Over the years, a number of extraordinary violin makers and experts have been asked to come to the Oberlin Violin Makers Workshop and present topics of interest to the participants. The following is a growing list of those individuals
Widely respected as one of today’s leading violinmakers, Gregg Alf played the violin as a child and studied instrument making in Italy for eight years, graduating in 1980 from the International Violinmaking school in Cremona. He returned to the USA with his friend Joseph Curtin and in 1984 founded the violinmaking studios of Curtin & Alf. From that collaboration grew Alf Studios (www.alfstudios.com), which continues to this day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His work has won a full range of awards and gold medals at international competitions and in 1982, the Violin Society of America’s top honorary designation, “Hors Concours”. Gregg’s instruments appear on-stage in many of today’s leading orchestras, in new recordings and in concert with some of the most respected soloists of our time. His personal style has evolved through an in-depth study of the rare Italian instruments that pass through his shop combined with a careful and ongoing dialogue with the concert artists who own them. While honoring the Italian traditions of the past, Gregg looks to science and innovation for guidance and inspiration to make even better instruments in the future. As a violinmaker, Gregg is exceptionally open about sharing his craft and serves as the US delegate to EILA, the International Entente of violin and bow makers. He is a regular presenter at schools across the United States and Europe and many of his apprentices have gone on to distinguished careers of their own. He has served on the faculty of the Oberlin Violinmaking Workshops and as a workmanship judge for past VSA Violinmaking Competitions and at the First International Violinmaking Competition in China. Founder and Artistic Director of the Amiata Summit, Gregg believes that promoting a climate of openness between his colleagues and encouraging original models that look to the future while honoring the past are the keys to true progress in the art of violin making. In 2011 he served on the Scientific Committee of an exhibition celebrating the 300th birth anniversary of G.B. Guadagnini. Gregg is now living with his family in the historic center of Venice and is most happy for the chance to give back to Italy the schooling he received years ago.
Thomas Oliver Croen was born in NYC in 1956. He lives and works in Berkeley, California as a full time luthier. He is a graduate of the Violin Making School in Salt Lake City and worked for Roland Feller in San Francisco from 1981-1983. After winning 3 gold medals in the Violin Society of America’s 1984 and 1986 competitions, he was declared “Hors Concours” in 1986. He was a workmanship judge at the 1992 and 2008 VSA competitions, and served on the VSA board between 1991-1997. In 1998, he had the honor of being on staff at the Oberlin Violin Maker’s Workshop. He also was the guest of the AVMA Workshop in Brisbane, Australia in 2010. Tom has always had an active interest in understanding instrument acoustics and has published on several subjects, most notably with Bill Atwood. As a tool maker, he is best known for his purfling tool which he designed. He is a member of the AFVBM and served on their board of directors from 2005-2011.
Joseph Curtin is a violinmaker, researcher, and 2005 MacArthur Fellow. Born in 1953 in Toronto, Canada, Curtin began violin lessons at age 12. He went on to study music and philosophy at the University of Toronto; and viola performance with the Israeli soloist Rivka Golani. In 1977 Curtin took up violin making under the guidance of the Otto Erdesz. He subsequently worked as a maker in Toronto, Paris, and Cremona, and then in 1985 moved to Ann Arbor, where he and Gregg Alf set up shop as Curtin & Alf. Twelve years later Curtin opened his own studios.
Joseph Curtin has written extensively on the art and science of violinmaking, and is a frequent contributor to The Strad, Strings, and VSA Papers. Since the early 1990s, Curtin has pursued a strong interest in acoustics and innovation. In 2002 he and Fan Tao co-founded the VSA Oberlin Acoustics Workshop, which they continue to co-direct. Curtin lives with his wife, singer/song-writer/performance artist Jesse Richards and their two dogs.
John Dilworth’s first experience as an instrument maker was as an apprentice to the Breton harp-maker Gildas Jaffrenou. In 1975 he attended Newark Technical College, studying general musical instrument repair. The following year he transferred to the Violin Making School, then under the direction of its founder and director Maurice Bouette, and studied with Glen Collins and Wilfred Saunders; graduating from the school in 1979.
After leaving Newark he worked at J. & A. Beare in London for 13 years, learning the art of restoration, adjustment and instrument recognition, happily surrounded by some of the profession’s best craftspeople and experts, not to mention the greatest instruments imaginable.
In 1991 John left to establish his own workshop in Twickenham, where he is now located.
John’s independent career is a mixture of new making, restoration, writing and research. His instruments are in use by professional players both in the U.K. and abroad and he has carried out major restorations for many collectors and institutions worldwide.
