“Be careful, there’s a sickness going around this room,” MCC professor Rino Mazzucco said over the combined din of Journey’s “Separate Ways” and frenetic sanding. The room is a small workshop in MCC’s downtown center, and the sickness is the obsession for building guitars. “A lot of people who look at this class the first time think that we’re building kits,” Mazzucco said. “We ain’t building kits. We’re building custom guitars.”The class, a section of ELE100, is an introductory course in electronics, taught through guitar craft. It all began when Mazzucco was approached by his department chair. “The way he put it was, ‘Would you like to learn how to build electric guitars?’” Mazzucco said. “So I took him up on his offer, and attended a couple of workshops over the years and got the training involved to be able to execute this.”
The result: a class in guitar making, from the ground up – the first of its kind offered at MCC. “The wood was sitting on a tree six months ago, and it’s been shipped to a store. We glue the wood, cut the wood — everything we need to prep it. And we take it from there and turn it into a guitar. We lay frets, glue fretboards, set up, intonate — the whole thing,” Mazzucco said. Unsurprisingly, many of the students are guitarists themselves. What is more surprising is that about half of them are not. “If you scan the breadth of the class, about half of them play. Many of them have never played. They’re making a guitar for somebody, as a gift,” Mazzucco said. “They like the idea, it’s intriguing to them. They saw the guitars on our website and wanted to learn how to do something like that.”
Similarly interesting is the diversity in age and background among the students. “(We) have students who are electronics or manufacturing students here, but we also have students who haven’t been to school in 15 or 20 years who have come back to take this very hands-on kind of electronics manufacturing class,” Mazzucco added. “We’re bringing students back to school.” For Mazzucco, however, the class is about more than simply building guitars.
“The goal of the class is to build an instrument. But the real factor is to get kids involved in manufacturing, and science and engineering,” he said. According to Mazzucco, the excitement for the class was palpable since its beginning. “The class was filled in May. It wasn’t even in the catalogue, but it was filled in May,” he said, laughing. “We did a little exposition at a homebuilder place with several thousand people and got a waiting list going, and the day the class opened, we filled it.”
Even midway through the semester, the students’ enthusiasm has yet to wane. “This is our first semester, and exactly what I thought would happen happened — everybody comes to class, everybody watches the videos, everybody does the homework and takes the tests, and everybody’s building guitars like crazy, and nothing else matters,” Mazzucco said. “I think we’re financing Arizona as we speak — these guys have spent a lot of money upgrading…Their pocketbooks are infinite when it comes their ‘baby’.” In addition to the present class, Mazzucco stated that in the future the department might expand into other areas. “If this keeps going the way it has, we might look at putting together a class on amplifier manufacturing and make custom amplifiers. That’s probably the next stage. But that’s out there in the future.”