Glenn Schultz: The Chiff & Fipple Profile
by Dale Wisely
Glenn Schultz died on June 8, 2005. He was a treasured member of the tinwhistle community. He'll be sorely missed.
Here's a story we did some years back on Glenn.
Glenn Schultz lives in Michigan, works for General Motors running lathes and other machines, and spins out extraordinary tinwhistles and the occasional flute. He makes “Thin Weasels,” carefully crafted wooden whistles with metal trimmings, which are almost always on whistle players’ short lists of the best whistles on the planet. And then there are the famous “Water Weasels,” excellent moderately priced whistles made from white plumber’s PVC pipe. If you are lucky, you can get one with the plumbing code still visible on the shaft. They are, as the young people say, “way cool.” Wicked sweet. I proudly own Water Weasels in D and Eb and I’m trying to pry a high E out of Glenn.
For several months I’ve been exchanging email with Glenn and had occasion to read samplings of his fine verse (yes, he writes poetry, too). I finally persuaded him to give this interview to Chiff & Fipple, but I decided to do the format a bit differently from the other Chiff & Fipple interviews.
I asked Glenn to provide some background on The Man.
“I was born in 1941, second of three brothers, both gone on. I was a music student on 12-bass piano accordion from age five, had classical training mostly, but still am playing a small piano accordion in an Irish band with youngest daughter for 14 years. Nothing like making music with one's children. I graduated high school somehow. I then became a toolmakers' apprenticeship with Chrysler in the early 60's, bummed around job shops a lot until I hooked up with General Motors in '77. “
Glenn Schultz (photo by B.C. Childress)
“I had learned a whole bunch of other instruments along the way, some of them very well. My daughter joined the group at twelve as a whistle player. I offered to build her a conical bore Irish wooden flute, since we couldn't afford one. Woe was me. A year and a half later I produced the first instrument and it just seemed a waste of effort to quit at just one instrument. Made a few more, produced a wooden D pennywhistle, these got eaten up, and I made more. I used to count it a good month when I sold a whistle; now I cannot keep up with demand. “
Many of the whistle makers interviewed on Chiff & Fipple have been able to cite examples of those that influenced their work. Glenn is no exception.
“I had a lot of help from the likes
of Eugene Lambe of Ireland. George
Jameson of blessed memory
was figurative in my career, long letters longhand with a 10 cent ballpoint pen, turned me on to his drinking buddy Art Benade also gone on, who left a legacy of written material which will live on, some of which I can actually understand. Benade I never met even on paper, but he's been pivotal in the design of my instruments. Jameson's influence can never be assessed, for he was with me every step of the way. Miss the old bastard a lot. I keep the last letter from him here upon my table.”
I wondered about the whistlemaking process. Glenn told me that he works on batches of whistles, one or two dozen or so, taking the batch through one process at a time. Unlike the wood whistles, PVC requires no time to shrink before taking it through the next step, so the Water Weasels move along faster. But, Glenn reminds us, for all whistles, tolerances on the specifications are in thousandths of an inch. Glenn recently renewed a relationship with a talented apprentice, which should be a big aid in production.
How in the world did Glenn get the idea to make whistles out of plumbing pipe? In characteristic style, Glenn tells us: “I only wondered what kind of junk stuff would yield a playable instrument, and at the nadir of my search, celery would not have been been beyond the pale. Hardware store PVC was cheap and available and consistent, so I pointed at it. It's been wonderful thus far! I useta make 'em with the plumbing code prominent on it right thru windo and fingerholes, 'til someone complained, now I wash everything off with acetone on my back porch summer and winter. “
To get to know Glenn a bit is to get to know his colorful personality. Witness, if you will, this little summary of his lifestyle:
“I come home from 10 hrs at GM, pet the dawg, read the mail, retrieve the phone messages, pour a cup of this here kool-aid, go in the back bedroom of my rented house and slave away at weasels and once in awhile at a batch of transverse flutes of my own design. Dawg helps out alot, sweeps up, alerts me to visitors, mows the lawn badly upon occasion, licks the dishes clean, doesn't drink my wine, and her smile improves my day. She'll stay. Married again to the second wife I divorced awhile back, we decided we weren't gonna do better in our lifetimes. Got a couple big children, lights of our lives, upright and steadfast people. Gee, what more would you like to know? I work, I eat, I work, I write, I work, I sleep. I've managed to produce a helluvan instrument, much credit due to those present and past who have helped me, willing or not.“
Glenn Schultz’s whistles are occasionally available from vendors, including House of Musical Traditions, Andy’s Front Hall, Celtic Fire Ltd. and probably others. You can access these shops from http://www.chiffandfipple.com/Buying.html
Thin Weasel Woodwinds Glenn A. Schultz, Sr. (248) 524-3854
Glenn has a website at http://www.thinweasel.com
Dale Wisely is webmaster of Chiff & Fipple: The PostStructural Tinwhistle Internet Experience