In 1998, I purchased my bass from the El Systema in Venezuela. It had been the instrument of a teacher who selected me to study with him in Caracas. In attempt to mask some unfortunate repairs, several layers of dark brown paint, not varnish, had been applied. It was so thick that the instrument had no resonance, rendering it mute.
I called upon my dear friend and Luthier, Matias Herrera, and asked him to help me with the bass' restoration. The shop was very busy building violins, and he didn't have time to work on big instruments.
He offered to guide me in repairs if I was willing to do the work myself. We agreed and I spent several weeks removing the paint, and then began the rest of the renovation needed. After many hours of hard work, the bass was ready to be played again.
In August 2001, I came to the United States to be a part of the Performance Residence Program (PRP) at Carnegie Mellon University. As the temperature and humidity began to drop, I was unprepared and without the knowledge to take care of the bass. By December, it began to crack. Lacking resources, I borrowed an instrument and my bass sat in pieces for almost eight years. A friend and fellow bassist, Dan Morrison, told me of a new Luthier that had relocated from New York to the Slippery Rock area in Pennsylvania.
I made the phone call to Mike Magee, and our initial conversation lasted almost three hours. We spoke about our lives, our careers in music, and the condition and options for my bass. He invited me to bring my instrument to his workshop, and my wife and I made the trip. His kindness, knowledge, and generosity let me know we were in the right place.
After a lot of questions and much conversation, we agreed that renovating the bass was the correct path. We left the pieces in Mike's capable hands. Over the course of a year, he returned it to it's best and gave to me the most beautiful and powerful bass I've ever owned.
-- L. Puentes