During his time at Beare’s, and with the indulgent help of Charles Beare himself, John began working on the problem of the varnish of the classical makers, leading him to the laboratories of the National Gallery, London, the director of the scientific department, Raymond White, and to Claire Barlow and James Woodhouse of Cambridge University. These collaborations have led directly to the formulation of his own varnish, which he hopes is a plausible and workable recreation of the methods the 18th century makers might have used.
In 1994 he worked closely with Peter Biddulph in the staging of the Exhibition ‘The masterpieces of Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu’ at the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The vast amount of new research and material gathered there has informed his work ever since.
Over the last twenty years John has lectured at many international violin conferences, and been invited to act as a craftsmanship judge at violin making competitions in England, America and Poland. He has taught both violin making and restoration at workshops in West Dean in the U.K., and in Oberlin in Ohio, U.S.A.
Mr. Dilworth has for many years been a technical editor of and a regular contributor to ‘The Strad’ magazine, with the aim of spreading the information about the violin and its makers which was so hard to obtain during his own training. He has been a major contributor to several publications on the violin, its history, and famous makers.
Award winning violin maker François Denis lives and works in Angers, France, a charming town of the Loire Valley well known for its wines and old castles. He studied science at university while also attending music school. An instrument maker since 1983, he made a wide variety of instruments, concentrating on art history and lutherie before turning his interests to the violin family. Since 1988 he has devoted himself to violin making and historical research on the origin of violin making. His instruments are played in many orchestras in France and abroad, are appreciated for their personality, and their sound has been distinguished in international competitions.
Mr. Denis’s multidisciplinary background led him to question certain fundamental but still obscure aspects of his profession, leading in 2006 to the publication of the Traité de lutherie, an original work of international success. The “Traité” sheds new light on the history of the geometrical processes behind the origin of the violin’s form. The book situates the dimensions of musical instruments in the broader context of an “art of measurement” which begins to disappear with the approach of the modern era. The book introduces the reader to the mysteries steeped in oral unrecognized tradition of the most iconic forms (like those of Amati and Stradivari). François Denis is an accomplished lecturer and pedagog in the design process of violin family instruments. His courses offer an opportunity to rapidly acquire the basic technical and theoretical skills of drawing the instrument forms. A selection of some of the most representative forms is provided to participants who attend his course.
Mr. Denis has published articles in The Strad magazine, the 3D Project, 1520- 1724 Liutai in Brescia, and has produced works in collaboration with other authors. He was awarded the Musicora prize in 2000 for his research.
François Denis is a member of the French violin making association (Aladfi).
Chris Germain, DIRECTOR
Christopher Germain makes award-winning violins, violas and cellos from his studio in Philadelphia. Mr. Germain attended the Chicago School of Violin Making, where he was a student of Tschu Ho Lee. After graduating in 1985, he went on to work for the Chicago firms, Kenneth Warren and Son and Bein & Fushi, Inc., before he opened his own studio in 1991. In 1995, Christopher Germain was invited by legendary restorer Vahakn Nigogosian to assist in teaching at the Violin Society of America’s Stringed Instrument Restoration Workshop at Oberlin College in Ohio. He eventually became Director of the Restoration Workshop and currently directs the VSA/Oberlin Stringed Instrument Maker’s Workshop.
Mr. Germain is a member and past President of The American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, Inc. and as President, conceived and produced, “The American Violin”, an historic celebration of the art and craft of violin making in America, which took place in 2006 at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Mr. Germain has served on the Governing Board of the Violin Society of America and is also a member of the Entente Internationale des Maitres Luthiers et Archetiers d’Art. He’s lectured and demonstrated his craft at venues around the world, including The Central Conservatory of Beijing, The Australian Violinmaker’s Association, The Violin Society of America and many more. Mr. Germain has served on the juries of a number of international violin making competitons, including at the 12th International Triennial Competition of Stringed Instrument Making in Cremona, Italy.
Nicolas Gilles studied classical guitar before entering the French school of violin making in Mirecourt in 1993, obtaining his final diploma in 1996. From 1996 to 1998 he attended the English school of violin making in Newark, where he obtained his diploma, with mention of “upper merit”.
Nicolas assisted Charles Luc Hommel in Marseille, France from 1998 to 2000 (mainly in restoration in one of the oldest workshop of France). He assisted Frederic Chaudiere in Montpellier, France from 2000 to 2002 doing new making, before setting up his own workshop in 2001 in Montpellier, making quartet instruments. The workshop is located in the historic centre of Montpellier: the “Sainte Anne square”, which is one of the most important cultural districts in the city.
The work quality of Nicolas Gilles is recognized by several distinctions :
• Sound price for a violin at the ” Steiner ” competition, Germany in 2001.
