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Visiting Presenter / Film

The Chisels Are Calling


Masks are encouraged and appreciated, but not mandatory for this event.

A profile of John Monteleone, one of the world’s greatest guitar builders and a living artist on permanent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“It was like meeting Stradivari,” recalls acclaimed musician Mark Knopfler who appears in the film alongside the likes of musical luminaries David Grisman, Ben Harper, Woody Mann, and Frank Vignola, among others. The Chisels Are Calling looks beyond the technical aspects of the lutherie and examines the life, passion, talent and unique approach Monteleone takes to his art.

Starting with his early interest in the craft at age 10, Monteleone repaired the dilapidated family piano, then smashed a cheap guitar to see what was inside. The Chisels Are Calling follows Monteleone through his realization as a young man that building instruments was actually a job, and on to his launch of a career repairing some of the world’s finest instruments.

Largely self-taught, Monteleone used his background in repair to begin building instruments, both mandolins and guitars, in the traditional style. Once he mastered this he began to innovate and design his own models. The film examines John’s influences including his father and uncle’s artwork, his own interests in Art Deco, architecture, cars, trains and the work of industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Branching out further, Monteleone drew on these influences to create one-of-a-kind themed guitars with names like “Radio City,” “Sun King,” “Orange Blossom Special,” “Radio Wave” and many others.

John’s family and creative roots are in Italy, where the film follows him to the northern forests to find the perfect wood for his next projects, and then on to Cremona, known as the city at the heart of violin building. John takes us on a tour through the Museo del Violino where the violins of Stradivari and the Cremonase masters are on display, and explains what can be learned from the old masters’ approach to building, and what must be discovered on your own.


Leonard Nimoy Thalia

Expected Run Time is 90 minutes

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