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I would somewhat agree to that based on my own experience - I started in my teens, so I'm not sure what else would be appropriate. The advantage, I suppose, repetitive tasks (setting up rentals) allow you to gain speed and develop instincts.

Yeah, to be fair, I should also mention that the four people I've trained in my shop spent most of their training time doing setups on rentals, because that's what we were getting moving when they were trained, and I took all the good stuff. After they got good, though I gave them the good stuff, and did the rentals myself a lot of the time, since I like doing setups more than repairs, and don't really care what I'm doing them on.

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What percentage of the freshman class ends up graduating at the VM schools?

Maybe it's just the ones I've happened to meet, but a high percentage of the successful makers I've met did not finish VM school. That's not negative--it's like at a certain point they realized that they'd had enough and moved on, and that type of awareness and ego may have worked for them, professionally.

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What percentage of the freshman class ends up graduating at the VM schools?

Do most students go to VM school directly from High school or college?

Oded

When I was there, most came directly out of college, but there were a couple out of highschool, and a few who were starting this as a second career and were a bit older. I suspect that most do not graduate. Some get jobs before they finish, and some just find that it's not for them. I have found that it is not absolutely necessary to graduate for success, but in my case I just wanted to finish it for my own sake and I suspect there were others like me. I also think that may be the reason why most schools don't start varnish and set-up until later in the program. Incentive to finish?

edit: For my particular class 2/3 graduated. For the other 1/3, half decided to do other careers and the other half disappeared. I don't know if they are even working in the field or not. The 2/3 that graduated are all doing something in the field currently.

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In my career I've learned both ways, I have paid to learn and I have gotten paid to learn. You can guess which I prefer, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. With the latter of the two aforementioned situations there's a certain element of pressure to learn fast and "right", which can work to one's advantage. The downside of that situation is that there's no place to bury one's mistakes (like you could in a violin making school), it's sink or swim. It can be high stress, but if you can make the cut it will work to your advantage in the long run.

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On the other hand, I did come out of it with some very solid skills.

At that time, people with previous experience or training were specifically NOT welcome. They didn't want people who'd learned wrong at school who needed to be untrained or who thought they were already hotshots and couldn't be educated.

Maybe it's just the ones I've happened to meet, but a high percentage of the successful makers I've met did not finish VM school. That's not negative--it's like at a certain point they realized that they'd had enough and moved on, and that type of awareness and ego may have worked for them, professionally.

Michael, I get the impression you don't like school? I'm hearing a lot of passive aggressive words against schooling in this thread and maybe I am hearing you wrong? I hope you know I'm not saying someone HAS to go to school in order to be any good. Please re-read my posts and you will see I am very open minded to many different approaches to learning. I even had someone call me this last week asking for advice on how to get into this business and I actually advised them to contact you about the course you teach. I think in the past, and you would have more insight on this than me, places like Weissaar and Bein and Fushi were kind of the schools of that day? A lot of successful makers got their training in these places. Look at David Burgess. He never went to actual "school", but was trained at Weissaar and he has more awards than anyone who went to actual "school." Were the present schools even around then?

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In my career I've learned both ways, I have paid to learn and I have gotten paid to learn. You can guess which I prefer, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. With the latter of the two aforementioned situations there's a certain element of pressure to learn fast and "right", which can work to one's advantage. The downside of that situation is that there's no place to bury one's mistakes (like you could in a violin making school), it's sink or swim. It can be high stress, but if you can make the cut it will work to your advantage in the long run.

I can get behind this. Although the nice thing about violin making school is you have 3 years to "spend on yourself". I remember taking a whole day to sharpen a knife and really figure it out. When I started working, I never had to "figure sharpening out", just started cutting. There are things you learn by being under pressure however. I think having both experiences is nice.

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Oh, I thought I was being up front, not passive aggressive, about both what I had directly observed (the high rate of non-graduation from schools, which appears not to have been a personal hallucination of mine), and about the prevailing B&F/Bein attitude, which I simply reported. Yes, those factors have formed my own opinion, but I've tried to avoid my own opinion, which you would like even less. :-)

Also notice that I have been pretty favorable towards NBS.

When you bring up the idea of B&F and Weisshaar as "schools of the day", it's good to remember that a business that trains people does not collect on them unless they learn, as soon as possible. Schools, however, collect tuition as long as they keep the student, whether the student is progressing, talented, whatever. It's an entirely different business model, with different objectives.

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Could you elaborate? On where you think the field will be in 5? 10? 20 years?

Significant elaboration would end up being a rather long post... Even by Matthew's standards :)

Let me just say that everything is cyclical and this industry is no exception. The training opportunities aren't the same as they were a couple/few decades ago. The market has changed. New makers coming out of the schools have serious competition from other parts of the globe. On the repair side, some shops have changed they way they contract restoration work (B & F among them, through independent contracts rather than house owned workshops), some of the better training shops of the past are just gone, some other shops are growing, but there serious is competition for the positions available.

