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Curated News for String Musicians

Keep up to date on our best sales, occasional free offers, and upcoming concerts. See relevant posts from our staff on: repair, instrument care, trade secrets, instrument photos, music news, and customer pics, sent quarterly.

Have content of your own? Email it to us and we may include it in our next newsletter.

In this newsletter:

  • Perry Silk bags for Violin, Viola & Cello
  • Our Impressions of this year’s “Violin Society of America” Meeting
  • A Frank Discussion Of Sales Commissions For Music Teachers — Elizabeth Shaak
  • Poker Night Fundraiser
  • Bringing a Cello Back from the Dead- – Thomas Laforgia
  • “So You Want A Music Degree…” One Violist’s Perspective — Joe Cosgrove
  • Secret Unvarnished Truth Subscriber Sale

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Order your custom Perry violin silk bag for a fabulous holiday gift!

Things you can do to protect your instrument from the dry, cold weather:

  1. Humidify inside the case.
  2. Humidify the room.
  3. Get a hard case that has a tight seal.
  4. Don’t leave your instrument in the cold. That includes car trunks!
  5. Converse is true, too–don’t leave your instrument near a radiator.
  6. Splurge on a silk bag, proven to reduce cracking and helps to maintain tuning.

Impressions from Violin Society Of America 2018 Meeting

Thomas with 2018 VSA Judge, Antoine Nedelec.

Our luthier/cello expert,  Thomas LaForgia, shares his experience:

This year I had the honor of being a “competition scribe” for the VSA violin making competition. I was assigned to the workmanship judge, Antoine Nedelec, in order to track his comments, scores and notes. Antoine is a previous VSA Gold medal winner, a highly-respected maker and will be the new head teacher at the Chicago School of Violin Making.

Antoine had a ton of energy and gave me copious notes on each instrument. We judged violas, cellos, and quartets with two other judges. This was an amazing opportunity to get an inside look into the judging process while training my eye to look for quality and superior workmanship.

It was both exhilarating and exhausting. There was one day where we started at 8 AM and didn’t leave the competition room until 1:30 AM! One of my favorite moments was watching the judges confer at the end over which instruments would be recommended for medals. The discussion over style points, intention of a maker, and nitpicking over the smallest details actually got my heart racing.

It’s a lot of work to make an instrument and it’s nerve-wracking to let other makers critique it, but competitions like the one at the VSA have helped raised the level of making across the board from living makers everywhere. It was an inspirational and unforgettable week!

Over 350 instruments and over 100 bows were submitted! See the winners here: Check out this article with the list of winners.

Bow restorer, Adam Oleksa shares his experience:

Having never attended the VSA Convention before, I approached this event with a certain amount of internal trepidation. What exactly happens when you stick several hundred people from the luthiery and archetiery world together in a hotel in Cleveland for a week?

Well, what happens is that you wind up with an experience that runs the gamut from awe-inspiring to overwhelming to welcoming, depending upon where you are at any given time. You really do have the option to do or try anything, whether it’s looking at exhibitions of Neopolitan makers or German bow-making, inspecting new work from our contemporaries, ogling things in the vendor room, listening to lectures…

Regarding the competition itself, I was particularly struck by the extremely high level of craftsmanship on the bow side of things. I spent time working at instrument intake when people were entering their work for the competition, and there were so many stunning pieces of work that *didn’t* receive any awards.

The other thought that came to mind during the week was the realization of just how similar we all are. Whether it was late-night conversations in hotel rooms, or chats over dinner, or simply conversational asides during presentations or at exhibitions, they really served to highlight the global nature of the training, wisdom, and apprach we all share. You may never have met the person you’re talking to, but you still understand them with a feeling of cemaraderie which permeated everything.


Elizabeth’s Takeaways from the VSA

The new talent the I saw at the 2018 VSA  is so impressive, and this excellence is blooming all over the world.

On the bow side, this year’s winners are Korean, Canadian, French, Irish, Hungarian, Australian, Swedish, and American. Naturally, we have several of the bows we saw now available for trial at the shop (some pictured above).

By the way, of the 23 awards given to bows, only one award (a certificate) was given to an American maker. This is unusual for an American competition.

