Sarah Shatz has portrayed artists, filmmakers, mechanics, composers and writers to lace workers in northern Brazil, documented everythingfrom the devastation of an F5 Tornado in Kansas to the ingenuity of a geothermal project in Alaska. However her personal passion is music.
“I come from a musical family, one which loves and treasures all kinds of music. My grandmother had a piano which my mother played as a child, and then it was passed along to us. My first grade teacher Faith Moser got me hooked on playing classical music. She offered piano lessons outside of school, and as I adored her, I signed up. Going to her house was a weekly treat. Along with marking my sheet music with silver and gold star stickers for a piece well played, she awarded us tiny busts of Haydn, Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart after our ‘concerts’ in her parlour.”
“Later in high school there were ensemble lessons at the Community Music School of Springfield, and individual piano lessons with a wonderful teacher named Jeanette Ghareeb. We played side by side at her We played side by side at her two grand pianos, and it transported me into another world. I found that the language of lessons easily translated to life lessons.”
“Throughout university I continued piano lessons, eventually doing a minor in music alongside a major in Fine Arts. I was also coached in ensemble with members of the Lydian String Quartet in Boston, and during my final year gave a double concert with a very talented violinist. We each played solo pieces and then a Ravel Sonata together. It was a high point for me, where I was playing at my best.”
- After university Sarah worked for the photo director at The New Yorker magazine, and then as a multi-media producer at Funny Garbage. She continued to play the piano, but only for pleasure. “I knew all along that I’d never be a professional pianist. I had other interests. Art history, painting, photography, film. I’d always been interested in taking pictures.”
Sarah joined VERY UP & CO as photographer in 2000, and it was a moment of turnaround for both. Rapidly establishing her signature style of intimate portraiture, she became a cornerstone of the VERY family in New York, London and Brazil as well as regularly contributing to Esquire, Listen, and Popular Mechanics magazines. Since joining the International Cinematographers Guild in 2007 she has been shooting unit stills on movies but music is never far.
While many commissions involve classical musicians, her personal, independent work revolves around portraying music makers. Out of the public eye, these are the collaborators of great musicians, the ones who make the actual instruments, without whom the musical talent would not be able to perform.
“After making portraits of musicians I wanted to go behind the scenes. I thought of the ushers at concerts, teachers, mechanics, the people and the organizations that make the music world run. How, I wondered, are actual instruments made and worked on? Who are the people who make the violins, the bows, the pianos? Who are the men and women who tune and repair the instruments that famous (and not famous) working musicians play? It takes the relationship of these two, the musician and the instrument maker, to enable the music.”
Sarah’s first memory of a piano tuner was arriving home from school and seeing the man who tuned her parents’ piano. “I’d come home from school and find a man’s legs protruding from under the piano. He was quite elderly and I wondered if he was in fact alive under there. It made an impression.”
- “As a group, they are incredibly intelligent, thoughtful people who are vastly under recognized, but in fact, don’t seek the recognition. They have an incredible history, many of them, by virtue of having studied with masters who themselves have studied with masters. Every person has a unique story, the details of which are invaluable and fascinating history lessons.“
While portraying the silent stars of music making, Sarah is documenting a group of artisans with a nod to the past, but one with an imperative place in the present. Craftsmanship of all sorts is is invaluable to our culture, and this world of instrument making seems to belong to a vanished era before the age of mass production. It’s scarcely visible to us, yet it is indispensable to the creation of music.
Music makers are not so much seen as heard: although admired and trusted by musicians, they work in their shops and in the wings of a concert hall. Look again at these portraits of individuals who are, potentially the last ones of a string of generations - of intense study, experience, knowledge, passion, and unfailing detail to their craft.
Giancarlo & Carlos Arcieri, violin maker & restorers, Arcieri & Son Violins
Carlos is a violin maker and restorer who trained with the world renowned Maestro Simone Fernando Sacconi. He and his son Giancarlo work together out of their own shop in NYC. Carlos: “Violin making is an extremely rewarding profession, especially when you get the respect and admiration of your customers and friends, a very artistic craft that takes a lot of patience, imagination, skills and pride besides being kind of an alchemist and also a psychologist with your customers.”
Giancarlo: “After establishing the basics, refinement of the trade is a life long process. Any great master of the art will always say we are constantly learning.”
Ben Treuhaft, piano tuner — Born and raised in Oakland, California, Treuhaft fell into piano tuning at the age of 19. Born into a distinguished family (he’s the son of famed civil rights attorney Robert Treuhaft and muckraking journalist Jessica ‘Decca’ Mitford, of the Mitford sisters), Ben has made his own mark and achieved remarkable career highlights: “In the ‘60s I tuned a Zuckerman harpsichord for Frank Zappa at a midnight recording session in the Village. Later Steinway sent me to Columbia and RCA for Gould and Cliburn sessions, and to Horowitz’s house and to Carnegie Hall. I restored Liszt’s 1840 Erard in Lausanne, and tuned at the fabulous Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California as well as the Teatro Nacional in Havana.”
