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A Luthier’s

The Hagler Gift of Stringed Instruments
A Luthier’s Legacy

A Luthier’s Legacy
The Hagler Gift of Stringed Instruments

College of the Arts

Portland State University
Catalogue published to accompany the exhibition “A Luthier’s Legacy:
The Hagler Gift of Stringed Instruments,” Broadway Gallery, Lincoln Hall,
Portland State University, 28 September 2016 through 15 March 2017.

Edited by Sue Taylor

Design by PSU A+D Projects, Shannon Coffey and Dora Litterell

Printed by Cedar House Media, 2016 to Sona Andrews

College of the Arts, Portland State University,

P.O. Box 751, Portland, Ore. 97207-0751

Copyright © 2016 by Portland State University, Ore.

All rights reserved.

Cover: U kulele handcrafted by Mi ke Hagler (photo by Dan Kvitka)

Frontispiece: U kulele handcrafted by Mi ke Hagler (photo by Dan Kvitka)
Foreword and
The College of the Arts is pleased to present of ukuleles in the collection includes a charming One of the benefits of our exhibition program
this exhibition of stringed instruments given to cigar-box example perhaps assembled from a in the Broadway Gallery is the participation of
Portland State University by Kathy Hagler of kit, a Recording King metal-body resonator, and students, who work with their respective faculty
Eagle, Idaho in honor of her longtime colleague fifteen unique Hagler instruments exquisitely to realize our immediate practical goals while
and friend, Provost Sona Andrews. These thirty- crafted of woods often preferred by luthiers— honing skills that will be the foundation of their
five instruments in the lute family—ukuleles, spruce, maple, mahogany, rosewood, and future success. Congratulations and thanks are
guitars, and dulcimers as well as a banjo, walnut as well as bloodwood and bubinga. Some due to the outstanding graphic design students
mandolin, and Chinese pipa—were either crafted feature such fine details as abalone inlay or Shannon Coffey and Dora Litterell of A+D
or acquired for careful study and use by our purfled binding. Projects for designing this attractive catalogue,
donor’s late husband, Mike Hagler (1948-2014). Much effort has gone into preparing “A and to art history student Ella Ray for assisting
He was an engineer by profession who became Luthier’s Legacy” for the Broadway Gallery and with bibliographical research and carefully
in retirement a dedicated and highly skilled creating this catalogue to elucidate the Hagler proofreading the text.
luthier. Some sense of his intense devotion to gift. For his expert consultation on this project Most of all, we are indebted to Kathy Hagler
this pursuit can be gleaned from the remarks and for his informative essay on the history of for her thoughtful gift of these instruments, by
of his widow and his doctor in the pages that the guitar, its designers, manufacturers, and which she becomes a significant benefactor to
follow. All of us involved in mounting this players, we are grateful to Jesse McCann, Guitar PSU music students and their audiences. Far into
exhibition, moreover, have come to admire Instructor in the School of Music. Throughout the future, these instruments will “sound” in the
what must have been his extraordinary talent all of our work together, he has given copiously Portland music community.
and enthusiasm for the musical instrument as of his time and of his knowledge of the guitar,
a work of art, so clearly evident in the objects which is both intimate and scholarly. Similarly, —Wm. Robert Bucker
now passed on to PSU for the instruction and we appreciate the contribution of Rachel Dean, College of the Arts
delight of students in the School of Music for Bomalaski, a graduate teaching assistant in
generations to come. music, theory, and composition, whose essay
Students will be privileged to choose among traces the geographical diffusion and reception
highly sought after professional-quality guitars of the ukulele since its invention in Portugal in
such as the prized Martin HD-28 Dreadnought the nineteenth century. Sue Taylor, Associate
and the Gibson Les Paul Custom, pictured on Dean in the College of the Arts, organized
pages 16 through 19 of this catalogue. They the exhibition and edited catalogue, with
U kulele handcrafted by Mi ke Hagler of
may also learn to appreciate differences among assistance from Suzanne Gray, Marketing and bubinga woo d, with European spruce top,
these and instruments by other noted guitar Communications Manager in the College, and ebony fingerboard and bridge, abalone rosette
inlay (photo by Dan Kvitka)
manufacturers Guild, Taylor (pages 20-21), Mary McVein, Visual Resources Curator in the
Washburn, and Yamaha. The wonderful range School of Art and Design.
A Passionate Luthier
by Kathy Hagler

