About ASIA

During the summer of 1988, a small group of stringed instrument makers and repair technicians met with the intent of establishing a not-for-profit professional trade organization. Most simply, we preferred to be an "association," deciding to focus specifically on "stringed instruments," and we felt that the word "artisans" best described our mutual activities.  Hence, the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (with the accidental yet recognizable acronym of "ASIA") was born.  Michael Dresdner was chosen to launch the concept of ASIA, with the initial goal of facilitating through consensus a mission statement and set of bylaws that would provide a framework of integrity for our future evolution.

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David Nichols (President)

Portrait of David Nichols

David, our Benevolent Dictator, is a man of few words. What I should say is that he doesn't write many words. I'll have to fill in this space with my own observations.

After spending just a couple days with him, It is clear that David is a gifted musician, inlay artist, instrument builder, and leader. He has been instrumental in bringing ASIA back from the brink with a Board that was chosen for their teamwork as well as their individual talents.

David is extremely generous with his time, happily enlightening visitors to his shop, or just letting them hang around and absorb the atmosphere. He brings that same generosity to the Board, enlightening us with his knowledge, history, and industry contacts.

Bear Acker (Executive Director)

Portrait of Bear Acker

I should introduce myself. My name is Alton Bear Acker, and I have been an ASIA member for quite a few years. My family started me working wood when I was about ten years old, my grandfather being a furniture maker, and my father a carpenter. They taught me both crafts and I've done both for many years. In the mid seventies my woodworking entered another phase: stringed instrument making.  Among other things, my grandfather had given me music training, and I became a musician outside of woodworking.

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Jamie Aulson

Portrait of Jamie Aulson

Growing up, my father, Doug Aulson, owned his own business automating machinery. One of his many customers was Larry Sifel of Pearl Works in Mechanicsville, Maryland. Doug built Larry’s first CNC machines which helped him revolutionize the inlay industry.

I started working for Larry when I graduated from Salisbury University in 2002 with a graphic design degree. Studying computer-aided design (CAD) at the College of Southern Maryland and having Larry as a mentor led me to program and manufacture the 2005 double neck PRS Dragon. I enjoy using art and engineering together, as well as working with my hands—a job I didn’t even know existed was a right fit for me.

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Michael Dickinson

Portrait of Michael Dickinson

Michael Dickinson was born in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, home of C.F. Martin & Co., Inc. His mother and grandfather had worked for the grand guitar maker, but Michael wanted to be a rock star. After many high school bands failed to become famous, Michael turned his sights to higher education.

While home for a visit, one of the bands decided to reunite and got noticed. Unfortunately, they were noticed by a bunch of lawyers who threatened to sue them for using the name “Nightmare.” I like to say I got sued by Casper the ghost (Nightmare is Casper’s horse).

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Tony DiDomenico

Portrait of Tony DiDomenico

I'm Tony DiDomenico. I've been in the woodworking business since the late 70s. Wow, I'm not sure I like the way that sounds. I started an architectural woodworking company in 1988 which is still in operation today. In the early 80s I decided to try my hand at guitar building since I never had a good instrument and I knew my way around woodworking. Well, what an eye opening experience that was, "I'm going to need to do that again!" Having no experience in this craft, lets just say my first attempt was in need of improvement.

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John Hall

Portrait of David Nichols

ASIA has meant so much to me over the years. When I started as a builder, the internet was pretty new and information about guitars and stringed instruments was hard to come by. I was introduced to ASIA in 1999. I started to build guitars in 1998 while recovering from an accident. I was always involved in woodworking. My father was a trained Cabinetmaker / carpenter and I learned so many things from him. His love for wood and working with his hands rubbed off on me. My Father passed away in 1996 and I know would have been involved in the business with me. He was a natural talent at engineering and design. To him I credit with my ability to figure things out and my mechanic skills. He always encouraged me to try. One of his favorite expressions was, “If you don't do it yourself, you won't learn.”

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Steve Kovacik

Portrait of Steve Kovacic

I started off in luthiery as a hobbyist while working in the field of Psychiatric Counseling. I built a number of guitars over 10 years as a hobby before leaving my previous occupation to take up instrument craft full time, that was in 1995. Since then I have worked full time in luthiery. Though I do build a handful of guitars each year the main activity of my shop is repair and restoration of vintage guitars. My shop serves private customers and dealers alike.

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Stan VanDruff (Web Guy)

Portrait of Stan VanDruff

I love music of many genres, but I've had no musical training beyond the cowbell in 1st grade. By 1997, I desperately wanted to learn an instrument. My father taught me woodworking as a wee lad, so I decided to build a guitar (a pipe organ was my second choice). I finished my first steel-string in 1999, and before the lacquer was dry, I took it to the ASIA Symposium in Nashville, Tennessee.

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“ASIA is an organization where you not only grow your skills, but grow your extended family. I have met so many wonderful, knowledgeable people through this organization.” ~Michael Dickinson, Martin Guitar