• Gold Medal for quartet, Gold Medal for viola, Silver medal for cello workmanship at the ” Violin Society of America ” competition in 2004, Portland, USA.
• Silver Medal for cello, certificate of achievement for viola and quartet at the « Violin Society of America » competition in 2006, Baltimore, USA.
• Silver Medal for quartet, certificate of achievement for cello at the « Violin Society of America » competition in 2008, Portland, USA.
• Silver Medal for cello, certificate of achievement for quartet at the « Violin Society of America » competition in 2010, Cleveland, USA.
• Finalist at the cello « Violoncelle-en-Seine » competition in 2010, Paris, France.
• Silver Medal for cello violin maker and Silver Medal for sound quartet at the « Violin society of America » competition in 2012, Cleveland, USA.
Nicolas Gilles’ instruments are performed on throughout Europe and the United States by concert artists and teachers.
Peter Goodfellow is an award winning maker of fine quality concert violins, violas and cellos. He studied at the Newark School of Violin Making in the UK and graduated in 1999. After leaving Newark, Peter gained restoration experience under the guidance of English restorer Paul Gosling. After 28 years based in the UK, Peter has returned to Australia and now lives and works in Sydney.
With a multi disciplined engineering background inspiring his passion for the craft of violin-making, classical design and acoustics research, he explores modern technology to achieve consistency and sound quality for his instruments.
Because the very nature of violin making is a solitary occupation, Peter’s approach has been one of continual learning, development and collaboration with like minded colleagues. He is a regular participant at the Oberlin Violin Making program, has written articles published in the Strad magazine, the British Violin Making Association Journal and the VSA Journal, and has organized Making events to copy classical instruments and promote the sharing and exchange of knowledge amongst makers.
Pete’s instruments have received awards at several international competitions with Gold medals awarded for cello in Mittenwald 2010, VSA Cleveland 2010 and 4th Concours Etienne Vatelot, Paris 2011.
Joseph Grubaugh was born on May 13th, 1950 and with his family, lived throughout the United States, Japan, Spain and France before settling in the San Francisco bay area at age 13. He majored in Music Theory and Competition and received his degree in music at the University of the Pacific in 1972 before beginning a three and one half year apprenticeship with Albert C. Muller in Sacramento, California in August of 1972. In 1977 he went to work for Hans Weisshaar in Los Angeles where he continued to study restoration techniques. While there, he met his future wife and partner, Sigrun Seifert.
They moved to the San Francisco bay area in 1979 and they have worked, lived and raised a family in Petaluma, California, a small town North of the Golden Gate Bridge since 1980. In 1982 they collaborated on their first instrument together and since then, have continued in the tradition of making and labeling their creations jointly. In 1993 and 1994 they organized and attended a workshop at the Smithsonian’s Conservation and Analytical Laboratory outside Washington DC under the sponsorship of the AFVBM. They have shared that experience and continue the search for better techniques in work to instruments that come into their shop.
In 1994 they discovered the “Duke of Alcantara” violin of Antonio Stradivari circa 1732, that had been missing since 1972 and were very instrumental in it’s return to the University of California at Los Angeles. They currently spend about three quarters of their time making new instruments and one quarter in restoration. With multiple awards for Tone and Workmanship, in 1998 they were both declared Hors Concours by the Violin Society of America
Joseph Grubaugh is a member of:
American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers
Entente Internationale Des Maitres Luthiers et Archetiers D’Art
Guest Lecturer for VSA and AFVBM
Numerous Publications co-authored with Sigrun Seifert in: the Strad Magazine, Strings Magazine, VSA journals and AFVBM journals.
David Gusset was born in San Francisco in 1951 and began studies of art and music at an early age. In 1974 he began his apprenticeship at the new violin making school in Salt Lake City where he studied with Paul Hart and Peter Prier and became one of the first graduates of the program. He then returned to San Francisco to learn repair and restoration, working at Frank Passa’s violin shop up until 1979. Gusset now lives and works in Eugene, Oregon where he divides his time between making, repairing, restoration and appraisals. He has contributed articles to The Strad, Strings Magazine, American Lutherie, Fiddler Magazine and other publications. His forthcoming writing projects analyze the common geometric system of instrument design employed by the classic Italian makers. In addition to his violin work, he also has a strong interest in Community, Architecture and Historic Preservation. He is owner and restorer of an 1870 Carpenter’s Gothic home and carriage house which are city landmarks and listed on the NRHP.
