ASIA Board Discusses Symposium in Wintery Upstate New York

Bear and Stan in David's Shop

Executive Director Bear Acker and several members of the ASIA Board of Directors (David Nichols, Paul Heumiller, Bill Tippin, and Tony DiDomenico) met in Malone this week to prepare for the 2011 Symposium. The schedule is starting to firm up, and several presentations have been chosen. We decided to set aside more time for attendees to visit the vendors this year.

At the end of the meeting, Bear and the Board graciously delayed dinner for a quick portrait session. You can see the their handsome mugs on the Board and Executive Director pages.

When not pontificating on Symposium issues, we hung out at David's shop playing “Bubba,” “The Brazilian Cannon” and every other guitar, bass, and mandolin we could find. It seems we also kept David and Nadine up way past their bedtime!

Be sure to check the Symposium page regularly for updates.

Executive Director

Portrait of Bear Acker

I should introduce myself. My name is Alton Bear Acker, and I have been an ASIA member for quite a few years. My family started me working wood when I was about ten years old, my grandfather being a furniture maker, and my father a carpenter. They taught me both crafts and I've done both for many years. In the mid seventies my woodworking entered another phase: stringed instrument making.  Among other things, my grandfather had given me music training, and I became a musician outside of woodworking.

Since I play left-handed, and since there's always a lack of left handed instruments, I started making my own. The first one was a five-string banjo, in 1977, and it turned-out OK.  I also built a D-size guitar around 1978 that started a period of guitar making, for me, and others. Somewhere along the line I got into Roger Siminoff's F-Model Mandolin plans, and made my first mandolin. I did a few mandolins before being bitten by the violin bug. After a dozen  violins mandolins, guitars and banjos, the shop has many patterns, jigs, and memories.

During this time I was teaching cabinetry, carpentry and instrument making, as well as pre-engineering. In pre-engineering I taught AutoCAD and international drafting language; believing that engineers should design as well. I used to talk instrument design using AutoCAD with Jim Rickard. There was a guy. Anyway, I retired from full time education August 2006 and am now in my shop all of the time that I'm not playing music. So, instrument building, music, and now, Director.

About ASIA

During the summer of 1988, a small group of stringed instrument makers and repair technicians met with the intent of establishing a not-for-profit professional trade organization. Most simply, we preferred to be an "association," deciding to focus specifically on "stringed instruments," and we felt that the word "artisans" best described our mutual activities.  Hence, the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (with the accidental yet recognizable acronym of "ASIA") was born.  Michael Dresdner was chosen to launch the concept of ASIA, with the initial goal of facilitating through consensus a mission statement and set of bylaws that would provide a framework of integrity for our future evolution.

With Michael Dresdner's task complete, a Board of Directors was elected and Dick Boak, assuming the voluntary post of editor and executive director, began the task of developing a publication and operating procedure.  The ASIA journal began as a very informal 4-page newsletter and grew over the course of several years into the substantial and respected magazine Guitarmaker.

ASIA membership continues to grow substantially. Starting with 20 initial advisors, ASIA's ranks now include makers, repair technicians, and stringed instrument enthusiasts worldwide. In 1991, ASIA had the opportunity to increase membership by fulfilling the subscription responsibility of what had been GPI's String Instrument Craftsman newsletter.  Subsequently, ASIA membership has grown annually to its current level of 1750 and is expected to reach 2000 within the next year.

One of the most exciting elements of ASIA has been the bi-annual gatherings or "Symposia," which have served to bring hundreds of makers and repair technicians together to exchange information, exhibit new work, find new sources, be exposed to key lectures, develop lasting friendships, and have fun. Off-year regional seminars and workshops are currently offered in more than twenty different locations.

Though the priorities have certainly evolved, ASIA's basic goals have remained essentially the same:

  • to provide a sense of community for instrument makers, repair technicians, and enthusiasts
  • to continually increase the level of professionalism within the craft
  • to publish an informative, useful, and valued journal for the membership
  • to encourage inter-communication through the publication of a cross-referenced membership directory
  • to offer multi-level educational Symposia, workshops, and seminars for the field
  • to develop an assortment of health, instrument, and shop insurance programs at group rates
  • to establish a comprehensive database of resources, skills, supplies, and technical information
  • to assist the membership in the promotion and marketing of their products