Michael Phifer Interview: Guitar Craft Academy

Written by
Logan Tabor
Published on
January 21, 2021 at 3:44:40 PM PST January 21, 2021 at 3:44:40 PM PSTst, January 21, 2021 at 3:44:40 PM PST
Welcome back, one and all, to another installment of Mojotone’s ‘Make It Monday’ series!  This week, we are taking a breather from our typical project-oriented walkthrough article, and focusing on the future…

This November, Mojotone is hosting one of our famous amp building workshops at, none other than, Musician’s Institute Nashville as part of their Guitar Craft program.  We all know Musician’s Institute has been around a long time, but many of us only associate MI with its location in California.  This fall, Mojotone will visit the Nashville campus and teach a classroom full of lucky folks how to build a beautiful vintage-style tube amplifier.  And in order to get everyone hyped up about this venture, we figured it would be a good idea to focus on the Guitar Craft program and the minds behind it.  So, we decided to sit down with the program’s director, Michael Phifer to get some insight…

Michael Phifer has played and loved guitars his entire life.  And, like many of us, he gained early inspiration from bands like The Allman Brothers, Foreigner, KISS, and 38 Special.  He began working for Musician’s Institute, with any number of different job titles, in 1993 at MI’s Hollywood campus.  In 2003, he acquired the position of Director of Operations and was able to oversee numerous multi-site, multi-million dollar projects.  It’s safe to say Phifer has seen his fare share of the industry and its inner-workings; i.e., this guy really knows his stuff.  

Phifer held his position at the Hollywood campus until 2015, when he was relocated to Nashville to build and operate the Guitar Craft program as its Institutional Director.  Classes began in 2016 and, since then, Phifer has seen tons of students come and go.  While many newcomers are often intimidated by the “heavy-hitting” nature of Nashville professionals, Phifer says…

“There is such an amazing community of industry professionals living in and around Nashville that are always willing to share their knowledge and experience.”

This is really a big part of what makes the Nashville campus and its Guitar Craft program so effective; a wealth of knowledge, and the best teachers in the world.  Not only are classes held in a state-of-the-art educational environment and taught by world-class faculty, but Guitar Craft is even able to offer VA benefits and Financial Aid opportunities to its students.  

As Michael and I were talking, I realized we had covered a brief history of MI Nashville’s guitar-building courses, but I was curious…what inspired him to start offering the occasional amp-building course?

“Hosting an amplifier building workshop here at Guitar Craft Academy Nashville will provide a great opportunity for our students and the local community to learn amp building from a company with an excellent reputation in the industry…” says Phifer.

The more I talk with Phifer, the more it sounds like ‘community’ is a big part of his motivation.  And I guess that is exactly what is cultivated as a result; a community of like-minded builders, players, DIYers, and tinkerers.  All of MI Nashville’s classes, whether those for acoustic guitar, electric guitar, amplifiers, maintenance, or otherwise, are all taught in a fully-immersive environment with every tool and component one could possibly need.  Their classes are taught by the industry’s authority figures; the guys with all the answers, the problem solvers, the critical thinkers.  If a beginner wanted to be given the absolute best chance to thrive, MI’s campus would be the place to start.  

Like I said, Phifer has seen tons of students come and go during his time at MI Hollywood and MI Nashville, and here is what he had to say to those hesitant newcomers who need that extra little push…

“Don't hesitate, don't overthink it, just come out and participate. You won't regret it.”

And I have to say, from my own personal experience, Phifer is right.  You have to just dive in.  The DIY world can be intimidating, absolutely.  But once you make the first move, every move thereafter gets more and more comfortable, more and more natural, until one day it becomes a way of life.  Suddenly you are the one sharing knowledge with others, while still constantly learning.  We are never finished growing, but someday we must begin.