David’s awards and honors include three gold medals at VSA international competitions in 1978 and 1980 for violin and viola. Designated hors concours in 1983 by the VSA and thereafter excluded from its competitions. Prize winner at the first AFVBM competition at Lincoln Center in 1983 and First prize/gold medal at the only AFVBM competition for cello making in 1986. Recipient of both the Gold Medal for violin making and the Simone Fernando Sacconi medal for “The instrument most representative of the classical Cremonese school” at the 1985 Cremona, Italy “Stradivari” Triennale. Prize winner at the Paris International Competition in 1991. Since 2000 member of the jury in international violin making competitions in Cremona, Italy; Cleveland, USA; Beijing, China and Mittenwald, Germany. AFVBM member since 1983 and EILA (Entente Internationale des Maitres Luthiers et Archetiers d’Art) member since 1990. Recipient of grants from the Smithsonian Institution to prepare detailed illustrations of the 1683 “ex-Ole Bull” Stradivari violin and from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for illustrations of the 1742 “ex-Ferdinand David/Jascha Heifetz” Guarneri del Gesu violin.
Guy Harrison began working in the violin trade at the age of 13 in Australia. After briefing working as a Pattern-making apprentice in an iron foundry, he went on to study for three years at the Newark School of Violin Making in England. After graduating with the highest level of distinction he was employed in Europe and further trained in the restoration of fine instruments. In addition to restoration work, he was fortunate to make instruments for Risto Vainio & Co. in Helsinki.
After crafting instruments in Europe, he moved to Canada to open his own studio. While working in Ottawa, Guy Harrison has restored and maintained instruments in the National Arts Centre Collection, Canadian Armed Forces Collection and instruments belonging to the Ottawa University, Faculty of Music.
Guy now focuses on making new instruments. His instruments are played by musicians around the world as well as by members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada, Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
In 1997, 2010 and 2014 he was awarded the silver medal, bronze medal and award for workmanship in Germany at the Mittenwald International Violinmaking Competitions.
Guy Harrison is member of the American Federation of Violin & Bow Makers.
Consecutive years as a jouneyman took him to Munich and Tübingen. He was involved mostly in the repair and service of stringed instruments, before earning his masters degree in Nürnberg in 1993.
In 1994 he founded his own workshop together with his wife Dagmar in Winterreute.
In 1997 the workshop relocated to Biberach / Ringschnait in Oberschwaben. Ever since, Ulrich has successfully worked on the construction of the highest quality stringed instruments, proven by the numerous awards in international violin making competitions.
Working with the instruments themselves, input from his colleagues, judgements of competition jurors, as well as communication and cooperation with violinmakers from all over the world has been fundamental to Ulrich’s professional development.
The son of a Chinese violin maker, Jiang built his first instrument as a youth in China in 1989. In the late 1990s he moved to the United States, where in Ann Arbor, Michigan he now makes six to eight violins per year.
Mr. Jiang’s has been invited to exhibit his instruments at events such as the International Violin Competition in Indianapolis, “Klanggestalten” in Berlin, and Singer-Polignac Foundation in Paris. He also shows instruments at AFVBM’s “Players Meet Makers”. A member of Violin Society of America (VSA), and the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers (AFVBM). He has won major awards in the field of violin making.
• A Silver medal for violin in Violin Society of America’s International Competition in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2000.
• “Highly recommended of craftsmanship” in the British Violin Maker’s Association’s International competition in London, in 2004.
• A Gold medal for violin in Violin Society of America’s competition in Portland, Oregon in 2004
• “Double” Gold medals for one violin and a Silver medal for viola in Violin Society of America’s competition in Cleveland, Ohio in 2012
Born as a second generation violin maker in China. Feng Jiang now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
John Montgomery trained as a violin maker under Peter Prier and Christopher De Groot at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Utah and as a restorer with William Monical in Staten Island, New York. He has been making and restoring instruments and selling instruments and bows as president of John Montgomery Inc in Raleigh, North Carolina since 1983. He has been a member and Board Member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers since 1987 and in 2006 co-curated the symposium and exhibition The American Violin: From Jefferson to Jazz at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. He has maintained the instrument collections at the Smithsonian and Library of Congress since 2003. He has a batchelor’s degree from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and is a Thomas J. Watson Fellow having researched and built Hurdy Gurdies in France. He is past president of the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild and has been guest lecturer at the Library of Congress, Garth Newell, NC Museum of Art, University of North Carolina, Duke University, the Violin Society of America, and the AFVBM. As an instrument maker, John Montgomery builds copies of historical instruments as well as models of his own design, for both modern playing and period performance practice.
Antoine Nédélec lives and works in Dallas, TX as a full time luthier. He is a proud alumni of the Violin Making School of America and was fortunate to work for Peter Prier and Sons while attending the school and for J&A Beare upon graduating in 2002.