Michael Eugene Hagler was a talented engineer with a passion for

music and learning and an extraordinary love of life. Driven by a
desire to create beautiful objects, he became a luthier, a pursuit that
grew naturally out of his early teenaged enthusiasm to play his red
Stratocaster Fender guitar. Mike performed in his band at high school
dances—after, of course, basketball season had ended! He was an All
American player at Meridian High School in Idaho and went to college
with a basketball scholarship, diligent and disciplined in everything
he did, from practicing hoops to playing sixties songs on his prized
Fender. He graduated from the University of Idaho with honors in Mi ke and Kathy Hagler, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2008
(photo by Kay Martin)
Civil Engineering and began his career at the Chevron Corporation.
Shortly after we married in 1989, Mike wished for a guitar kit
from Martin Guitar Company. Christmas was exciting that year! The
parts came with only a one-sided sheet of terse instructions, “How imagine, he took on students and transmitted to them all the joy
to Build Your Guitar.” A big book on guitar building and eighteen that comes with perfecting a handsome and functioning instrument.
months later, Mike learned how to string his first instrument from His students were special to him and gave him personal moments
Chet Atkins’s luthier in Newport Beach, California. Joining the of deep pride. My hope in offering these cherished instruments
Guild of American Luthiers, Mike designed and constructed classical to students at Portland State University is that they in turn may
guitars for ten years, including those he personalized for his sons, learn, teach, and leave an artistic legacy, following in the steps of
Michael and Jeff. By this time a true master, Mike shifted his talents this inspired guitar and ukulele maker and truly extraordinary
to the ukulele, whose sweet, gentle music he had come to appreciate Renaissance man.
years before when he was refinery manager for Chevron in Hawaii.
His handcrafted instruments, though of different woods and
designs, have a signature sound and feel that reflect the countless
hours he spent on them, pouring his spirit and life into each one.
The essence of his heart, his desire to enrich the lives of players,
saturate each instrument with a lasting imprint.
Mike always wanted to be a teacher; and he was. He loved
sharing his ever expanding luthier knowledge and skills. With
a workshop well equipped with everything a luthier could ever

U kulele handcrafted by Mi ke Hagler
(photo by Dan Kvitka)

Migrations and
Fortunes of the
by Rachel Bomalaski

he ukulele has captivated countless music today, circulating scores and performing in churches, schools, and
fans since its invention in the nineteenth other community venues.
century, enjoying wave upon wave of Before coming into its present form, the ukulele evolved through
international popularity. The instrument’s several different stages. Its direct predecessor was the Portuguese
appeal is tied to its simple design and construction (see machete, which itself was a descendant, along with the viola
illustration on page 14). Its small resonating chamber can be braguesa and cavaquinho, of the Renaissance guitar. The machete
painstakingly fashioned out of rare woods (often Hawaiian differs from the ukulele only in name and in the way the strings
koa) for a professional quality, molded out of plastic for are tuned;1 the construction of the two instruments is identical.
a cheap commodity, or improvised from a cigar box, The machete may originally have developed in mainland Portugal,
skateboard, or coffee can. With only four strings but was nowhere so popular as on the island of Madeira.2 Madeira,
and eleven to seventeen frets, its small range of 340 miles off the coast of Morocco, was uninhabited when Portugal
motion is inviting for children and beginners, claimed it in the 1420s. The island was heavily forested with cedar—
yet the instrument finds complex musical “madeira” is Portuguese for “wood”—and as Europeans populated the
expression in the hands of virtuosi such as Jake island, imported trees began to appear alongside the local varieties.3
Shimabukuro, whose famous cover of “While Madeira by 1500 was a world leader in sugar cultivation, and in
My Guitar Gently Weeps” boasts nearly 15 wine production two centuries later. Madeiran wine enjoyed an
million views on YouTube. Ukuleles are international reputation for its quality and for its hardiness which
clichéd souvenirs for tourists to Hawaii, made it ideal for shipping long distances.
some being exquisitely crafted by expert During the peak of Madeira’s wine-fueled prosperity, craftsmen
luthiers, others mass-produced in China. in the capital city of Funchal took advantage of the island’s rich
They exist in multiple sizes and ranges, forests to develop a distinctive woodworking practice. Wine barrels
including soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, and furniture were the products most in demand; there were also
just like the human voice; in fact, ukulele at least six musical instrument shops on the island throughout
“choirs” can be found in many major cities the nineteenth century. The main instrument advertised was the

