Guitarist Joel Weik Has a Unique Perspective On Ovation Guitars

May 8, 2014

Last month, Fender Musical Instruments announced it will close the Ovation guitar factory in New Hartford in the coming weeks. For now, that means all Ovation guitars will be made in factories overseas. 

The news did not sit well with Joel Weik, a former Ovation employee, and guitarist for the instrumental world fusion band String Theorie. Weik owns five Ovations, and loves the brand. "I think because of the composite," he said, "there's not a lot of expansion and contraction going on. It really can hold up to the weather. I've played this thing in freezing temperatures; in pouring rain; in the sunniest, most humid days; and I tell you, this thing, it's like magic."

Ray Hardman, left, and Joel Weik with one of his Ovation guitars during a visit to WNPR.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Most of Weik's Ovations were made in New Hartford. He said he was shocked when Fender, the parent company of Ovation, made the decision to shutter the New Hartford plant. Fender blamed "current market conditions and low sales" for the closure.

Weik, who worked at Ovation until September of last year, sees it differently. "I would attribute some of that drop in sales to perhaps a lack of support in sales and marketing," he said. "I do think the focus for the ovation brand became diluted a bit upon the acquisition of Ovation by Fender."

Fender will continue to make Ovation guitars in China, South Korea, and Indonesia. Joel Weik said there is a big difference between New Hartford Ovations and their Asian counterparts. "We had inspectors at our warehouses who would receive the guitars," he said, "and say 30 percent of these guitars failed to pass the test. I never heard of issues of New Hartford manufactured Ovations having to be sent back."

Aeronautical engineer Charles Kaman used his know-how of helicopter rotor blades and acoustics to develop the first Ovation guitar in 1965. Kaman Music sold Ovation to Fender in 2007.