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Mike Baranik understands players’ needs because he started out as a guitar player. He took guitar-building classes at Phoenix’s Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in 1993 and then apprenticed with head instructor John Reuter for several months. In 1994 he returned to the school as an assistant instructor, an experience he considers extremely valuable. “I enjoyed the dynamics of teaching,” he explains, “and found the students’ questions to be a great catalyst in discovering which building techniques worked and which didn’t.”In 1995, he joined the fledgling Phoenix Guitar Co., building and repairing acoustic and electric guitars. “I benefited from the experience, because I got to do a lot of repair and finish work and improve my skills in those areas,” he notes. The company soon closed, but after a year with Woodworkers’ Source and a brief period crafting custom furniture and a handful of electric guitars, Baranik began building acoustic guitars under his own name in 1996.