The Projects

The Oberlin “Betts” copy in-the-white. The “Ole Bull” Oberlin Copy. The original “Betts” Stradivari.


The back of the Betts Stradivari next to the Oberlin copy

Individuals bring their own projects to Oberlin, but each year there’s always a special focus of study and a wide variety of related subjects presented to and by the group  each year.   Often the focus takes the form of studying a particular historical maker or a specific instrument. Faculty is brought in to help facilitate the efforts, and within the two week term most participants contribute time and effort towards constructing an instrument relating to that year’s study, between their own projects .

One very interesting project was the examination of an Antonio Stradivari violin from 1704 in the collection of the Library of Congress, also known as the “Betts” Stradivari.  In 2011 the participants studied the Betts in person when it came to Oberlin, and virtually, through photographs, CT scans, publications, CNC re-created parts, and 3-D printed re-creations.  The goal of the project was to construct an exact copy of the Betts in order to better understand the specific instrument and the working styles of Antonion Stradivari in general. An instrument was completed in-the-white (without varnish) in the two-week workshop in 2011.

The Betts Stradivari next to the Oberlin copy
The Betts Stradivari next to the Oberlin copy

A major focus of the 2012 workshop was on varnish making and application techniques to recreate the authentic appearance of the age of the Betts’ varnish. The 2011 violin was varnished, set-up and completed.  A second Betts Stradivari copy was constructed in-the-white in 2012 as well.

Through the generous donation of William and Judy Sloan, in 2013 the 2011 Oberlin Betts copy was purchased and donated to the Library of Congress to join the original. Here’s a link to a related article in the May/June issue of “The Library of Congress Magazine”.

Past cooperative projects have included constructing 2 violins inspired by Joseph Guarneri, del Gesu, from 1744 (known as the “Ole Bull”) and from 1730 (known as the “Kreisler”). Instruments inspired by Amati, Seraphin, and Bergonzi have also been constructed.  In 2013 & 2014 a cello after a ca. 1707 Stradivari  was constructed in-the-white.  During the 2015 session the cello was varnished by Stephan von Baehr, William Desquiens, Emilio Crabbe as part of the curriculum.  The instrument was set up and played before the workshop ended.  2015 saw the participants construct the first unique Oberlin violin model as well .

Signatures on the inside of the 2014 “Countess of Stainlein/Bernard Greenhouse” Stradivari Cello copy
Signatures of the workshop participants on the inside of the Stradivari Cello copy before the top was glued on during the 2014 session.

Each participant is encouraged to sign their name inside the group instrument before the top is glued on.

The instruments cooperatively built during the Oberlin workshop are offered for sale to help support the workshop.  For more information, please contact the workshop Director, Christopher Germain at: (215) 545-2500

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