Meredith Coloma
Credit: Lindsay Siu

Meredith Coloma, 27

Co-founder and co-producer

Life Story: By age seven, Vancouver native Meredith Coloma had lived in Taiwan and rural Chile. She went to Chile with her Canadian mother, then an anthropology student, and her musician father, a former political prisoner of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s regime who had moved to the West Coast. Returning home, Coloma picked up the fiddle, touring North America with bands at just 15. “It was a way to get out of school and be paid,” she says.

In 2007, when she was 16, Coloma got accepted into an acting program at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York City. She didn’t enjoy it, but after classes she hung out at a violin maker’s shop. Back in B.C., she enrolled in the Summit School of Guitar Building and Repair in Bowser. Coloma then convinced two master guitar builders, New York–based Roger Sadowsky and Vancouver’s Michael Dunn, to take her on as an apprentice. “I stalked them,” she admits.

At 19, Coloma began attending guitar shows, where she was one of the few female luthiers—and she noticed that most instruments looked the same. So she started making what she calls art guitars from non-traditional woods such as fir, walnut and reclaimed ebony. In 2016, Coloma co-founded the Vancouver International Guitar Festival (VIGF); when it launched last summer, the gathering showcased more than 60 guitar makers, mostly from B.C. Handcrafted guitars are making a comeback, partly because the Internet has made them easier to find, Coloma says. “I feel like I’ve been one of the people to push luthiery back into the mainstream.”

The Bottom Line: Since launching her guitar business in 2013, Coloma has made about 120 instruments for European, U.S. and other collectors, along with some 500 prototypes for manufacturers worldwide. Over the next three years, she plans to create a line of acoustic and electric guitars built entirely with an environmentally sustainable wood composite derived from mill off-cuts. Coloma’s five-year goals include opening a guitar-making school in Vancouver. Through VIGF, she also wants to launch the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. National Association of Music Merchants (NAAM) conference.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
Go to the source of excellence, or go to the source of awesome. It allows me to have no regrets, because I just do everything that I think.

Your favourite book is
[Graphic novel] Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange: Triumph and Torment. I think it’s romantic literature as well as that superhero stuff.

Who is your role model or mentor?
My mom is my role model. She helps me do everything I’ve ever wanted in life. She went from being a single mom to owner of an international cement mining company [Palcan], so I’ve been able to see her pretty much achieve anything anyone would want to achieve, and I thought, “Why can’t I do it, too?”