Australian luthier Graham Caldersmith, widely regarded as a pioneer of Australian guitar design, has died at the age of 75. Since 1978, Caldersmith had handcrafted and acoustically designed hundreds of guitars, violins, violas and cellos, his service to instrument making recognised by a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2016.
Born in Sydney on November 26, 1943, he began his career as a high school science teacher, maintaining an interest in instrument making and woodwork after building his first guitar as a 17 year old. In 1971, Caldersmith undertook a Masters in Aerophysics at the Australian National University, which sparked his independent research into musical acoustics. He received a scholarship to research acoustics in Stockholm in 1978 – the following year saw him undertake formal studies in acoustics with Neville Fletcher at the University of New England. Committing to full-time violin making in 1980, he received an Australia Council research equipment grant the same year and a Churchill Fellowship to the US in 1982, where he worked with Carleen Hutchins on various elements of violin performance.
Known as one of the pioneers of the groundbreaking Australian lattice-style guitar, and an exponent of the various guitar family instruments (baritone, bass and treble classical guitars), Caldersmith’s designs gave rise to classical guitar ensembles energised by his creations, including Guitar Trek, Saffire and more recently, the Melbourne Guitar Quartet. His instruments have inspired music by Australian composers including Nigel Westlake, Richard Charlton, Robert Davidson, Phillip Houghton and Elena Kats-Chernin, and he is estimated to have created more than 200 classical guitars.
Caldersmith is survived by an older brother and his partner Angela MacPherson.