The Players

Danny Fonfeder

Danny FonfederDanny Fonfeder is an entrepreneur. His love of music dates back to when he heard “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith for the first time at age 11. He was instantly hooked.

He began to carry a radio everywhere tuned to the local rock station. His world opened up to the music of Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Queen, Jethro Tull and the Beatles. He memorized lyrics, chord changes and special “riffs” and “licks”. Then for his 13th birthday, his three cousins chipped in to buy him his first guitar. With single-minded focus, he taught himself to play and began writing songs.

He found that the guitar could express moods from joyous to pensive, dark to playful and witty. As he learned to play from the heart, the guitar became central to his life, an essential companion through good times and bad. Over time, his taste in music expanded to include the classical guitar of musicians like Julien Bream and jazz guitarists such as Pat Metheney.

Years later on a business trip to Asia for his company Buffalo East Cantra, he traveled to Bali to enjoy the island’s gentle life-style and see its renowned arts and crafts first hand.

But Danny had forgotten his guitar in Hong Kong. A taxi driver took him to the largest music store on the Island where he found four inexpensive guitars, none of them made in Bali and all of them third-rate musical instruments. Having no choice, he bought the best of the lot.Driving back to his hotel, he noticed hundreds of stores specializing in finely carved furniture, plates and bowls, sculptures and other wood artifacts using age-old traditional designs. On impulse, Danny asked his taxi driver to take him to the best woodcarving shop where he met owner and master carver, Wayan Tuges. Together Danny and Wayan cut open the new guitar to examine the structure, the wood, the way in which the neck was attached to the body. Both men were excited at the possibilities. Danny agreed to finance Wayan to build six guitars based on the now dissected instrument.

When Danny returned to Bali a few months later, Wayan had completed two guitars. The carved instruments were the most beautiful guitars Danny had ever seen, but their sound was abysmal. The search for a world-class luthier began.

Danny found George Morris in rural Vermont, George had been teaching the art of guitar making for over 25 years. Both George and his wife had spent time in Bali studying Balinese Batik art so he immediately recognized the potential of marrying the carving genius of the Balinese with the crafting of a fine musical instrument.

Shortly afterwards, Danny founded Blueberry Guitars (named after his third daughter, Talia Blueberry or “Bluey”) in partnership with Wayan Tuges and George Morris. Now they are bringing their unique line of guitars to the world.

“The world of music and particularly guitar music has been a source of joy and strength all my life. As a businessman, Blueberry Guitars is my way of giving back some of that joy. With my partners George and Wayan, we have achieved a singular union of aesthetic beauty and exquisite sound.”

Wayan Tuges

Danny FonfederWayan Tuges is a master woodcarver. Growing up in Guwang a community known for the skill and deep spirituality of its woodcarvers, he began carving at the age of five, learning from his father, one of the great Balinese woodcarvers. By the time he was in second grade, Wayan had mastered the complex, traditional Garuda figure ridden by the Hindu god Vishnu and was selling his work in the local art market. He never looked back, eventually opening his own studio.

In the early eighties, a European tourist visited Wayan’s studio and invited the young carver to demonstrate the Balinese style of woodcarving in his art gallery in Belgium. Always ready for a new adventure, Wayan accepted. A few years later, he again travelled abroad to represent in an international woodcarving symposium in Kemijarvi, Finland where he was voted “best of show”. This exposure helped to build his international reputation and his work now sells throughout Europe and Asia, with major works in temples in Tokusima, Japan and Jakarta.

Students from all over are routinely sent by the government to Wayan's studio to learn woodcarving and the spiritual and philosophical traditions that underpin all Balinese art. Wayan teaches that carving is both a craft and an act of devotion. Carving transforms a simple piece of wood into an object of beauty; but by offering it to God, he explains, the carver infuses the object with a spirit so that it is something more than just a carving.

Wayan's deep knowledge of Balinese traditions and religious practice gives him a high standing in his community, where he often presides over the many religious ceremonies that crowd the Balinese calendar. He also makes time to work with a United Nations project to plant 20,000 hectares of unused fertile land with teak trees providing a sustainable harvest and creating new employment opportunities.