In 2005, Mr. Nédélec opened his own studio. His extensive experience with Cremonese instruments helped him understand there is no secret in violin making, just talented craftsmen trying to do their best. If something is worth doing, it is worth sharing, which is why Antoine was proud and delighted to serve as a faculty member at the Oberlin Violin Making Workshop in 2012, 2013 and 2014, where he and his friend and colleague Jeff Phillips demonstrated their varnishing techniques. Together, they also published a trade secret article in The Strad magazine and have given lectures at the Violin Society of America and the Library of Congress.
Antoine has also served as a guest examiner at the Violin Making School of America and as a guest lecturer at the Sainte Cecile conference in Quebec.
He is a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers since 2012.
Mr. Nédélec tries to make his instruments with a certain freedom he feels is missing with today’s constant search for perfection. His work has been awarded numerous awards at the Violin Society of America competitions, including a silver medal for cello and a gold medal for viola.
After moving to the small city of Guelph ON CAN, near Toronto, at the age of four Jeff S. Phillips was quickly immersed in a local Suzuki String School program. Here he developed a strong appreciation for music, and the violin, with a rigorous involvement in several string ensembles and youth orchestras.
After high school he decided to pursue a Fine Arts degree at a local university. With a focus on sculpture and drawing an already developed artistic eye and creative mind continued to grow. It was only a matter of time before both creative forces of music and sculpture joined hands in a new love of violin making.
In 1999 he entered the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City UT under the tutelage of head instructor Charles Woolf. In a short time he had acquired a position at Peter Prier’s Violin Shop in Salt Lake City where he worked for 7+ years. Here, in conjunction with his making, he learned the fine art of repair & restoration. Exposure to a continuous variety of the worlds finest makers works, from modern to old masterpieces, has helped develop a solid foundation of visual style & acoustical control. Several of his instruments have recently been recognized with several awards.
As of late Mr. Phillips still resides with his wife and son near the mountains of Salt Lake City UT. Repair & restoration has taken a back seat to making due to an ever increasing demand and popularity of his instruments. He still keeps his fingers in touch with music by playing first violin in the Salt Lake Symphony. His instruments are being played all over the country and abroad.
Norman Pickering was educated in electrical engineering at the Newark College of Engineering and in acoustics at Columbia University. He began playing the violin at age seven, studied at the Juilliard Graduate School, and later played with the Indianapolis Symphony. Dr. Pickering’s technical and musical interests merged into sound recording and the development of recording and playback equipment, which led to research and development of musical instruments themselves. He was the founder of Pickering & Co., makers of phonograph pickups and audio equipment. For his work in audio technology, medical ultrasound, and musical acoustics, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science by the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He was a pioneer in using ultrasound to image the human eye. He helped found the Audio Engineering Society in 1948, is a fellow of both the Audio Engineering Society and the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) , and has served on the ASA Technical Committee for Musical Acoustics.
For many years Dr. Pickering has been a consultant in acoustics, particularly when related to music, e.g.. scientific design of new strings for the violin family. Hired by D’Addario in 1983, Dr. Pickering designed all of D’Addario’s bowed strings through 1999. The Helicore string line is a well known string of his design. As a violinmaker, he has made over 30 violins and violas. He has been active in the Violin Society of America since its early days, is an honorary director, and past president (1983-84) of that organization. One of his many accomplishments was to popularize violin acoustics to violin makers.
Guy Rabut was raised in a musical and artistic family where he began to play the cello at the age of nine. Along with his musical studies he also developed a strong interest in the visual arts through his father, an artist by profession. This seminal association with music and art led to his career in violin making which began at The Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he graduated in 1978. For the next five years Mr. Rabut worked for the prestigious firm of Jacques Français in New York City under Master restorer René Morel, where he had the privilege to work on many important Italian instruments played by some of the world’s greatest artists.
In 1984, Mr. Rabut established his own shop in New York City, dividing his time between making and restoring instruments. The opportunity to restore some of the finest instruments that exist in the world today provided an open window into the minds and the techniques of the great makers of the past. In 1992, with the opening of a workshop in Carnegie Hall, he began to focus exclusively on creating new violins, violas and cellos. As Mr. Rabut celebrates his twenty eighth year in New York, he continues this dedication to new instruments in his workshop high above the rooftops in the Chelsea district of Manhattan. The spacious new studio has provided a wonderful creative and productive environment.
David Rattray is a violin maker and a specialist in fine old instruments, with thirty years experience and an international client base. He has been involved in a broad range of violin-related endeavors, as lecturer, curator, juror and as Senior Research Fellow and Honorary Associate at the Royal Academy Music where for twenty five years was Instrument Custodian.
David is the author of Violin Making in Scotland 1750-1950, published in 2006. His first book, Masterpieces of Italian Violin Making 1620-1850, is now in its second edition. A volume on the Becket Collection of Historical Musical Instruments was published 2010. He is also a regular contributor to the Strad magazine.