My personal view is that there is presently a bit of a skill set "gap" for school graduates when one really considers where (and doing what) most of the graduates will actually be doing for a living. Very few have ever made their living by only making instruments and nothing else... and I think at this point in time, it could be a challenge for a brand new maker to do so unless they were really exceptional. I'd think it's important to explore the possibilities of expanding, and/or fine tuning, the training that's provided, orat least available, to best match the present needs of the industry. It's a regular point of research, discussion and planning in the board I serve on, and I would assume there are similar things are being discussed in the other schools. In another 20 years, maybe the school boards will be talking about going "back to the basics" of violin making... or maybe not.

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What would you consider 'the basics' and how are they not a part of the curriculum now?

I think you may misunderstand what I'm trying to say. I'm suggesting that since the industry is cyclical (and steeped in tradition), changes in curriculum made now might be thought of as outdated or unneeded later... just as my view is that the current curriculum could use some tweaking presently.

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Jeff,

Are you speaking of things like including more repair in the curriculum?

By the way, I'll get that money out to you immediately for the post lengths. Do you except money orders? Unless you want polished fingerboard undersides for payment like Jerry Lynn suggested ;)

Yup... you got it. Increasing the exposure, or access, in school is one my personal goals.

I'd say there might also room for other subjects (maybe not as part of the core, but maybe as optional workshops, etc.) too however.

...and I kind of like the idea of that fingerboard polishing thing. :)

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Since both curriculum for violin making and China have been brought up on this thread, it's worth noting a presentation made at the 2008 Portland, Oregon, VSA, by a prominent Chinese violin maker and violin making school administrator. His presentation revealed that training for violin making in China has been integrated into a college program of some 6 or 7 years, of which the last two or three were devoted to actual making. That might be a very good idea.

Whether one thinks college should be a prerequisite to violin making or not, it should be clear that, in today's violin world, the successful maker will bring more to the work bench than just the ability to carve wood well. It may be a knowledge of physics, acoustics, chemistry, history, musical performance, psychology, business, aesthetics, photography, foreign languages, whatever -- something that imparts a unique quality to a maker's making or to their method of selling their products.

People, of course, can acquire that extra breadth of knowledge in other ways besides the university. But the university is a very convenient place to gain knowledge because it is concentrated there from a great many fields.

I would think the next step in developing a curriculum for violin makers would be to incorporate some of the general academic fields into a violin making. How's a major in chemistry or physics with a minor in violin making sound? Or how about a major in violin making with a minor in Chinese?

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Since both curriculum for violin making and China have been brought up on this thread, it's worth noting a presentation made at the 2008 Portland, Oregon, VSA, by a prominent Chinese violin maker and violin making school administrator. His presentation revealed that training for violin making in China has been integrated into a college program of some 6 or 7 years, of which the last two or three were devoted to actual making. That might be a very good idea.

Whether one thinks college should be a prerequisite to violin making or not, it should be clear that, in today's violin world, the successful maker will bring more to the work bench than just the ability to carve wood well. It may be a knowledge of physics, acoustics, chemistry, history, musical performance, psychology, business, aesthetics, photography, foreign languages, whatever -- something that imparts a unique quality to a maker's making or to their method of selling their products.

People, of course, can acquire that extra breadth of knowledge in other ways besides the university. But the university is a very convenient place to gain knowledge because it is concentrated there from a great many fields.

I would think the next step in developing a curriculum for violin makers would be to incorporate some of the general academic fields into a violin making. How's a major in chemistry or physics with a minor in violin making sound? Or how about a major in violin making with a minor in Chinese?

Please come down to reality.

Those who want to become good at chemistry or physics (or whatever other field) are going to have their hands full studying without having to mess around with whittling wood or even become decent players (to gain some perspective on what makes certain instruments great). It's not as if there's that many people lining up to study the physical sciences anyways. As much as I'm in favor of interdisciplinary study, this is a recipe for spreading yourself too thin and is likely to lead to professional failure for almost everyone but the most exceptional people.

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specialization, not trying several things at once has been the key to my success or lack thereof, some super geniuses can work simaltaneously in two or three different fields, but that doesnt mean their work in one field doesnt suffer from the time they devote to the others. unfortunately the chances of totally supporting yourself of violin making and repair is unlikely at best, just gaining the ability to even turn a profit in this buis might take 10 or 20 years experience, unless you working for an established shop, and in the future there arent going to be that many jobs to go around.

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In general when people talk about entering a violin making school they are thinking about making new instruments but, eventually, just very small percentage of graduated students will dedicate themselves to making new instruments, this is what I see with Italian schools, I don't know what happens in the USA.

