well as passing the word of my teachers: Dmitry Goryachev, David Leisner and Eliot Fisk.  This intense and personal experience reminded me that music transcends nations and religions coming together for sound; beautiful sound.  Special thanks to Carmen Cardia for translating!


Conservatorio di Reggio Calabria

Conservatorio di Reggio Calabria

Following the days of teaching, Franco and Nicola organized a house concert in Messina, on the Sicilian side of the straight.  A musical feast we had! – Messina House Concert Photos

Sicily is gorgeous; truly the garden of Italy.  Catherine and I stayed with Luthier Franco Marino and his wife Carmen Cardia in the city of Messina.  Never have I tasted, repeatedly I might add for scientific reasoning, such amazing espresso.  Oh, and Granita!!



Catherine and I took a day to go to Agrigento to visit the Valley of the Temples and Piazza Armenina where we saw a Roman Villa full of mosaic work like we’ve never seen anywhere, not even Pompeii could claim such a large collection of beauty.  Told not to take photos of the mosaic we obeyed.  Sorry.

Though there are many more photos:  Sicily, Concert, Espresso, Exploration

Driving in Sicily was not a problem.  People move quickly and are fairly well trained.  Also, the roads are substantially better than Boston’s, drivers too.  So many colors and beautiful beaches in Sicilia.  Sadly, during our trip it was the coldest June in 100 years, so we saw the beaches but did not take off our coats.  Next time, which brings me to:  Nicola, Franco and I are planning for a festival next summer, so pay attention all of you guitar cats.  Sicily might just be calling your name!

It's not just how you play but how you get there.

It’s not just how you play but how you get there.

Special thanks to photographer Catherine Larget-Caplan!

Meet the Luthier – My interview with Franco Marino of Sicily

This interview is the first in a series called, Meet the luthier. Originally intended for the Boston Classical Guitar Society Newsletter, I decided to make them available on my blog. When possible I will include photos and videos of the luthier and his/her instruments.

Carmen and Franco Marino at Café Graffiti, North End, Boston

Background:  Franco Marino is a Sicilian luthier, whose mastery of wood is as impressive as the few years he has been constructing guitars.  His instruments are quickly becoming known in Italy and New England.  I have played four of his guitar (2-spruce, 1-cedar, 1-pear – see video) and found myself amazed at the lyricism and playability, as well as its distinct voice.  With only a few years with guitars his instruments possess great character.  I look forward to playing more!  Visit Franco’s site:

Interview conducted over espresso, guitars, and walking around Boston’s North End (Little Italy) in April 2010.

Aaron Larget-Caplan: Thank you so much for sitting down with me, Franco.
Franco Marino: I have very much enjoyed meeting with the members of the BCGS, so it is my pleasure.

ALC: Did you apprentice or have any teachers or mentors in the development of your guitar building?
FM: No.  I have worked with wood all of my life, so the construction aspect was more technical.  For study I investigated the construction of Spanish guitars.  I decided to work with the old [traditional] Spanish Method of Torres.  I find this method allows for the most beautiful of tones and singing quality to come forth from the instrument.

ALC: Is there a certain sound you look for in a guitar you build?
FM: I am from Sicily, so the guitars I build have the traditional character of a Sicilian guitar:  lyricism with sweet dolce sounds.

ALC: I noticed that your spruce guitars have a wonderful singing quality.  Is there a reason?
FM: Well, I aim for that.  I only use older wood in the construction.  I also find that the species of spruce I use is quite special, it is the same species Stradivari used with his violins, though not that old.

ALC: What do you look for in a guitar?
FM: Sound and playability.  A musician can be lifted or pulled down by an instrument, so it must be responsive and easy to play.  Regarding sound, a guitar needs to do more than just sing, it needs to have its own voice that the player can use in bringing life to the interpretation.  I find many guitarist slow down their tempi on my guitars, for the sounds want more space, though it is not difficult to play fast.

ALC: You told me earlier that you have always worked with wood.  Why?
FM: Since I was a child I could always communicate with trees. I could, in essence, see what the tree could become, be it a boat, a chair, a fishing pole or even a guitar.  So as I grew older I learned to recognize certain characteristic that distinguished one tree from another, and how to work the wood.

ALC: Your son plays guitar, yes?
FM: Yes, he is a student at the Conservatory in Messina.  It is because of him that I started building.  We went looking for a guitar and we could not find any that were of quality.  I came home and decided that I could build a good and respectable guitar, so I did.

ALC: Does your son get to play your guitars?
FM: Yes, he is quite happy with them.  One of the proudest moments of my life was when my son auditioned for the conservatory on my guitar.  It was like we were both being judged.  The Conservatory adjudicators were happy with both of us!

ALC: Favorite music on the guitar?
FM: Anything played well and with heart.  I love beautiful music.

ALC: Best espresso in Boston?
FM: Café Graffiti in the North End.

ALC: Favorite places in Boston/Cambridge?
FM: Along the Charles River seeing the English Architectural influences; Jordan Hall, and any BCGS event!  The BCGS events were great to attend.  All the players were very kind and had a good time playing my guitars.

ALC: Well Franco, it was wonderful getting together and talking guitars.  Thank you for your time, and please visit us often!
FM: Yes, and I do hope to see you and the many good people of the Boston Classical Guitar Society in Sicily!

For more information visit Franco Marion’s website:

Aaron Larget-Caplan, is a Boston-based guitarist.  He has released two solo CDs, “Tracing a wheel on water” and “New Lullaby”, he enjoys music, food and sunshine.