David Hawthorne, bow maker — Hawthorne works out of a studio in Cambridge, MA, in the centre of Harvard Square. He grew up playing the violin and was always interested in violin making. However he made bow making his full time pursuit after attending a workshop with William Salchow, the preeminent American bow maker. I play violin in order to test and adjust bows. The special thing about my violin playing is that I’ve played more great bows than almost any violinist.” His latest bow is always his favourite. “The one I am finishing now is a very close replica of a very special bow by the French master François Tourte, copying an original owned by a prominent Boston musician. I am always engaging with and learning from my customers, especially the high level players.”
Taymuraz ‘Tommy” Kozyrev, piano restoration, Steinway — Originally from Russia, Tommy began restoring pianos at the Museum of American Pianos in 1994. He says, “I was always an artist, so working with my hands, carving and restoring wood, came naturally to me.“ And so upon recommendation he joined Steinway a few years later. The most pleasurable parts of his work are “bringing pianos with severe damage back to life, returning them to their original level of artistry and glory. The challenge is making it so that your work is invisible – so that you can’t tell it has been restored.”
Duncan Emck, bow and violin maker — Duncan was born in the Netherlands and studied the violin at the Freiburg Conservatory of Music. He eventually moved to Parma to train in violin making with Renato Scrollavezza after which he moved to the US to do repair and restoration at Christophe Landon Rare Violins in New York. Duncan now makes bows at Salchow’s. “Taking up bow making was not a move away from violin making; rather I see it as a completion, being able to play violin, make violins and their bows! I take immense pleasure in handling and studying old instruments and bows. They are at the same time my inspiration.”
Gabriela Guadalajara, luthier — Born and raised in Mexico City, Gabriela makes violins, violas, cellos, and viola de gambas. She studied violin making at Escuela de Lauderia in Queretaro, whose director at the time, Maestro Luthfi Becker, was a baroque instrument maker in France before founding the school. Becker inspired her interest in the baroque period. Today Gabriela has her own shop in Harlem. “I have many tools that I use and like a lot but my favourite is a Bedrock plane made in the 1950’s. My friend bought it at an antique shop in perfect condition. When I tried it for the first time it just felt perfect, the size in my hands, the shape, everything. When he left the shop, he gave it me.”
Joel C. Robinson, historical woodwind maker — Joel started making woodwinds in 1973 in his mother’s basement in the suburbs of Philadelphia “a beautiful wooded area complete with a trout stream, deer and woodland animals.“ Robinson’s focus is treble wood-winds, as well as interpretations of instruments found in the marginalia of manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. His favourite painters are those ‘whose work is a source of information from the Middle Ages, frequently anonymous manuscript illuminators; from the early and late Renaissance — Gruenewald, Memling, Van Eyck and Brueghel. There are so many paintings with angels hovering about playing instruments, the list could go on and on.”
Mark Drehman, bow maker — Wisconsin-born Drehman was always interested in instrument making, but it wasn’t something readily available to study. “When I was in high school, a friend and I tried to make an upright bass (which failed miserably).” When he moved to NYC he landed a job working at Salchow’s, and thus was born an apprenticeship with the famous bow maker. “[It] has been a career highlight in itself. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to work here. In any other shop in the country, and probably in the world, it is very unlikely that I would get to see as many great bows made by great makers and owned by great musicians as I am to see at Salchow’s.”
Valentine Toussaint, Belly-man, Steinway Piano — A “belly-man“ is a piano technician, and Valentine specializes in restoration. He was born in Sandy Point-St. Kitts in the West Indies, and found his way from cabinet-making as a young man to rebuilding pianos at Steinway. Valentine worked on restoring a piano from 1877 for the Motown Historical Museum which was used by Stevie Wonder, among others. “I love a challenge and Steinway pianos are very challenging. You have to live up to Steinway standards.
Tomoji Hirakata, Senior Technical Specialist, Band & Orchestral Atelier, Yamaha
Tomoji was born and lived in in Maebashi, Japan for 26 years. “After joining my school band at the age of 10, I was impressed by the craftsmanship of the local musicstore repairman “Mr Hirabashi” who often came to my school to fix our instruments. He quickly became my hero.“ As a 10-year old Tomoji was determined to work with Mr. Hirabayashi’s local music store and eventually did - and worked there for 9 years. “Luckily the store sent me to the Yamaha Technical Academy prior to starting repairing band instruments. Tomoji came to the US in 1999 and today he works on Yamaha clarinets, flutes, oboes, saxophones and trumpets. One reward of the job? “A simple ‘Thank you’ from musicians makes me feel great especially after their concert.”