small, four-stringed machete. The style of playing the machete in It did not take long for the ukulele to become
U kulele handcrafted by
the Madeiran countryside was apparently simple, repetitive, and Mi ke Hagler, with redwoo d a favorite in Hawaii. King Kalakaua (r. 1874-1891)
accompanied by humorous lyrics, while in the city it could be very top, walnut back and sides, learned to play it, and with this royal sanction
mahogany neck, ebony
serious and virtuosic. bridge and fingerbo ard,
the ukulele was adopted as a native instrument
By the 1840s, Madeira’s population had reached 120,000, an vellum saddle (photo by despite its foreign origins. The wistful music of
Dan Kvitka)
unsustainable number. When multiple famines, epidemics, and the islands had long been beloved by tourists.
crop failures ensued, leaving the island became attractive to many One visitor in 1899 mused that Hawaiian songs
inhabitants. At the same time, Madeira’s overpopulation coincided “have such a plaintive sadness running through
with a labor shortage on the other side of the world, in Hawaii. them that it almost breaks the heart of those
Diseases introduced by European and American settlers had cut who listen,” and another opined that “all natives
Hawaii’s native population in half between the 1830s and the 1870s, seem to be natural musicians.”5 The Madeiran
but agriculture was booming, having replaced whaling as Hawaii’s cabinetmakers who established the ukulele in
most important industry. The Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 allowed Hawaii took advantage of tourists’ fondness for
sugar to be shipped duty-free to the United States, generating the island’s music by promoting the ukulele as
large-scale American investment in Hawaiian sugar cultivation. an indigenous Hawaiian instrument, despite the
One Hawaiian official, William Hillebrand, thought Madeirans fact that they themselves had introduced it from
would be up to the task of agricultural work in Hawaii, stating overseas. The U.S. annexation of Hawaii in
condescendingly, “they are inured to [the island] climate…. Their 1898 led to an increase in tourism and
education and ideas of comfort and social requirements are just low in turn to the first massive boost in
enough to make them contented with the lot of an isolated settler ukulele sales.
and its attendant privations.”4 The Hawaiian Board of Immigration The “roaring twenties” saw a
began to recruit laborers from Madeira in 1876. subsequent surge, this time on the
Two years later, the first Madeiran contract workers arrived U.S. mainland. Vaudeville and Tin
in Hawaii. The machete apparently did not make this first trip, Pan Alley artists had been using the
but arrived on a second ship, the Ravenscrag, a year later. Three ukulele since the turn of the century,
cabinetmakers, Manuel Nunes, Jose do Espirito Santo, and Augusto but it became extremely fashionable
Dias, were aboard the Ravenscrag as well; all three opened instrument after the premier of Richard Walton
shops in Honolulu soon after their plantation labor contracts expired. Tully’s Bird of Paradise in 1911.
The shops advertised guitars and “taro-patch fiddles,” which were The play was set in Hawaii and
machetes of four or five strings. The Hawaiian name “ukulele” was featured Hawaiian music,
not applied to the instrument until the 1880s; the word originally including several ukuleles on
referred to a European cat flea. Thus in a humorous twist of history, stage. Popular all over the U.S.,
Europeans not only brought the instrument that became known as especially in Los Angeles, as
the ukulele, but also the flea it was named after. One explanation for well as in London, Australia,
how the name took hold is that players’ fingers would jump across and India, The Bird of Paradise
the strings like bouncing fleas. grossed over $1 million by 1924.