In 2014 David Rattray relocated home and business from London to Fife, Scotland.
Frank Ravatin graduated from the International School of Violin Making in Cremona in 1985, despite a rather irregular attendance as he worked in workshops away from the school and at home. He was subsequently employed by Jacques Camurat in Paris where he learned restoration and made a few instruments together with other makers in the workshop. Content to have his salaried job (though not yet 35 hours a week, which is the rule in France) he also worked at home to produce several violins each year.
Mr. Ravatin opened his own workshop in Le Mans in 1991 and the amount of work coming in permitted him to begin to participate in violin making competitions. In just four years he was awarded 9 gold medals and three silver medals in various International competitions. He has been declared “Hors Concours” by the Violin Society of America.
Frank Ravatin is now settled in Vannes, Brittany. He is often called as a jury member for competitions and takes part in conferences in Europe, America, Asia, and elsewhere… this takes quite an effort, attached as he is to Brittany (like a limpet to it’s rock). His violin making has brought him enormous satisfaction as well as few hard knocks. He feels a need to devote part of his time to passing on the experience gained alone at his workbench, while still readily attending the needs of the most demanding musicians.
Graduating from the Newark School of Violin Making in 1984, he received the “Royal Oakden Cup” for outstanding achievements. He then moved to Bremen to join an international team of restorers led by Roger Hargrave, where he repaired, adjusted and studied in depth some of the most outstanding Italian instruments of the classical schools. He established himself in Angers in 1988, sharing his workshop at that time with Andrea Frandsen. In 2006, he moved his studio to a villa facing the Loire River, a bright and inspiring site where he enjoys making his instruments and welcoming musicians.
In 1991 the 1st International Violin Making Competition of Paris awarded him two Gold Medals for violin and cello together with “le Prix de l’Académie des Beaux-Arts” and “le Prix de la Fondation Marcel Vatelot”. He has also received Gold Medals for a viola at the Mittenwald Competition in 1989 and for a cello at the Manchester Strad Cello Making Competition in 1994. He has served since on the juries of a number of international violin-making competitions.
In November 2000, Patrick Robin was promoted to the rank of “Maître d’art” by the French Ministry of Culture.
After graduating from the Violin Making School of America, Benjamin Ruth received advanced training with Rene Morel at Jacques Francais Rare Violins from 1979 to 1982. In 1989, after opening a shop in his native Philadelphia, Mr. Ruth joined Reuning & Son Violins in Ithaca, New York, specializing in restorations. He remained in Ithaca to concentrate on making violins after Reuning & Son moved to Boston in 1994. Reuning & Son Violins remained an important outlet for his work, which he kept fresh by finding ways to grow artistically and professionally.
One important avenue was participating in the Oberlin violin making workshop, an informal summer gathering of many of the world’s best craftspeople. In turn, this opened the door to continuing his progress in Europe where he attended a number of violin making summits, where small groups of makers met and worked together to exchange ideas and methods.
His instruments have been recognized at the Violin Society of American competitions where he has won numerous awards and medals over the years. In the 2012 VSA international competition he won two gold medals and was designated “Hors Concours”, in recognition of his achievement. He also received a top prize for tone at the most recent British Violin Making Association competition. In 2010 he served as a judge for the VSA competition.
Mr. Ruth currently lives and works in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
Andrew Ryan’s violins are in the hands of orchestral musicians and soloists around the world. As an active violinist and chamber musician himself, he has an explicit and tactile understanding of the relationship between player and instrument. Each new instrument is informed by the particular player’s needs and never fails to be appreciated for its ease of response, warmth, and large, clear voice.
Trained at the Violin Making School of America, Andrew is a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. He has published articles in The Strad and essays on the work of Giuseppe Guarneri “del Gesu”, lectured at conferences, and taught violin making at the Violin Society of America’s Oberlin Workshops. As workshop foreman at Reuning & Son Violins in Boston from 1994 to 2011 he oversaw the restoration of many fine and important instruments.
Since leaving Reuning & Son Violins, Andrew has devoted himself to acoustic research and the creation of new instruments. Well versed in the working methods of the Cremonese masters, Andrew has been augmenting these practices with an array of analytic methods both acoustic and geometric. These inquiries extend accepted analog methods of modal and material analysis into the digital realm using Finite Element Analysis software and rigorous documentation of a multitude of metrics. These processes inform his multifaceted understanding of both the built works of the masters, his own completed works, and all aspects of his future projects.
Andrew is a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. He has published articles in The Strad, essays on the work of Giuseppe Guarneri “del Gesù”, lectured at conferences and taught at The Violin Society of America’s Oberlin Workshops. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife and their three children.
