Today we’d like to introduce you to Victor Baker.
Victor, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I’m a longtime guitar player and tinkerer. Ever since I was a kid starting out on guitar, in addition to playing all the time I continually disassembled and dabbled around with the instrument itself. I practiced endlessly, and immediately after playing would disassemble my guitar and swap components to see the changes in sound. This process continues to this day actually! After high school I attended music school in Boston focusing on Jazz studies and got my degree in music. After that I moved to Philadelphia and started a teaching practice combined with playing tons of professional gigs. I also lived in New York City for several years performing in clubs and teaching, and for a time I actually had a license to perform in the subway system which was a real learning experience. Soon after that I was renting a space from a popular guitar repair shop back in Philly, and in between giving lessons I would always hang out and watch the repairs being done. Eventually I decided I needed a hobby and set out to build my own guitar. The guitar turned out pretty good for a first effort, and I ended up using it on a lot of performances. One thing led to another and I found myself building more and more instruments. Eventually I began to get busy enough to cut out my teaching practice and focus solely on guitar making, composition and performing. I’ve always found it easier to make a living from making guitars as opposed to playing them, but always try to keep up on my modern jazz style compositions and performing. I’ve had various workshops in Philadelphia and for the past 9 years in New York City. At the end of 2017 I decided I had enough of the big city and high rent. My wife and I had been making various trips out west for vacations, and always thought of spending some time in California. At the beginning of this year we took the plunge and moved the workshop to San Diego. Loving it here so far, San Diego is a great town full of really talented musicians. The weather isn’t bad either!
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My pursuit of guitar has always been two-pronged. When starting out in luthiery it felt natural to try and build the type of instrument that is used in the genre that I play. I took a huge interest in jazz guitar as a teenager, and while I listen to all sorts of music and enjoy making all kinds of different guitars, jazz guitars are where things have settled and what I am known for both as a builder and composer / performer. The past year has been filled more with guitar making than guitar playing, but I’m continually collaborating and workshopping music with players I have met here in San Diego. This summer I have started a new recording project, which is always exciting. My new workshop in Spring Valley is all set up, settled in and quite busy.
I do plan to start performing again the latter part of this year in support of my latest recording. I always strive for a balance between making and playing, and I think my guitars have become popular because of the fact that I know what to do instinctively to create a guitar that is both a recording quality level tool as well as a real-world solid gigging instrument. Jazz guitar is a small niche market, but my guitars go all over the world to all sorts of pro players at this point which is quite a trip to me.
Over the last several years my guitars have really become organic and earthy in appearance which is great. I try to make the guitars look like an old cello or double bass, and prefer to let the wood do the talking in terms of aesthetics. Musically my compositions are solidly in the progressive jazz realm, I’m not much of a standard bearer or traditionalist per se. But I’m not avant-garde either, I just try to make music that is listenable and creates a vibe, not overly complicated to enjoy or abstractly demanding. The plan is to continually do what I’ve been doing, reinventing myself along the way with new guitar ideas and musical projects.
What do you know now that you wished you had learned earlier?
Well, the thing I like most about being an artist is that you are always continually learning and revising yourself and your approach to expression. I would say just persevere and continually strive to find new things to inspire you. As far as luthier training I am self-taught out of necessity. No guitar makers could take me in as an apprentice during my formative years, but I wanted to make guitars so I set out to do it anyway. Be dogged and resolute even if you think no one cares. If you are creative it’s essential you find a way to create.
Culturally the USA is a challenging place to be an artist, but thankfully the internet makes it pretty easy to be globally visible no matter where you are. Fortunately for me I have two areas of outlet, and I always strive to have a balance between the two. Sometimes it’s nice to be away from lutherie and concentrate on music, sometimes the opposite does it for me. Stay inspired and put your stuff out there, there’s always a person out there who will enjoy your expression no matter your style or medium.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
My website is http://www.victorbakerguitars.com.
- Address: I live in downtown San Diego and my workshop is in Spring Valley. Shop visits are by appointment only- send me an email!
- Website: http://www.victorbakerguitars.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/victorbakerguitars