Spending quality time with her dad has led to an uncommon passion for Emily Shaw

Photo: Krystal Villeneuve

Every odd Saturday night growing up, Shaw, her dad Mike and her siblings had a family evening in the basement workshop of their Elmwood, Ont., home learning the meticulous task of crafting a guitar.

“We did it here as a pastime, as a hobby,” said Mike. “It was something we could all do together.

“I'm very, very proud to have given (Emily) that start.”

Shaw now builds roughly four guitars a year and sells them all over the world – from Ottawa to Brazil and Singapore – for people seeking quality classical guitars at a budget-friendly price.

She began building her first guitar at four or five years old, so young she was still writing the number nine backwards. Of course, her father was there to supervise and handle anything that required power tools.

It took around four years to finish, and she still plays it to this day. “Rosy,” a little 5/8 size guitar, hangs on the wall of her Ottawa home, reminding her of the priceless memories and creations that came out of the basement workshop with her dad.

“It's a sentimental guitar, it's that time in my life and the first guitar I was able to build,” said Shaw. “That guitar is also built out of wood from my parent's property, so that's kind of special … It's just something there's no price you could put on it.”

That guitar’s name has reappeared within her family – Shaw has a two-month-old daughter coincidentally named “Rosie.”

Although Shaw won’t force Rosie to pursue anything she doesn’t like, her daughter is already being exposed to guitars at an early age, much like herself, and she plans to teach Rosie the building process just as her father did years ago.

Perhaps Rosie will be strumming on Rosy before too long, or maybe a version of her own to carry on what could become a family tradition.

But building is only one part of Shaw’s passion and profession. She’s also a music teacher and a performing and recording classical guitarist.

Photo: Inna Flyazhenkova

In many ways, becoming a guitarist has been her destiny since the day she was born.

“There wasn't really a specific moment of falling in love with the guitar,” said Shaw. “It’s just kind of been my life.”

That passion took her to Western University for her undergrad before beginning her master’s in guitar performance at the University of Ottawa under the tutelage of Patrick Roux in 2014.

Once in the nation’s capital, there was little reason to leave. She met her husband Craig Visser, a local guitarist and composer, and found a strong, thriving music and guitar community within which she could start building her career. Today, she’s the secretary of the Ottawa Guitar Society.

As a guitar, piano and theory teacher, Shaw has built a studio of approximately 30 students and continues to teach online through the pandemic.

Performing has been harder to come by due to the COVID-19 crisis, and Shaw has her hands full with her newborn, but she continues to record.

In 2019, Shaw released her first CD, Vespers, a collection of evening and night pieces. She has a new CD set for an August release titled In The Night – another group of night pieces that relate to her experience of being up at night with an infant child.

This coming fall and onto 2022, Shaw hopes to resume teaching in person and experience playing in front of people from some of her favourite venues in Ottawa, including the Glebe St. James Church and the Dominion Chalmers United Church.

To learn more about Emily Shaw, her lessons, and upcoming projects, including how to purchase her upcoming CD In The Night, visit emilyshawguitar.ca