When Danny Fonfeder arrived in his studio with a proposal to build a guitar-making studio, Wayan saw a project that would combine his commitment to maintaining Balinese traditions with his desire to help his country develop and grow. He had never built a musical instrument, but he was convinced that if he made the right commitment, he would eventually succeed.

“I never doubted we could carve a beautiful instrument, but I am still surprised and thrilled at the magnificent sound of the Blueberry Guitar. Danny saw the potential and working with George Morris we have made it happen. This is an international product imbued with a Balinese spirit.”

George Morris

George MorrisGeorge Morris is a master luthier. He started playing the guitar as a student when folk and blues dominated the college music scene. During those years and with no thought of a career path, he also made furniture for friends and teachers perfecting a craft that he had learned in his father’s workshop as a teenager. After earning a degree in English literature, he began taking classical guitar lessons. Unable to afford the quality of guitar he wanted and confident in his wood crafting skills, he decided to find someone who could teach him to build guitars. In 1975, he enrolled in Charles Fox’s school in Vermont, one of only two guitar-making schools in the United States at that time. A year later, he became an instructor at the same school working with his mentor Fox to train hundreds of students in the art of guitar making.

George opened his own school in 1983, Vermont Instruments located in Post Mills a small rural community near Dartmouth College. This school has attracted students from Europe and Australia as well as the Americas to learn the craft of making guitars and other stringed instruments such as mandolins, dobros, violins, and cellos.

Many of his graduates now work at the highest levels of the craft as independent luthiers or for major companies such as Martin Guitar, Yamaha, and Elderly Instruments. George has also built prototype guitars incorporating new design features for companies such as Yamaha. One of his favourite projects is building the instruments for the Keene State College Guitar Orchestra, an ensemble of twenty or more guitars of different sizes and pitch.

He describes Montrealer Danny Fonfeder’s proposition as the answer to a prayer. George and his wife Pippa, a fabric designer had visited Bali to study the renowned art forms there and he had always wanted to return. The challenge of teaching guitar making to skilled Balinese wood carvers was irresistible.

Building and equipping a guitar-making shop in Bali with the right humidity control required to build sensitive stringed instruments was only the first challenge faced by George and Wayan Tuges. Bali’s lack of technical resources including a limited power grid combined with a hot, humid climate might have defeated less determined men. But they persevered, moving forward slowly until the day they and their team of carvers produced that first perfect guitar, a flawless balance of high-tolerance woodworking, metal work and musical performance. It is a day they will never forget.

“Blueberry Guitars are unique, a true marriage of east and west and of art, science and business. I know now, beyond a doubt, that when individuals from different cultures combine their skills to achieve a common goal, the results are spectacular and exemplary. This is a model for a world too often characterized by conflict.”

Mark D. Goldman

Mark D. Goldman, Blueberry Guitars Director of Operations, brings 30 years of music and marketing experience to Blueberry.

He began his career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation stationed in Inuvik, in Canada's Western Arctic, then worked in Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto and Montreal. He worked as a announcer, broadcaster and producer of programming for both radio and television
for the national networks of the CBC as well as for Radio Canada International.

In the eighties and nineties, he concentrated on the production of ''Specials'' as well as regular shows for broadcast locally and throughout Canada, in addition to productions in Europe and across North America.
He was the director of marketing and International sales for one of the largest independent labels in Canada, and has worked with some of the finest musicians in the world.
His work has won several Canadian Music Council Awards, 1 Juno, a New York International Film Festival Award, a Canadian Independent Record Industry Award, and several awards in the US.

As a musician, broadcaster and marketer, Mark brings special skills to Blueberry Guitars understanding the importance of high quality instruments for talented musicians and the needs of customers and dealers.

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What people are saying

How often do you get to actually talk to the owner,founder and maker of a guitar company. Danny Fonfeder is a great guy to talk to. He will tell you every thing you need to know and truly has a passion for his Blueberry guitars. This guitar is nothing short of spectacular to look at and sounds as good as it looks. If it were stolen, Oh yeah...I would replace it.
~ Texas