Although I’m thrilled to see the fabulous state of bowmaking in the world, as an American bow maker, it made me think about why that is the case, and to consider the state of bowmaking in the US. More on this in a future issue…

Poker Night Fundraiser for Young Players


We held a poker tournament where the winner got bragging rights and their choice of which organization would get the winnings. Settlement Music, Musicopia and The Primavera Fund were represented — three great organizations dedicated to providing instruments and instruction to a diverse community of young players.

Two people tied to win: Tom Angell and Zack Addison. Tom chose Settlement Music School for his donation of his winnings, and Zack chose The Primavera Fund. Both organizations will receive $400 each! Thank you one and all who came to support youth and music in Philadelphia!

A Frank Discussion of Sales Commissions for Music Teachers


Our new brochure simply states that we “don’t give teachers secret commissions”. This refers to the practice of some shops paying teachers a fee (sometimes a percentage) of any sales made to the teacher’s students. It may be news to many people shopping for an instrument or a bow, but commissions are a common practice in different cities in many states — though not all shops/teachers do this.

Our issue with this practice is the potential lack of transparency. Students (and their parents) should know if their trusted source of information has something to gain from their decision.

That is why we developed and advertise our Loyalty Rewards Program. When a teacher signs up for our program, their students receive a 5% discount and the teacher earns a 5% credit which can be used for repairs or purchases (limit up to $250). Plus, the teacher can donate their credit to students in need!

Teachers should take a role in helping a student choose an instrument, as it can be an important part of their growth as a musician. We hope our Loyalty Rewards Program allows both teachers and students to feel valued for their efforts.


Repairs From The Bench

Bringing a Cello Back from the Dead
Thomas LaForgia

What can be done when a less-expensive school or rental instrument suffers a crack along the neck heel grain requiring thousands of dollars of repair?

Our friend and master restorer, Jerry Lynn, suggested this clever fix which can keep the instrument playing for years to come.

You can see a thin horizontal crack across the neck block above.
After the fingerboard is removed and the crack is glued, a large hole is drilled (carefully) through the heel block. It is then threaded with a cutter.
A threaded dowel is cut and inserted into the neck block.
The dowel is glued into place, cut, and smoothed.
The fingerboard is replaced and the cello can be played again.

“So You Want A Music Degree…”

a Violist’s Perspective

From Office Manager and Violist, Joe Cosgrove:

In college, I was convinced that music was the only thing I could see myself doing, even while being painfully aware that I was getting a degree in a field that is over-saturated and undervalued.

In spite of these challenges, being a part of a community of musicians at a high performance level and a teacher who was genuinely invested in my improvement were critical factors in my getting a performance degree.

As I approached graduation two paths came into focus: pursue further degrees while refining my craft for auditions, or take on a teaching studio and gigs to earn a living while taking auditions. I saw my friends try the latter — freelancing to make ends meet, teaching huge studios, and making their rounds on the merciless audition circuit. It seemed they couldn’t catch their breath. I couldn’t see myself doing either of these things. And I was nowhere near the level required to be taking auditions that would score me bread-winning orchestral positions.

So, what then? I did as my father advised for many, many years, and I got a job.

Contrary to whatever misgivings I had as a young artist, holding down a 9-5 (or a 10-6 in my case) did much the opposite of crushing my musical soul. I had the stability my bank account required which allowed me to practice, perform, teach, and attend concerts on my own schedule. I realized, slowly, that I could be someone who takes as much pride in providing quality customer service as performing 30 minutes of Bach from memory. For the most part, I do suggest pursuing the former.

I tend my musical flame with meditation, consistent and rigorous practice, dedicated performances for friends and family, community outreach, and attending as many concerts as is reasonable. As things stand, I’m content with my improvement and the network I’m discovering. By taking my musical development into my own hands and practicing gratefulness and adaptability I have shrugged off most of my crushing fears of the dog-eat-dog music performance world, and I am happily focused on my work, music, and family.

!! Secret Sale for Unvarnished Truth Subscribers !!

$300 OFF tag price on violins over $3000

Certain consigned instruments excluded.
Offer good Dec 11, 2018  – Jan 11, 2019.
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