Aaron Paul remembers his aunt playing Motown songs on her acoustic guitar for him when he was a toddler. "Music has always been a part of my life," he said. Since Aaron was 15 years old he has dreamt of building and fixing guitars. Two years ago he came to Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical and completed the Band Instrument Repair program, then enrolled in the Guitar Repair and Building program. After 15 years he is now truly working towards his dream.
Aaron says, "Until you come here and see how it’s done you don’t really put much thought into how it was made." Building his first guitar Aaron remembers, "When it reached that point where it actually started to look like a guitar, I thought, wow! I did this; I made this with my hands." Aaron says you can tell if you have an instrument that is made by hand just by holding it, "The quality is better. I think a hand-made acoustic guitar beats hands down a factory made." Guitar Repair and Building students from Southeast Technical are highly trained. They learn to check the sound by tapping, listening and making precise adjustment for the best possible sound. "It's still always going to come down to a person for that sound," said Aaron about factory built guitars.
Aaron hopes to someday put the skills he's learned in both music programs at Southeast Technical into use in a full scale shop of his own. Running the office will be Tanja Niemi, his now fiancé who is also a student at Southeast Technical in the Administrative Assistant and Supervisory Management programs. In mid-April Aaron performed in the annual Southeast Technical Variety Showcase. During his performance Aaron worked his proposal right into the lyrics of the song. Aaron and Tanja have been together for a couple of years. They had already been planning to get married and had decided to "skip the proposal." He decided not to skip it after all, "She deserved that grand statement and attention." Under a spotlight and in front of more than 150 people he popped the question. Aaron plans to make their wedding bands from wood left over from the guitar he built.
This semester Aaron started building an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar. He has chronicled these builds on his blog, If You Build It, They Will Play. You can see Aaron's hand-made guitars along with about 50 others at the annual Guitar Show on the Red Wing campus. In addition, Aaron inherited that acoustic guitar his aunt used to play for him. "I recently repaired it, so it would play the way it should," he said, adding, "That was a great feeling." Aaron's journal of repairs to this special piece of family history is also featured on his blog.