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Carbon Fiber Cello by Luis and Clark

“I love this cello!” – Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist, and Luis and Clark owner

Boat-Building Technology Meets Cello-Making

What happens when a concert cellist catches the sailing bug? A revolution in cello design. Inventor/Designer Luis Leguia said:

I got bitten by the sailing bug. It was realizing how the old boats were made, and seeing the new fiberglass ones and the ultra-sophisticated boats in carbon fiber, that prompted me to wonder what a cello would sound like in those mediums. It’s lighter and responsive, and very strong. What I wanted was a cello that would sound great. I wanted the tone of a Stradivarius or Montagnana cello and I wanted it to carry out over orchestra when you play a concerto. And I wanted it with a beautiful quality . . . The result of ten years of experimentation with both material and design is the “Luis & Clark Cello,” named after my partner, Steve Clark, and me.

The Evolution of the Luis and Clark Carbon Fiber Cello

The cello’s development evolved over the course of eleven years. Leguia made his first prototype from scratch out of fiberglass. Leguia says

It was a typical cello with cornices and a scroll. It looked like and was built like a normal cello. My second attempt was a different model with no cornices.

Creating a cello with a certain appearance was not the ultimate aim. Leguia’s goal was to create an instrument with a world-class cello sound. Although Leguia, with his extremely high standards, wasn’t satisfied with the first version, his wife, Stephanie, was stunned when she heard it. She said

It really sounded like a cello.

Continuing his quest for a world-class sound, Leguia created a second version. He thought this was an improvement, but it was still shy of his goal.

Leguia said that

the third one had a wonderful quality.

Another Sailing Connection

Once he was ready to begin production, Leguia’s connection with sailing led him to Steve Clark, a master in the production and fabrication of carbon fiber products and chairman of Vanguard Sailboats, an industry leader in supplying boats, accessories, and services to the small sailboat market.

Clark, who also designed and built the “C” class catamaran, Cogito, which holds the Little America’s Cup title, guided Leguia through the final stages of developing what is now known as the Luis & Clark Cello. Leguia said of Clark:

He was recommended to me. I had been in this for five years when I showed him all three of my cellos. He was very excited and just fascinated by the potential of things like this. He was enormously helpful in getting things started and, along with a couple of his colleagues, perfected my molds. His colleague, Matt Dunham, is now fabricating them for us.

Three-Piece Design

The final cello was developed with three parts:

  1. A one-piece back, sides and neck.
  2. The top.
  3. The fingerboard.

Hand-made Instruments

Luis and Clark carbon fiber cellos are individually made, by hand. By using molds and following set specifications, there is little to no variation from instrument to instrument. Instruments are measured and weighed at each step of the fabrication process in order to maintain strict quality control.

Why the Luis and Clark Cello is Easier to Play Than a Standard Cello

The shape of the Luis and Clark cello allows it to be played closer to the body, so that the bow arm does not have to be raised as high at the point of the A string. This reduces one of the causes of “sore shoulder syndrome.” In addition, the heel of the neck is sloped, so that there is no sharp edge rubbing against the musician’s chest, making this cello more comfortable to play.

Durability

Unlike their wooden counterparts, Luis and Clark carbon fiber cellos are more durable, not subject to problems from changes in weather and humidity, they require little maintenance, and they can be cleaned with a standard glass cleaner.

The Sound of the Instrument

Luis and Clark Patent

Luis and Clark have patented their cello design – Patent No.: US 6,284,957 B1. See the patent details here.

Contact Luis and Clark

For more information or to purchase an instrument go to the Luis and Clark site

Luis and Clark

Louie Leguia. Photo: Kevin SpragueLouie Leguia. Photo: Kevin Sprague

 

 

Louie Leguia grew up in Los Angeles, California, and trained at the Ecole Normale in Paris, and the Juilliard School. His teachers included Arthur van den Bogaerde, Kurt Reher, Andre Navarra, Leonard Rose, and Pablo Casals. Luis, or Louie as he is known to his friends, had a very challenging childhood but managed to overcome many obstacles to become a successful cellist.

 

 

His mother worked as a secretary to support her son and most of his childhood was spent moving from boarding house to boarding house. Starting the cello late in life, at nearly 15 years old, Louie had advanced enough by the time he was 17 to go to Prades France and audition for Pablo Casals, who made him his only scholarship student. At 19 he was offered principal cello with the Longine Symphonette and Leopold Stokowski asked him to be assistant principal cello and soloist with the Houston Symphony. Instead, he went to study at Juilliard. He joined the Boston Symphony in 1963.

 

 

Louie has played concertos and solo recitals on several continents, making tours through Europe, South Africa, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Syria. He has made 15 solo tours of South America, including one in which he performed all the Beethoven sonatas and variations, and has performed widely in Canada and in the United States. He has given master classes all over the world and was the Chair of the Boston Conservatory Cello Department for nearly a decade.

 

 

He has given numerous first performances, including the Boston premiere of Schoenberg’s Cello Concerto and the world premiere performances of works by Robert Parris, Pamela J. Marshall and Vincent Frohne. He played the world premiere of the Piston “Duo” for cello and piano, which was dedicated to him, at the Library of Congress in the 70’s. Robert Evett composed his cello concerto for Mr. Leguía, who gave the world premiere of that composition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. on the occasion of its 30th anniversary. Other composers who have written works expressly for Louie include Edgar Valcarcel, Josep Soler.

 

 

In the early 1970s Louie played a recital in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. It was sponsored by the U.S. State Department and was the first concert ever to be given to a biracial audience.

 

 

While on sabbatical from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, during the winter of 1984-85, the tri-centennial of Bach, Louie performed the complete cello suites of J.S.Bach in Madrid, Spain and made recital and concerto appearances in Portugal, Berlin, Tubingen and Belgium. He also did extensive research on Spanish music for the cello. It was soon after, that he started his other journey, to find a more beautiful and penetrating cello for his performances.

 

 

Though music had consumed most of his life, Louie became an avid sailor in the 1970s. When he was out on his catamaran he could feel the hulls humming and it started him thinking about the resonance. He realized how the old boats were made, and seeing the new fiberglass ones and the ultra-sophisticated boats in carbon fiber, made him think those materials might make a great medium for a cello. He thought he could do away with all the things in a traditional cello that a wooden instrument needs for structural stability. He could make it lighter and responsive, and very strong. He wanted the tone of a Stradivarius or Montagnana cello and he wanted it to carry out over an orchestra when playing a concerto. And he wanted it with a beautiful quality.

 

 

Louie retired from the Boston Symphony in 2007, but continues to play as a soloist. He plays a robust game of tennis and tries to swim every day. But his days are also focused on checking each instrument that leaves the shop. Luis and Clark now has owners of his instruments in over 55 different countries, from Norway to South Africa and from Panama to Malaysia. There is even one in the Congo. Louie sometimes laments that he will only be remembered as the inventor of the carbon fiber stringed instrument and not a cellist, but it’s been a remarkable journey for someone with very humble beginnings.

Click here to read about everyone at Luis and Clark.

 

 

Contact Luis and Clark

For more information or to purchase an instrument go to the Luis and Clark site.