Luthier | (n) a maker of stringed instruments
The community can now boast an internationally-acclaimed luthier among Kilgore’s accolades.
Former Kilgore ISD music instructor Mitch Moehring has been honing his skills as a bass craftsman for the past three years, and his dedication paid off this week as members of the International Society of Bassists gathered at Indiana University for their annual convention and competition.
Moehring took with him the third bass he’s crafted – with tempered expectations.
“There are three tone judges. Each of them plays it like crazy, everything they want a bass to do,” Moehring said. “All three of them played it in all the different styles.”
It’s small as such instruments go, and the judges tested it alongside 23 other basses gathered from around the world. They commented on the robust, low-end range of its sound as well as its “sweet” upper register.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll get a certificate.’ Maybe one of the judges thinks it’s a good bass.”
That said, prior to the event’s annual headliner concert June 4, the judges announced their slate of awards, recognizing Moehring for Double bass Tone in the 2019 Maker’s Competition.
“I was kind of an emotional wreck,” Moehring said. “I wasn’t expecting anything, anything whatsoever.
“All three thought it was deserving of a medal, so I got a silver medal on my third bass, which blows my mind. I’m still in shock about it.”
Moehring made his first bass in 2017, following it up with a commission for Dallas-area soloist Kate Jones.
“She’s just an amazing person. She saw something in me, that I could make a small bass that sounded good, that she could actually play,” he said. Jones needed something other than the “monster basses” that were giving her pain. “She commissioned my second bass with a removable neck because she flies around the world playing.”
He wanted to copy a classic Piatellini design from the 18th century, but Jones needed more of a slope to the instrument. So, Moehring held onto the idea for his third go.
The award-winning instrument has a 39-inch string length, based on a Piattellini from 1790.
“It has a removable maple neck set into a body with a European spruce top and a mahogany back and ribs,” Moehring noted.
It also includes a special piece of home.
“The tailpiece was made of Bradford Pear, an ornamental tree,” he said. “My good friend, Craig Jaynes, gave me a box of pear wood that he had milled up 10, 20 years ago from a tree that was struck by lightning and died on the Kilgore College campus.”
In the past, Moehring dipped into the box to craft toys for his sons, Max and Milo. Then, sitting around waiting for the varnish to dry on the bass, he found the wood a welcome way to avoid tinkering with the instrument.
“That would have been a bad idea, it needed to cure,” Moehring said. Instead, drawing the tailpiece from the pear wood allowed the varnish to dry and resulted in the Kilgore touch for the winning bass.
At the Bloomington, Indiana, gathering, it’s all about that bass.
“There’s players here. There’s vendors here. There’s teachers here,” everyone refining their individual crafts and celebrating the beauty of the instrument. “It’s a convention, but it’s also a competition,” featuring jazz showdowns as well as soloists vying for awards.
“All of us luthiers who entered the competition are also up there building a couple of basses during the week. I got one up-and-playing last night. It’s going to be raffled off. Everybody can buy a $50 raffle ticket to win a $20,000 bass.”
The final destination of Moehring’s winning bass can’t yet be shared – follow Kilgore News Herald for updates.