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Anatomy of a ukulele
(rendering by Rachel
Bomalaski and
Shannon Coffey)

It was the first experience of Hawaiian music for thousands the phenomenon. Also at the forefront of this revival is the Ukulele
world over. Also leading up to the ukulele rage in the 1920s was Orchestra of Great Britain; their brilliant and lively rendition of “The
the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” alone has received over ten million hits
More than 18 million visitors to the fair were exposed to the sights on YouTube. Today ukuleles can be heard in many musical genres,
and sounds of featured Hawaiian bands and orchestras. Henry and as they are available in both acoustic and electric varieties, they
Ford and Laura Ingalls Wilder were two notables who were deeply prove as suited to pop and rock as they are to traditional Hawaiian
impressed by the Hawaiian performances. Ukulele sales skyrocketed songs. Some can be bought for a few dollars, while a vintage Martin
during the nine-month fair. Within a few years, ukuleles were staple ukulele may be worth over ten thousand. The instrument is a must-
accessories to the flapper ensemble, and their plinking tones were have for every non-musician who has dreamed of making music; it
commonly heard on the radio. is also a perfect project for a beginning luthier. Millions continue to
Another major wave of popularity occurred after World War draw inspiration from this unassuming little instrument.
II, when U.S. servicemen returning from the Pacific contributed
to a hike in sales. The advent of television played a role as well,
particularly the programs of TV/radio host Arthur Godfrey; his
shows reached as many as forty million Americans every week
throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Godfrey’s on-air ukulele lessons 1. The standard tuning for the machete was D-G-B-D, while tuning for the
ukulele was standardized as G-C-E-A.
helped the French-American Reeds Manufacturing Company sell
2. Jim Tranquada and John King, The Ukulele: A History (Honolulu: University of
over nine million mass-produced polystyrene ukuleles over two Hawai’i Press, 2012), 10 and passim for this and many other historical facts that follow
decades. The postwar enthusiasm for the instrument came to a in this essay.

close with the televised performances of Tiny Tim, whose campy 3. David Hancock, Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade
and Taste (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2009), 7.
renditions of Tin Pan Alley tunes including “Tiptoe through the
4. William Hillebrand, quoted in Tranquada and King, The Ukulele, 34.
Tulips” were hugely popular in the late 1960s.6 5. Nance O’Neil and Mabel Andrews, quoted in ibid., 58-59 and 63, respectively.
Thanks largely to the Internet, the ukulele is currently 6. “The Ukulele and You,” Museum of Making Music, accessed July 22, 2016,
experiencing a comeback—witness the viral Shimabukuro

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A Brief History
of the Guitar
by Jesse McCann ur modern six-string guitar is a direct descendant of
the Roman tanbur, an instrument with a long, slender
neck and pear-shaped body, and a distant cousin of the
lute and the vihuela, a fretted instrument played like
the guitar but belonging to the viola family. The tanbur made its
way to the Iberian Peninsula some time during the fifth century
C.E. Over the course of about a thousand years, it evolved into the
more complex four-course guitar and gained prominence in Spain
and Italy around the fifteenth century. The body had a figure-eight
shape, and the strings and frets were made from gut. The strings
were doubled (called courses) to provide resonance, but despite its
intricacies, the instrument didn’t have a large musical range or
produce much volume. By the seventeenth century, it was replaced
by the five-course guitar. This baroque guitar had a larger body,
an increased number of frets, and additional courses, allowing far
more compositional flexibility. Masters of this instrument included
the Spaniard Gaspar Sanz, and Robert de Viseé, active in the court
of French kings.

