Musical instrument developer acts as Buddhist priest at VT
Saturday, 25 May, 2024

Musical instrument developer acts as Buddhist priest at VT Zen Center

SHELBURNE — Tucked away down a rural Vermont road flanked by forest and farmland lies the two homes of Nōwa Randall: the Randolin Music Store and Vermont Zen Center.

At Randolin, Randall makes, repairs, and sells custom musical instruments. At the Zen Center, he serves as a Buddhist priest. For Randall, these two worlds are one in the same.

“It’s all overlap because, for instance, if you’re practicing Buddhism, what Buddhism is about is about being present with whatever you’re doing,” Randall said. “When I’m fixing instruments, I’m fixing instruments. When I’m playing music, I’m playing music. When I’m doing meditation, I’m doing meditation.”

Randall’s Zen-like focus is apparent when working in his music shop. With basic woodworking tools, Randall carefully crafts mandolins, banjos, guitars, ukuleles, and other instruments by hand, starting from simple blocks of wood.

‘This is just the way I live’

Much of the wood comes from local suppliers in Chittenden and Addison counties. Some of the wood comes from Randall’s grandfather and great-grandfather.

Nowa Randall tracing lines on a custom guitar he's building.

Randall has been building and repairing musical instruments for 45 years.

“I started out doing repairs mostly because I was a poor musician and I didn’t have money to have someone else fix it,” Randall said. “So I started learning.”

The instruments for sale at Shelburne's Randolin Music include banjos, guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, and more.

For 26 years, Randall was running his business in downtown Burlington. Last summer, the rent and parking in Burlington got to be too much, and he moved out to 470 Thomas Road in Shelburne, where he’s currently operating out of a converted two-car garage in a quaint house.

The shop is next to the Vermont Zen Center, for which Randall has built chanting drums, drum stands, and other wood crafts.

A statue at the Vermont Zen Center in Shelburne.

Established in 1988, the Vermont Zen Center is a Buddhist community center. Members can meditate, chant, garden, participate in ceremonies, join study groups, and more. Randall helps run the center’s meditation retreats.

“It’s not even a job,” Randall said. “This is just the way I live. It’s my life. It’s my vocation.”

Contact April Fisher at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @AMFisherMedia

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