Folk Art PA

Master: George Orthey

Apprentice: Gregory Schreiber
Art Form: Autoharp Production

Gregory Schreiber began working with Dr. George Orthey in 2007 to become a luthier of autoharps. The autoharp is a musical instrument with deep American roots dating back to the late 1800s when it was originally manufactured by Charles Zimmerman in Philadelphia, PA. Through a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Apprenticeship in Folk and Traditional Arts, Orthey was able to assist Schreiber with increasing his production output of autoharps while maintaining the strict standards of the autoharp community. Together, they have been able to share their work with other luthiers around the world and use their knowledge of folk and traditional musical instruments to contribute to the community.

Dr. George Orthey and his handcrafted autoharps are highly regarded and sought after by the American folk and traditional music community. He has crafted over 1,000 instruments since 1964, some of which have been played by musicians such as The Carter Family, Mike Seeger, and Doc Watson. Orthey has made many different instruments—Appalachian dulcimers, hammered dulcimers, bowed psalteries, banjos, guitars, and mouth bows—all entirely handcrafted from carefully selected woods resulting in instruments with distinct individual personalities. Orthey says of this apprenticeship experience: "[It] has impacted me, giving me the satisfaction of seeing Greg improve his skills to where his autoharps are some of the best available today. And in turn, Greg was able to share his mechanical proficiency to enhance my production operations".

Gregory Schreiber studied with Dr. George Orthey from 2007-2009 and now builds custom autoharps from his own studio. He says of this art form, "This to me means an opportunity to combine my musical knowledge with my love of working with my hands in order to provide a supply of quality instruments to my worldwide customer base". Schreiber has worked previously in a machine shop. He has known Dr. Orthey for over 35 years both personally and professionally. Through working with Dr. Orthey in this apprenticeship, Schreiber has gained a greater respect for the attention to detail required to produce a world class instrument: "[Dr. Orthey] has entrusted me to use his registered trademark on the autoharps that I build and it is my intention to continue to do so upon his eventual retirement, thus ensuring a supply of quality autoharps to the community".