Raymond Schryer, born 1961 in Sault Ste Marie ON Canada, has been passionate about violins for over 35 years. Raymond studied violin performance at the University of Western Ontario and now enjoys arranging music and performing.
At the age of fourteen, Raymond studied violin making with his uncle Fernand Schryer in Quebec for four years. At 21 Raymond earned a formal 3 year apprenticeship from the violin shop of Geo. Heinl & Co. in Toronto. The decades from 1992 – 2012 are filled with research, innovation and rewards. In violinmaking competitions Raymond consistently improved his standing, winning numerous silver and gold medals internationally. One of his proudest moments was the Gold Medal win for Cello in October 2003 at the Triennale Internazionale in Cremona, Italy.
Raymond has been an active member and on the board of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. He has served on the jury panel for several international violin making competitions. Raymond has enjoyed the opportunity to teach at violin making schools, conferences and workshops worldwide.
At the Oberlin Workshop Raymond and his colleagues collaborate and apply new technologies to the art of violin making. Publishing articles and research projects have benefited his career by sharing with other makers worldwide. Raymond Schryer is a recognized leader and innovator in his field.
William Robert Scott’s interest in violin-making began in 1970 when he met Martin Bielke, a well-known bow-maker and repairman in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Bill completed his first violin through book knowledge (You Can Make a Stradivarius by Joseph Reid) and worked for Dahl Violin Shop in Minneapolis from 1977–1983. Attending his first VSA (Violin Society of America) Competition in 1980 at Hofstra University, New York he met Mr. Hans Weisshaar and in 1984 began working at the shop of Hans Weisshaar, Inc. in Los Angeles. He founded Scott Violins in 1985 and joined Scott Studios, Inc. in 2005, founded by his wife, Susan Scott.
Bill quickly gained access to great instruments of the classic masters and this apprenticeship helped him develop an eye for the important nuances of quality seen in these works. Repairing and studying these fine instruments for the next couple years opened a new world of great beauty and craft which he has tried to capture since.
Gaining membership in the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers in 1988 provided regular opportunities to study and learn more about these great instruments. Sharing and gaining a wealth of insight from colleagues at the VSA Oberlin Workshops (Violin-making and Acoustics) over the past 16 years in no small way has had a profound impact on his work and understanding of this craft.
In recent years, Bill Scott has contributed on a regular basis to Strad Magazine, VSA Conventions with presentations and Forum discussions and also as a workmanship judge. The VSA Conventions and Competitions have been part of his violin-making experience from the beginning and he feels he owes a lot to what this organization has brought to this craft.
George Stoppani graduated from York University in 1972 after studying Music and English and Related Literature. By 1977 he was earning a living making period instruments, though without any formal training. He continues to work with historically informed instruments but at the moment is making mostly modern violins. The historical work lead to the formation of Real Guts circa 1990. This is a cooperative enterprise committed to supplying musicians with all-gut strings that work well and are historically credible.
As well as his skills as a maker, the Oberlin workshop has benefited from George’s work in acoustics. An earlier obsession with varnish moved to modal analysis. He has developed a suite of software specifically suited for measuring violins and for use by violin makers. This has put him in a unique position with access to an enormous range of instruments and excellent working relationships with the scientific community and other makers. He has coached a large number of fellow makers in the techniques of making acoustic measurements and how to interpret the data for practical use in the making process. The intent is to add to the maker’s tool box rather than to challenge or replace traditional expertise: successful making is a chain of decisions and judgements that can all too easily be less than optimum. We need to make use of everything available to make the best decisions.
George has given numerous lectures, presentations and workshops in many countries on both acoustics and historical issues of stringing and setup. He has been a regular faculty member of the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop since 2007 and was an invited speaker at the Swedish Musical Acoustics Conference in 2013. He lives in Manchester UK and his working time is dived approximately equally between making instruments, strings and acoustic research.
Fan-Chia Tao is the Director of Research & Development at D’Addario & Company where he designs musical strings. His interest in string and violin acoustics research was fostered by his mentor Norman Pickering. He is very active in the violin acoustics world, organizing meetings, workshops and research projects.
Tao attended the Violin Making Workshop with Norman Pickering in 2000 and 2001. Norman Pickering brought his violin acoustic measurement rig and together they measured many violins and violas. He met many violin makers for the first time at Oberlin.
Tao is the co-founder and co-director of the VSA-Oberlin Acoustics Workshop, where the world’s leading violin makers and violin acoustics researchers gather every summer. He has collaborated with many of the world’s leading violin makers and researchers on research projects. He has also organized several workshops on the acoustics of bows. His interest in innovation led him to organize the first Innovation Exposition at the Violin Society of America Convention in 2006.