It would be interesting giving a look in statistics about graduated people, what they are doing, etc.

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In general when people talk about entering a violin making school they are thinking about making new instruments but, eventually, just very small percentage of graduated students will dedicate themselves to making new instruments, this is what I see with Italian schools, I don't know what happens in the USA.

It would be interesting giving a look in statistics about graduated people, what they are doing, etc.

If you are looking at repair and restoration as a focus, the program run by Lisbeth Butler is world class and always has 100% student placement after graduation: Red Wing.

Joe

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What percentage of the freshman class ends up graduating at the VM schools?

Do most students go to VM school directly from High school or college?

Oded

That has varied a bit over time... but the attrition rate is relatively low. I'd imagine it correlates with other types f schools. All four who started when I came in graduated. At least 3 of us have our own shops. I've lost track of the last person one in my class.

When I attended school, the average age was mid-20s. A good number of the students had attended college before attending violin making school. It's always been a "mix" though.

I also know of a few successful makers who left before graduation to take positions with established makers and/or shops. One of those makers came back to finish her last semester after working in an established shop.

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Please come down to reality.

The Chinese have made a reality of incorporating violin making into a general college curriculum. They had to add a few years of study to do that, but it's no fantasy.

As much as I'm in favor of interdisciplinary study, this is a recipe for spreading yourself too thin and is likely to lead to professional failure for almost everyone but the most exceptional people.

Having a major and a minor in an undergraduate program is the norm, not the exception.

I'd say that if you can't bring something else to the work bench besides the ability to carve accurately a violin if given a pattern, then you're in danger of being replaced by a machine. Peter Greiner and Joseph Curtin each bring, in a sense, an actual second person to the work bench; they collaborate with trained physicists. At a visit to the Chicago school, I ran into a very capable, professional level violin player, now learning making. He seemed very much admired and in demand by his non-playing fellow students. Jeffrey Holmes brings to his repair business the additional ability as an appraiser. That required extra training. Every maker and repairer who is working for him/herself better have a good sense of how to run a business, if they want to remain an independent maker working for themselves. Thus you can learn what it takes to run a business through trial and painful, costly error, or you can prepare yourself ahead of time with course work in small business administration.

I could go on and on how violin making as a successful profession is more than just great wood carving. A unique skill or aesthetic is helpful, or perhaps studying the aesthetics of the Renaissance and the Baroque is the source of your making style. Somehow your making needs to distinguish itself.

I'm just saying that universities would be convenient places to pick up that extra knowledge or skill, if violin making could be incorporated into a university curriculum. Or violin making schools might think about partnering with colleges and universities to give their students access to that extra knowledge.

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I'm wondering how much basic acoustics is taught at violinmaking schools. My experience with past graduates is none.

Another criticism I have is that virtually all the American violinamking schools teach the German approach to making fiddles.

In Germany if you want to qualify as a 'master' violin maker you have to work abroad for a time- as in a journeyman in order to gain a wider perspective. Seems like a great idea to me.

Oded

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I'm wondering how much basic acoustics is taught at violinmaking schools. My experience with past graduates is none.

Certainly another area for consideration. The VSA/Oberlin has gone that way big time, and many makers seem to have benefited from the information out there. As you probably know, one of the things I try to do at Oberlin is to make an effort include (at least a limited number of) students from the schools within the restoration program (I think between the violin & bow restoration program we had at least 4, maybe 5, students/graduating students last year). I'd hope the acoustics program there is making similar efforts.

Another criticism I have is that virtually all the American violinamking schools teach the German approach to making fiddles.

Honestly, that doesn't bother me too much. My feeling is that it's an effective training system, and though it's based on the German training model, it has it's variation within the different schools. Some will have less trouble than others breaking away from that system later on, but this is an area I might worry about loss of focus during training should too many "styles" be presented.

In Germany if you want to qualify as a 'master' violin maker you have to work abroad for a time- as in a journeyman in order to gain a wider perspective. Seems like a great idea to me.

Oded

I believe the system does not require study abroad. It requires study (as a journeyman) with a recognized Geigenbaumeister from the system and entails an exam (which includes some business ethics and law).

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In that case I've been misinformed or the criteria have changed. When I worked in NYC we had a German violinamker spend a year working at the shop, supposedly fulfilling the requirements for Geigenbaumeister prior to his exams.

In any case it's probably a very good idea in that it limits too much inbreeding.

Oded

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In that case I've been misinformed or the criteria have changed. When I worked in NYC we had a German violinamker spend a year working at the shop, supposedly fulfilling the requirements for Geigenbaumeister prior to his exams.

In that case, I'd suspect that someone in the shop you were working in was a Geigenbaumeister. There are several here in the US.

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