Dan Kvitka )
Martin Dreadn ought acousti c guitar (photo by

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The Age of Enlightenment in Europe spurred the adoption musical centers of Europe during this time. Their musical works and
of ancient Greek principles of balance, harmony, and reason. methods survive to this day and serve as a cornerstone for learning
Naturally, this era had a great impact on the guitar’s development: how to play in the classical style.
The baroque guitar, with its asymmetrical string count and heavy By the latter half of the nineteenth century, the guitar was
decoration, would have to undergo some dramatic changes to ensure significantly marginalized as a result of the popularity of the piano
its survival. It is likely that such changes to its construction began in and the growing public desire for bigger and louder performance
Spain in the late 1700s. By the early nineteenth century, the classical experiences with orchestral and chamber music. The guitar was
guitar contained most of the elements we recognize today (i.e., six not designed to compete in these arenas. It virtually disappeared
single strings, an open sound hole, permanent frets, and machine from the international limelight but flourished in Spain thanks
tuners), though it was significantly smaller than our contemporary to several composer guitarists and one important guitar maker,
instrument. Music publications for this “modern” guitar began Antonio Torres. Torres improved the guitar in a number of ways. His
appearing as early as 1780 and culminated in what has been dubbed most significant innovations included increasing the soundboard’s
the first “Golden Age of the Guitar,” a period from about 1800 to size and string length and creating a fan brace pattern for the
1850. During this time, a handful of gifted guitarists composed soundboard, allowing it to be thinner and to produce a bigger sound.
numerous works and published instructional methods. The most With this updated guitar, Spanish players such as Julian Arcas and
important of these artists included Fernando Sor and Dionisio Francisco Tarréga gained enough notoriety to usher the guitar into
Aguado y García from Spain and Matteo the twentieth century and pass the torch to a number of gifted
Carcassi, Ferdinand Carulli, and players, composers, and teachers including one of the most famous
Mauro Giuliani from Italy. All of all guitarists, Andrés Segovia.
made names for themselves Segovia elevated the Spanish guitar to new, respectable heights
in Paris, London, and by expanding its repertoire, releasing numerous recordings,
Vienna, the and supporting its viability as an instrument of serious study at
music institutions. Taking full advantage of the technological
innovations of the twentieth century—air travel, recording, radio,
and television—Segovia became a household name by the early
1960s. Thanks to him and guitarists that followed, the classical guitar’s
popularity is currently at an all-time high.

Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar

(photo by Dan Kvitka)

