Rosa String Works: Making and Repairing String Instruments Since 1983 | Projector

Bluegrass music has always been a part of Jerry Rosa Sr.’s life. His uncle was known as the father of bluegrass music in Missouri and played the mandolin professionally in the 1950s and 1960s.

Following in her uncle’s footsteps, Rosa was determined to purchase the same mandolin her uncle used, a classic Lloyd Loar Gibson instrument. A signed Lloyd Loar mandolin can be worth over $250,000.

One day in 1983, Rosa traveled to Nashville from Missouri to buy a Lloyd Loar Gibson mandolin from a salesman, only to find out the cost would be $12,500.

It was too much money, thought Rosa. Upon returning home, Rosa decided to build her own instead.

“I started building them almost instantly after that. I actually bought a little book,” Rosa said. “I read that book cover eight times before I built my first instrument, and it m t took about a month to build the first one.”

Once he did, he also started getting requests for stringed instrument repairs. Eventually he started building them to sell.

Thus, Rosa String Works was created almost 40 years ago. He opened his workshop to repair, restore, customize, build and maintain old and new string instruments.

He says with pride that he honestly never brought a stringed instrument into the workshop that he couldn’t repair or maintain.

In 1998 Rosa moved to its current location at 21102 County Road 7560 in Newburg. The property itself is large, with several farms on the site. Customers traveling to have their instruments repaired can actually stay at the ranch while the repairs are completed.

Rosa will rent a two-story ranch house for $85 per night for a single person or family. The rate for a second couple is an additional $50 per night.

He has a motto proclaiming that he can build or repair any stringed instrument smaller than a piano.

Since the company was founded, he has repaired thousands of instruments and built between 40 and 50. He can build and repair guitars, violins, basses, fiddles and, of course, mandolins.

His orders come from all over the world, with customers shipping instruments to his store or bringing them personally, some traveling long distances to do so.

“They will come from Georgia (or) Washington. They will drive from anywhere and bring them here,” he said. “I mean, there’s a lot of other repairmen around, so they like what they see, I guess.”

He has built much of the equipment he uses, and he handcrafts every part of an instrument, sometimes taking up to two days to make one.

For every instrument he builds or repairs, he uploads the process to his Youtube channel, which has over 67,000 subscribers.

Rosa’s friend and frequent customer, Bruce Robinson, said his mandolins were like no other.

“If you look at a topographic map, which has hills and valleys, on the back of these mandolins, there’s a very specific pattern in how they get thinner and thicker and around the edge, and it done so well,” Robinson said. . “He’s done so much that his mandolins have a distinctive sound.”

Rosa once made a custom 10-string mandolin for the late Carmine D’Amico which was displayed at the National Guitar Museum in New York. It received praise from the museum’s curator.

“He said, ‘It’s the most beautiful instrument I’ve ever seen in my life,’ and he’s the curator of the museum, so that was pretty cool,” Rosa said.

Apprentice Caleb Mills said there was never a dull moment at Rosa String Works.

“You never know what’s going to happen next,” Mills said. “We’ve done crazy, silly things on instruments, like people sticking together pieces of meter sticks and toothpicks. You never know what will come in the door and what will not.

Rosa also gives mandolin lessons and her students often win national competitions. He said he teaches students ages 8 and up using the Nashville number system.

“It’s completely different,” he said, “It’s taught totally with common sense and just basic understandings, rather than the complicated note structure that most people teach instruments with. ”

Rosa, now 66, has been devoted to instruments for nearly four decades and to music her entire life. Because he suffers from arthritis in his hands, he said he could no longer make custom instruments and would not accept shipped instruments. But he is ready to repair any instrument for anyone who comes to his store in person.

His love for instruments and his warm personality do not go unnoticed.

“He’s just a very dear friend and a brilliant luthier,” Robinson said. “I’ve known several, and I’ve never known anyone as versatile as Jerry to fix everything. He’s just honest and as kind as the day gets.

Mills is able to witness Rosa’s attention to detail and knows that he takes everything he does very seriously.

“Jerry is 100% on everything, and no matter how big or small it is, it’s 100% all the way,” he said.

Rosa said he plans to retire in the next two years, but wants to keep doing what he loves until that day comes.

“I’ve had some amazing things happen,” he said, “It’s been a pretty cool ride, really.”

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