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  1. In a recent thread involving the violin technology shop at University of Indiana there were a number of comments about training of violin makers and how the public can know whether the person they are trusting to work on their prized and possibly valuable instrument is competent to help them. While in some parts of the world business owners including violin makers are required either by law or custom to have certain credentials in their field of expertise in the Americas there is a tradition of totally free enterprise and anyone can call themselves a violin maker and start doing business the next day. While there are a few self taught makers, dealers or restorers who are extremely competent there are far more who are taking advantage of the public's ignorance and selling shoddy overpriced goods or charging for repairs that leave the instrument in worse shape than before. The American Federation of Violln and Bow Makers was founded to encourage the proper training of violin makers and to encourage high standards of competence and professional conduct. When I first heard of the Federation I had been working in music stores and taking classes on repair for a decade but recognized my limitations and asked the secretary what should I do to become a professional worthy of membership. I was sent a bound booklet with information about the organization which included the requirements for membership which at that time were three years of training as a maker, three years of training as a restorer and three years of running an instrument business followed by presenting an instrument for inspection of the governing board and then again by the full membership who voted up or down and could award either a full membership or an associate membership to people who had passed the requirements but had specific skills which the members felt should be improved. I did that. No complaining. No messing about. Ten years after my initial inquiry I had completed the requirements and was elected to membership. As Jeffrey has pointed out there are many highly skilled, respected, scrupulously honest and in some cases downright nice violin professionals who for one reason or another have chosen not to join the Federation and whom I reccomend to clients on a regular basis. However when I am asked how to tell which violin or bow maker or restorer will be a good person to contact I feel comfortable reccomending that the customer look on the Federation membership list. Even if I don't know every member personally I do know that they have demonstrated a professional level of competence to a knowledgable group of their peers and that they have not been caught with their hand in the cookie jar or acting unprofessionally. If they are caught in unscrupulous acts then we throw them out. Returning to the training of violin makers. For a high standard of competence in any trade or profession to be maintained the students can not be allowed to decide for themselves when they have achieved an adequate level of competence. That must be decided by their teachers or the profession as a whole. I certainly remember in the second year of my apprenticeship after completing a few dozen instruments thinking "wow I've really got this now" In the following year I started to panic when I realized how much there was still to learn. I am still studying 30 years later. The problem with some of the shorter or less formal training programs is that they give enough training to give students a false sense of their own abilities. Obviously some people have the discipline to use the short course as a stepping stone to continuing their education but too many start doing business and contribute to the problems in the field while proclaiming both to themselves and their customers that they have "apprenticed" with some one or have completed a full course of study. It is because of this that I have gone to extreme lengths to put off some rather important life issues and drive all night through one of the worst snow storms of the year to attend the Federation bi-annual meeting and exhibition which starts tonight and runs through the players meets makers exhibit Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Center in NY city. Hope I'll see some of you there.