Tao is a frequent guest speaker on strings and violin acoustics and has published articles in The Strad, Strings and the VSA Journal. He was a Trustee of the Catgut Acoustical Society before its merger with the VSA and was a Vice-President of the Violin Society of America.
Tao holds electrical engineering degrees from Caltech and Princeton University and worked for many years in the high tech electronics industry before joining D’Addario in 1999. He plays the violin and viola and is an avid chamber music player.
In 2001, the VSA and the Catgut Acoustical Society asked Fan to start a violin acoustics workshop at Oberlin. He used the violin making workshop as a model for the acoustics workshop. He teamed up with Joseph Curtin and they have been holding the Acoustics Workshop since 2002.
Stephan von Baehr began his career in violin making in 1988 under Reinhard Bönsch in Germany, in whose workshop he became employed in 1990. In the same year, he began his apprenticeship in sculpture under Jochen Heinzmann, and was employed in 1993 by the Sabatier workshop in Paris to restore old instruments, refining his knowledge of style and expertise.
Stephan has won numerous prizes:
1995 – attains Meisterbriefs (“Master violin maker”) diploma in Germany
1998 – best placement in violin making at the Manchester International Competition. With this recognition Stephan decides to devote himself exclusively to instrument making.
1999 – International Violin Making Competition Etienne Vatelot, Paris: Gold and bronze medals
2000 – Internation Competition of the Violin Society of America, Cincinnati: 3 silver medals
2001 – Mittenwald Internation Violin Making Competition (Germany): title of best instrument with the most maturity and style
2003 – purchase by the German Federal State
2004 – Internation Violin Making Competition of Portland, USA, silver medal for quartet of instruments and three special prizes for savoir-faire of each instrument
2012 – 20th International Competition and Exhibition, Violin Society of America, Cleveland, USA: Gold medal for Quartet
Stephan and his instruments have established some very nice relationships with musicians around the world. His instruments are loaned from the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben collection, as well as by the Societé Générale bank, who gives financial support to young, talented musicians in France.
Stephan is also a member of Groupement des Luthiers et Archetiers d’Art de France and the Verband deutscher Geigenbauer und Bogenmacher e.V.
Hugh Withycombe was born in New Zealand and grew up in southeastern Australia. Through his love of making music and playing the cello he was drawn to instrument construction. Equipped with degrees in Environmental Science and Philosophy he worked for a time negotiating climate change treaties for the Australian Government. He then moved to England to study violin making, feeling this to be a more tangible process. Graduating from the Newark Violin Making School in 2001 with upper merit, Hugh worked two years in London before returning to Australia with his young family to establish his own studio in Canberra. In 2012 he expanded his enterprise by joining with his business partner Madeleine Gisz to form The Avenue, a full-service strings shop.
Hugh likes to focus on making new instruments. His passion is in exploring new models that respond to the player’s needs, taking inspiration from historical examples of the past. The Obie 1 violin project is a great example of how contemporary makers can synthesize their knowledge to create new and relevant models for musicians of today.
Teaching has also been an ongoing interest of Hugh’s. His first job out of school was as a junior high school teacher. He worked as a tutor at the Cambridge Violin Making course for two years and continues individual tuition for violin making in Canberra. Hugh has been privileged to be part of the Oberlin Violin Makers workshops since 2008.
Hugh is a member of the Australian Violin Makers Association, VSA and BVMA
Samuel Zygmuntowicz, Violinmaker, was already a prize-winning sculptor before beginning his instrument-making studies at age 13. Since 1985 he has made instruments by advance commission for performers such as Cho-Liang Lin, Joshua Bell, Maxim Vengerov, Yo-Yo Ma, Leila Josefowicz, and the Emerson String Quartet members. He is a graduate of the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, and studied advanced making and restoration with Carl Becker and Rene Morel. His faithful copies of classic violins won early acclaim, and he has designed many personal models as well. The Harper Collins book THE VIOLINMAKER documents his making of a violin for Eugene Drucker. In addition to his extensive studies of traditional violinmaking, often featured in THE STRAD magazine, he has worked closely with acoustic researchers and has joined the staff at both the Violinmaking and the Violin Acoustics Workshops at Oberlin College. As creative director of the Strad3D research project, he has brought together an inspiring group of scientists, violinmakers, musicians, filmmakers and designers. Their multidisciplinary studies were released on the Strad3D DVD. Sam lives in Brooklyn NY with his wife and two young sons, and also plays fiddle with a variety of performing folk music groups. His CD recordings include GRAND PICNIC and JUMP WHEN THE TRUMPETS BLOW.