Pioneering guitar manufacturers C. F. Martin and Orville Gibson 19), a heavy, solid-bodied guitar with hum-bucking pickups, was
improved the instrument in the late nineteenth century by creating made popular by talents like Jimmy Page and Peter Frampton. But
their own louder versions, complete with larger bodies, metal strings, it was Fender’s Stratocaster (1954) and one monumental guitarist
and different bracing systems. Martin created a special “X” brace that would change the way the instrument was played forever.
that ran nearly the entire length of the soundboard, and Gibson Jimi Hendrix was a talented blues guitarist, but he was also able
relied heavily on traditional violin carving techniques allowing the to see the electric guitar as an electronic instrument rather than
tops of his guitars to have a more curved shape. Martin and Gibson just an amplified stringed instrument. The result: Hendrix gave
also departed from the handcrafted tradition and helped establish stunning performances by creating sonic layers with effects pedals
the mass-produced guitar, a standard model ready to be shipped and overdriven amps all stemming from his guitar. His playing was
anywhere in the country at an affordable price. Both companies had revolutionary and influenced nearly every electric guitarist that
a profound influence on guitar makers and inventors during the followed. Since then, the electric guitar’s popularity has exploded,
early 1900s. producing countless talented players.
By the 1920s, the guitar became a fixture of dance bands and The guitar’s transformation from a simple, four-coursed
small theater orchestras. As the size of groups grew, the desire for instrument to a six-stringed powerhouse relied on cultural changes
volume propelled guitar makers to develop exciting and diverse and the imaginations of both players and craftsmen. Without these
features. Important contributions including new construction, factors, the guitar would have likely faded away hundreds of years
hardware, and electronics were made by engineers such as ago along with other, now obsolete instruments. Instead, the guitar
Lloyd Loar, George Beauchamp, Paul Barth, and Adolph has become one of the most recognizable instruments around the
Rickenbacker. The culmination of their efforts can world and continues to inspire creativity and innovation among
be found in Gibson’s ES-150 (1936). The Electric- talented musicians in each new generation.
Spanish guitar was hollow-bodied and fitted with
electromagnetic pickups. One of the first players
to understand this new electric guitar’s potential
was jazz legend Charlie Christian. His unique
approach allowed him to play dazzling, melodic
solos at volumes unimaginable only years before.
Christian’s playing influenced an entire generation
of jazz and blues guitarists including T-Bone Walker
and B. B. King.
Two of the most influential innovators in guitar
design and manufacturing were Lester Polfus and Leo Taylor 612C guitar, maplewood, spruce, with
ivoroid fretboard inlays, ebony binding with
Fender. Their versions of the electric guitar are iconic. grained ivoroid purfling, ebony/grained ivoroid
The Gibson Les Paul (1952, illustrated on pages 18- rosette, ebony pickguard (photo by Dan Kvitka)

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Beloff, Jim. The Ukulele, A Visual History. Milwaukee, Wisc.: Backbeat
Books, 2003.
Johanson, Bryan. The Guitar: Its Music and History. N.p. [Portland,
Ore.]: Self published, 2001.
King, John and Jim Tranquada. The Ukulele: A History. Honolulu:
University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012.
Lundberg, Robert. Historical Lute Construction. Tacoma, Wash.: Guild
of American Luthiers, 2002.
Olson, Tim, ed. Big Red Book of Lutherie. Tacoma, Wash.: Guild of
American Luthiers, 2000.
Somogyi, Ervin. The Responsive Guitar. N.p. [Oakland, Calif.]: Self
published, 2001.
Summerfield, Maurice J. The Classical Guitar: Its Evolution, Players, and
Personalities since 1800. Newcastle: Ashley Mark Publishing, 2003.
Smith, Douglas. A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the
Renaissance. Dedham, Mass.: Lute Society of America, 2002.
Turnbull, Harvey. The Guitar from the Renaissance to the Present Day.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; repr. Westport, Conn.: Bold
Strummer Ltd., 1992.
“The Ukulele & You.” Museum of Making Music.
Wade, Graham. A Concise History of the Classical Guitar. Pacific, Mo.:
Mel Bay Publications, 2001.

Opposite page: Chinese lute or pipa

(photo by Dan Kvitka)

Mi ke Hagler’s workshop, Eagle, Idaho
(photo by Kathy Hagler)

Mike Hagler’s art was informed by his perfectionism, rooted in

passion and knowledge. Few equaled him in the fields he practiced,
yet he graciously transmitted his skills to others along with the
enjoyment and appreciation of the musical instruments he crafted.
In his luthier pursuits, his application of engineering principles and
mathematical sequencing combined with a keen sense of acoustic,
tactile, and visual aesthetics.
His fervor was memorably conveyed to me in the last weeks
of his life. One evening as he rested, he had his wife and son bring
out numerous guitars and ukuleles that he had designed and built,
describing each one to me with its history, significance, and unique
features delineated in a fashion only an avid engineer could deliver.
The different models, finishes, and inlays Mike created still testify
to his inquisitive mind and exquisite taste. Each instrument speaks
eloquently of him.

—David Gee, M.D.

Boise, Idaho