Graham Caldersmith started his career as a high school science teacher in 1967, spending his weekends playing folk music and working with wood in his shed.
In 1971, he moved back to academia to undertake a Masters in Areophysics at ANU. While working as a laboratory manager and physics tutor, he started independent research into musical acoustics.
At the age of 36, Graham finally indulged his passion with formal acoustics studies under Neville Fletcher at UNE, Armidale.
Other significant opportunities came including:
a scholarship to research acoustics in Stockholm in 1978
an Australia Council research equipment grant in 1980, and
a Churchill Fellowship to the US in 1982.
His early working life was spent in Canberra. In 1996 he moved to the Port Macquarie-Hastings area, first in the village of Kendall, before moving to the stunning Comboyne Plateau.
Graham has always made guitars in some capacity (since his first clumsy attempt using a plywood door at the age of 17). Graham became a full-time luthier in 1978. Using his comprehensive background in acoustics and woodwork, he has become known as one of the pioneers of the Australian lattice-style guitars, and the leading exponent of the various guitar family instruments. Graham has made over 200 classical guitars.
Graham Caldersmith is one of Australia’s most experienced luthiers. To 2017, he has made 116 violins, 60 violas and 38 ‘cellos.
He committed to full-time violin making in 1980 but continued recording and analysing both violins made in his workshop and those brought in for repairs using equipment granted by the Australian Research Council. Relating wood properties, arching profiles and plate thickness to frequency response and players’ advice he was able to assemble a body of information which has guided the making of violins, violas and ‘Cellos for sound quality and overall balance. In 1982, Graham was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to visit the USA and work with Carleen Hutchins on various aspects of violin performance.
In 1983, Caldersmith conducted a research project comparing the acoustic properties of Australian and European tonewoods. With this information and in collaboration with Kevin Williams and Warren Nolan-Fordham, he designed and made violins, violas and ‘cellos with Australian tonewoods, refining the designs to optimise the performance of the instruments given the character of the indigenous woods. His violin family instruments are now made using King William Pine and Australian Blackwood, unless otherwise specifically requested.
In 1996, he moved to the mid north coast of NSW and was involved in the formation of the Kendall National Violin Competition (see www.kendallviolin.org.au), to which he has donated the prize of an ‘Aussiewood violin’ for 15 years.
In 2006 Graham moved with his partner to the mountain village of Comboyne, where he continues to work in his 100-year-old cottage workshop.
In 2016 Graham was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to musical instrument making.
Graham’s work is widely published in American Lutherie, Catgut Acoustical Society Newsletter, The Strad, Acustica, and Journal of Violin Society of America