A! Magazine for the Arts

Will Parsons builds a mandolin in his workshop.

Will Parsons builds a mandolin in his workshop.

Luthiers: Parsons Mandolins

August 30, 2011

Will Parsons built his first fiddle when he was only 14; it won first place at a state-wide woodworking competition and second place in the follow-up national competition.

Parsons built three fiddles and two banjos by age 17 and his first mandolin at 18. He remains enthralled with the carving and the creative process some 25 years later.

A native of West Virginia, Parsons attended Berea College in Kentucky and worked at Renfro Valley Music Hall and Village building mandolins and dulcimers. There he developed a flat-model mandolin, which quickly earned a reputation as an affordable, yet great sounding instrument. When he was 25, Parsons returned to West Virginia where he bought a farm and concentrated on building carved mandolins. He began experimenting more with designs as well as interesting methods to adjust the sound produced by a mandolin.

In 2005, Parsons moved to Tennessee where he continues to build instruments and play music while educating his own children to do the same. He has built guitars, banjos, dulcimers, citterns, mandolas, dobros and violins, but his true passion is handcrafting mandolins. He uses woods native to the East Coast, such as maple, spruce, and walnut. Parsons also teaches bluegrass at East Tennessee State University and performs with the bluegrass band Meridian. He has toured nationally with Barry Berrier and for several years with the Charlie Sizemore Band.

>> Sheppard Guitars