Violin, Viola, and Cello maker
My interest in violins began in a roundabout fashion when my father inherited an old French instrument from an aunt who was a classical violinist in Aberdeen, Scotland. When I was five, my parents asked me to choose an instrument to learn. I chose the violin.
For the next few years my academic work took sway and I set the violin aside. I received degrees from Michigan State University and from Harvard University. While living in Cambridge, I returned to the violin, finding much needed relaxation in relearning the old fingerings and bowings. The year following graduation, I moved to Scotland, living in my family's croft on a small island in the Orkneys. Of course, my aunt's old violin, made the journey back across the Atlantic, and while gales blew across the North Sea, I found no shortage of opportunities to explore the lively rhythms and melodies of Scottish folk music. While I was in Scotland, I happened to meet an old man who made violins and Hardanger Fiddles. From that time forward, I was facinated with the idea of violin making, reading any book on the subject that I could lay my hands on and beginning the slow accumulation of suitable wood and tools.
I decided that formal study was necessary if I was to practice violin making at an advanced level. I was fond of the Midwest and so it seemed natural to apply to the Chicago School of Violin making. At Tschu Ho Lees school, I received an indoctrination to the basic methods of the violin maker --the learning of patience in craftwork, the development of a self-critical sense of one's own work, and awareness of the lines and forms that lie at the heart of instrument making.
My study of violinmaking, took a fortuitous turn when the prominent American maker Gregg Alf offered me a summer position at Alf Studios. That first summer passed quickly and an offer to stay on indefinitely was extended, so I left school early to continue working and studying at Alf Studios. The environment at Alf Studios offered limitless possibilities for learning. Gregg Alf, a passionate and thoughtful follower of the classical Italian school, generously devoted his time and effort to seeing that his two apprentices came to appreciate the oft-misunderstood aspects of both the craft and art of violin making. Out of his love of violin making, he openly shared his extensive knowledge of wood selection, woodworking, and varnish.
Eventually, I opened a small shop in Chicago, and for three years set about developing personal and historical models that that in the hands of musicians would compete in tonal quality and visual beauty with the finest quality new and old violins. In spring of 2003, I moved my violinmaking studio to Knoxville, Tennessee and have continued to dedicate myself full-time to the making of instruments of the violin family.
I feel fortunate to be professionally involved in such an exciting discipline. My making is constantly invigorated through my contacts and conversations with players and fellow makers. I am particularly interested in forming collaborations with players...in the selecting of wood from my stockpiles, the choosing of a model, and the determining of the characteristics of the varnish, whether antiqued or new...all in the effort to design an instrument that matches the expectations of the musician who has entrusted me with the task of making them a new instrument.
I was gratified to win a gold medal at the 2004 Violin Society of America compention for a 16 1/4" Brecian viola. This first major award was followed by a string of subsequent medals for violin, viola, cello, and quartet, and I am proud that every single one includes recognition for superior tone, as this is the goal that is at the center of my endeavors as a maker. The in 2012, I received the designation Hors Concours or "above the competition" and am no longer allowed to compete in VSA competititons.
I am able to offer an extremely high-quality instrument at a reasonable price, but I like to let my instruments speak for themselves, and so I encourage players looking for a great instrument to contact me and begin a conversation regarding what they would like in a new violin and arrange a simple trial to see firsthand how well they perform.
Photographs of Shop-life
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