After graduating from Emory & Henry, Gerald Anderson got the chance of a lifetime when he landed a part-time job sweeping floors for Wayne Henderson—the internationally known luthier who has made guitars and mandolins for some of the world’s most famous musicians, including Eric Clapton and Doc Watson.
Anderson, whose education at Emory & Henry was focused on his major in sociology with many classes in archaeology and anthropology, could barely play the guitar at the time. But he soon became Henderson’s apprentice, learning the craft of making stringed instruments and playing bluegrass music. After completing his first guitar in 1977, Anderson worked in Henderson’s shop until 2005, when he open his own studio in his home in Troutdale, Va. He’s made more than 100 guitars and more than 150 mandolins. He also is an accomplished musician with three bands: The Gerald Anderson Band, Anderson-Strickland (formed with his apprentice, Spencer Strickland) and The Virginia Luthiers (with Henderson and Jimmy Edmonds). Anderson has made more than 25 recordings, won numerous awards and performed throughout the U.S. and abroad. He performed for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited the U.S. in 2007.
“My education at Emory & Henry technically didn’t help with my career as a guitar maker, but overall it made me a more well-rounded person—that’s been important in my career,” Anderson says. “I would tell students today that you never know where life will take you, so be open to whatever career opens up for you. And for sure, pick one that will make you happy.”
Hometown: Troutdale, Va.