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Chris Capozzoli: Guitar Artist & Luthier

Capozzoli has been playing the guitar since he was 12 and currently plays with the regionally popular band Loose Roosters.

By Peter Morris

Guitars are the most popular musical instrument in America, the electric version recently surpassing pianos in a national survey. But, while makers like C.F. Martin and Company can produce some 250 per-day (specialized guitars taking up to six months) the nation’s demand for the stringed instrument is huge, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500,000 annually being purchased.

On the other end of guitar production, there are many smaller workshops which cater to guitar aficionados who demand the finest and most unique instruments available.

Chris Capozzoli shows the intricate woodworking he has carved on the top of a guitar.

One master craftsman of such musical creations is Sugar Grove’s Chris Capozzoli, who s-l-o-w-l-y creates each and every guitar beginning with the choosing of the proper woods to the inlaying of hand-cut mother of pearl designs

In a word, requoting St. Frances, “He who works with his hands and head and his heart is an artist” and, without question, Chris Capozzoli is an artist.

Numerous types of wood are used in each guitar order. Wood from old pianos and furniture pieces are often used as well.  

Capozzoli lives in Boone with wife Courtney, who teaches science at Watauga High School, and son Aiden, nine, who attends Hardin Park School. He works out of his one-man shop, Capozzoli Guitar Company, in Sugar Grove near the Doc Watson Museum.

Capozzoli’s workshop is located behind the old Cove Creek High School in the building which once served as the school’s cafeteria.

The now 42 year-old Capozzoli made his first guitar while still in high school and, to date, he has spread his artistry to multiple dozens of instruments.

“I’ve built 95 stringed instruments since the first one I made in high school, and I’m currently working on numbers 96, 97, 98, and 99” he noted. “I have a really special plan now and a new hollow-body electric guitar design coming out which will be numbers 100 and 101.”

“Guitar making is very special to me. I have thought if I were born in any century past, I may have been a guitar maker,” explains Capozzoli. “When I’m building guitars, nothing else seems to matter. It puts me in a zone where I’m confident and challenged, and I get to express my love for artistry, craftsmanship, science and physics. I love how guitars work!” he added. “I’m fascinated with sounds, vibrations, frequencies, and electrical and magnetic currents. The discovery of electromagnetic induction has made it possible for us to communicate over vast distances and amplify our voices and instruments and record our songs with extreme quality and precision.”

The wood used in the creation of guitars is of utmost importance. Capozzoli “really appreciates” using local North Carolina hardwoods and reclaimed wood from old barns and homesteads, his favorite being maple walnut and white oak.

He also uses imported woods that are labeled FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) which are legally and sustainably cut in a way which has the least impact on the environment where they originated. These woods include spruce, mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. Other woods also turned into guitars come from old furniture and decommissioned pianos.

Capozzoli is currently working with wood from a 150 year-old piano, the guitar’s neck being made from spruce and its body from Brazilian rosewood

Expanding on his personal art, Capozzoli dwells on his philosophy: “This all fascinates me to no end.  I like to believe my instruments will become people’s favorite possession and tools for their creativity in making music and art. I know how important my first guitar was to me and how it felt to have this tool to assist me in squeezing out the feelings and emotions brewing inside me as a young teenager.”

To say that Capozzoli is beyond an artist is an understatement. He melds mind and heart in almost overwhelming proportions in his love for both current and historical musical creations.

Part of the many hours put into guitar making can include carving intricate details on the top of guitars. Photos courtesy of Chris Capozzoli

“I like to take my time building my instruments to hopefully outlast multiple lifetimes. When I get ahold of a guitar that was built in the Baroque era when guitars were first being developed, I’m taken back to that time where this instrument was hand built without electricity or power tools and knowledge of guitar technology was young. I see the craftmanship and love that went into making something that will be a tool for centuries to come. I think of all the hands that have played it and the songs and entertainment that came from it.”

He continued, “I like to imagine someone like me holding a guitar I built three-to-400 years ago now in a futuristic world, someone who might scrutinize its existence, imagining how life was back then and what it took to create such a guitar. I think of how cool it will be that the mark I left in this world with the instruments I make will continue to allow people to be creative.”

Among the many types of guitars Capozzoli creates are acoustic guitars, parlor single O, double O, OM, dreadnought, and jumbo. For electric guitars, he builds solid body, semi-hollow, hollow body, and his electric upright bass’ which are all semi-hollow.

Other creations include lap steel guitars, acoustic and electric banjos, mandolins, classical acoustic guitars, classical electric and electric bass, and electric violins.

Each of Capozzoli’s guitars take between 80-160 hours to construct, with the picking out of the woods to be used for the body, neck and fingerboards selected first followed by a wide variety of detail work ranging from gluing the body and components to adding accent woods, drilling holes for the volume and tone controls, and cutting out the fret spots to…the list is all but endless, all topped off seven-to-ten coats of lacquer and sanding, sanding, sanding, followed by installing the hardware, and putting the strings on. Capozzoli’s client base, as might be expected, is extensive.

A custom electric upright base. The neck is made out of North Carolina maple, and the body from reclaimed cypress.

“My favorite clients are musicians who play live and are out gigging. I love seeing and hearing my instruments being played live on stage. Some of my clients are guitar collectors and I’m honored that they choose to add me to their collection,” he noted. “Of course, some of my best friends own my instruments, so I get to see those played frequently. Appalachian State’s Robert F. Gilley Recording Studio owns a bunch of my instruments; it’s great to know that future music industry leaders will have the chance to try out my instruments. Even Darrell Scott owns one of my electric guitars and I’m a huge fan of his music and song writing, so it means a lot to me that he has a Capozzoli Guitar.

Capozzoli himself, a mostly self-taught guitar maker, honed his skills while working at Vaughn Woodworking in Foscoe for a decade and then attending the American School of Lutherie (the making of musical, stringed instruments) studying under Charles Fox to fine tune his skills, which he called “a lifelong process.”

As a performer Capozzoli, who has been playing the guitar since 12 years-of-age, currently plays with the regionally popular band Loose Roosters, which specializes in Appalachian roots rock, and performs at venues such as Booneshine, Lost Province, and Highland Brewing.

Playing music is one of the greatest pastimes. It brings friends and strangers together. It makes you feel good as both a player and listener.

Chris showing the guitar building form, where the work of guitar making begins.

Summarizes Capozzoli, “I think of how cool it will be that the mark I left in this world with the instruments I make will continue to allow people to be creative and expressive with something that has been hand-built, used, loved, shared and passed on for generations to come.

Basically, he says with no lack of enthusiasm, “This is why I love making guitars.”

To see more creations from Capozzoli Guitar Company or to inquire about custom creations, visit CapozzoliGuitarCompany.com