MISSOULA — Music has long been a special part of 16-year-old Keegan Dagiau's life whether he’s playing guitar, or making one — which he is doing at the Youth Instrument Building in Missoula.
"I never thought I’d be making guitars. I have a little bit of woodworking experience but that’s from living out on my family’s ranch in Camas Prairie for a while, where you learn a little bit about everything to keep the place going,” Keegan said. “I never thought it would turn into making instruments for people. Some experience on the ranch — I never thought it would turn out.
Keegan first came to the Youth Instrument Building when he was in a youth home, where he was introduced to the craft of instrument making by Ben Simon. Simon is a woodworker himself who has turned that skill set into a place where teenagers can make instruments of all kinds from scratch.
The templates line the room, along with projects and designs that are only limited by one’s imagination. The wood waits patiently. Maybe someday becoming a ukulele or a dulcimer. — the possibilities are endless.
We marveled at the role music plays in our lives after Keegan shared the story of a chance encounter with a man who was strumming a guitar.
“He said, ‘Do you want to sit down and learn a couple of chords?’ I said sure. And he taught me four chords,” Keegan recalled. “And as I'm sitting there practicing, he stands up...looks at me and says ‘that guitar is now yours.’ I looked down at the guitar and looked back up and he’s gone. I have never seen him again and I still have that guitar to this day.”
Keegan is now out of the youth home and plays his guitar in his youth group band. MTN News asked him what he’s thinking about when he’s making one.
“Focusing mainly on what I’m doing in that moment. There’s a lot of meticulous stuff that goes into building a guitar, that if you don’t get this right, it [isn't] going to work properly. It gives me a way to think about something besides what’s going on at home or at school,” Keegan explained.
It could be building the infrastructure of a pipe organ or designing their own electric guitars; Simon's hope is the space becomes a place where teenagers can get sawdust in their hair and learn skills to last a lifetime.
“Take the knowledge you learn here using saws and sanders and build cabinets...and anything you make out of wood and other materials, too,” Simon told MTN News.
Youth Instrument Building is They're having a raffle for a guitar to raise funds for scholarships. Visit https://youthinstrumentbuilding.org to learn more. Contact email@example.com for additional information about the classes that are offered.