When 1989 National Heritage Fellow Richard Hagopian performed at the celebratory concert, he took the stage with an oud made by Peter Kyvelos. Hagopian refers to him as "the Stradivarius of oud making." Kyvelos has been making and repairing stringed instruments for over 30 years, and his shop in Belmont, Massachusetts, is considered to be the epicenter of instrument-making by Greek, Armenian and Middle Eastern musicians around the United States. He has built over 175 ouds, a member of the lute family, over the course of his career. His interest in instrument-making was sparked by his fascination with the music. As a youngster, he tried to play the Greek music performed by his father, an avocational woodworker. During his college years, he embarked on a serious study of the structure of the instruments. He began making and repairing them, even though he was still performing in clubs in California to earn his way through school. When he returned home to Massachusetts, he set up his shop called Unique Strings, not far from Watertown, known as "Little Armenia." His customers and admirers have spread both geometrically in number and geographically in breadth ever since. Still, for him, it is the joy of making the instrument and the satisfaction in seeing and hearing it played that inspires his work: "But the most exciting thing, of course, is when you've created an instrument and strung it up and it goes into the hands of a professional, and then you see that professional sitting up on a stage playing your instrument. There's a certain amount of pride that you get; nobody has to say anything - I don't even want people asking whether I made it - that's not it. What matters is between me, the instrument, and the person playing."
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