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I work with a couple of guys who didn't go to school and I would trust them to cut a bridge more than the most talented of any students just graduating.

I just wanted to quote this and explain myself. I've been contacted privatley and I am ruffling feathers in places I hadn't anticipated with this statement. Taken out of context it may not show my support of school.

To any students from Salt Lake, past or present. I still agree with this statement. Let me explain. The two guys I am referring to worked in shops before they worked with me. They have both been here for more than a year and they carve a lot of bridges. With that said, they have gotten pretty good at it. They would likely carve a bridge better than graduates coming out of any school right now. There are only so many opportunities to carve a bridge at school and that is something that takes a while to learn. If those same guys I work with had to carve some f-holes, they might struggle. It's not something they have experience with. This also does not mean that a graduate who came to work here would not do really well. The skills they learned at school would allow them to learn faster in a shop environment. I'm sure they would do great, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend many of them for employment in our shop, or any other shop. I'm supportive of my friends and colleagues who graduated or are graduating from schools and I hope they all realize that. Please re-read the post and you will see I'm quite supportive of the school environment. To be fair, I had to offer the alternative approach of not going to school when discussing the educational process and options. I will re-iterate that I was very happy with my experience in school and what I learned there. It has without a doubt helped me in my career and I was a better luthier when I began my job because of it.

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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

I don't think it has to be abroad. One of the masters I learned with was also a Geigenbaumeister. For his training, he went to regular violin making school. After that he worked in a shop in Germany for awhile and then went to Mittenwald for a couple of years to do the Geigenbaumeister training. That step of working for a shop in between was required before he could go back and do the Geigenbaumeister training as I understood it, but it did not have to be abroad.

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At what point does a person earn the credential of professional?...both from the experienced eye of those in the business who are actually building/repairing and also from the eye of the client?

From my perspective as a possible violin buyer, I view a maker as a professional if at least some, hopefully quite a lot, of their output goes to professional players who use those instruments in a professional performance setting.

Ernie,

This organization would be a good start:

http://www.afvbm.org/

Of course there are many people who are fine professionals who don't become members of the Federation, but I would think being accepted would be icing on the cake.

The problem with the afvbm is that membership is quite small, less than 200 in all of North America. There must be hundreds of competent, professional makers in North America who are not on the afvbm roster. If you consult only the afvbm roster, you're ignoring a lot of fine makers.

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Membership in the AFVBM is small for probably more than one reason, but one of the reasons is that in order to become a member you have to have worked in the field for a minimum of 9 years. After you have 9 years you can apply to be a member but you have to be able to demonstrate your competency and it has to be approved by the existing members. Not everyone is accepted. There of course are other people who are competent professionals who never applied too. You can safely call anyone in the AFVBM a professional though.

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Lots of interesting and informative information which has led to another question that has been going around in my head for awhile...I know it's been discussed before but for my sake I'd like to ask again...

At what point does a person earn the credential of professional?...both from the experienced eye of those in the business who are actually building/repairing and also from the eye of the client?

I don't know exactly. Technically you are professional if you get paid to do it, but that doesn't guarantee good work.

I would venture to say that someone is considered a professional when his/her peers also consider them to be a professional.

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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.

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.

When comparing different educational systems, the first question you should ask is why they're different. All generalizations are problematic, but generally the Chinese don't have the reluctance of studying the physical sciences as their western counterparts. They are (generally) much better prepared in elementary and secondary schools in mathematics, as an example.

Greiner and Curtin work _alongside_ physicists. They aren't physicists themselves. Just like Vuillaume and Savart (although it may be argued that Savart himself wasn't a physicist).

Anyone who came up through the educational system in the US (or German, for that matter) is going to be in for a rude awakening when they think they can learn quantum mechanics or Lagrangian formulation of classical mechanics without proper background & preparation, assuming they even make it that far.

I'm not arguing against interdisciplinary study, I'm simply saying if you expect to get that kind of breadth in the US education (including post-secondary) system, that's not the right place to expect to get it. I don't even think the Chinese education system is the right place to expect it, although there are more advantages there.

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Anyone who came up through the educational system in the US (or Germany, for that matter) is going to be in for a rude awakening when they think they can learn quantum mechanics or Lagrangian formulation of classical mechanics without proper background & preparation, assuming they even make it that far.

I've never used quantum mechanics or Lagrangian formulation of classical mechanics in violin restoration. Maybe I am missing out?

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Greiner and Curtin work _alongside_ physicists. They aren't physicists themselves.

Greiner and Curtin may not be physicists but they have chosen to communicate with physicists about physics (and one of its subfields, acoustics) in relation to violin making. So, Greiner and Curtin probably know something about physics, and specifically acoustics, more than the average guy on the street, maybe more than the average violin maker. How they picked that information up, I don't know. For many people a university course in acoustics would be a convenient place to do that.

My point is that if successful makers such as Greiner and Curtin think physics is important enough to their making to consult with physicists about violin making, then maybe a knowledge of physics (acoustics) is a worthwhile part of the formal training of violin makers.

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I don't know if the previous posts mentioned this, but the Chicago School where I graduated from did not require an entrance exam. I don't know if they do now. I didn't know how to use a plane or sharpen a knife before I entered school, so I am glad they took me.

I learned a lot in school. Then I went on to work in a violin shop. I also learned a lot there. My boss at the shop Margaret emphasized learning and training in an actual violin shop, but I liked having both.

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Greiner and Curtin may not be physicists but they have chosen to communicate with physicists about physics (and one of its subfields, acoustics) in relation to violin making. So, Greiner and Curtin probably know something about physics, and specifically acoustics, more than the average guy on the street, maybe more than the average violin maker. How they picked that information up, I don't know. For many people a university course in acoustics would be a convenient place to do that.

My point is that if successful makers such as Greiner and Curtin think physics is important enough to their making to consult with physicists about violin making, then maybe a knowledge of physics (acoustics) is a worthwhile part of the formal training of violin makers.

I challenge anyone in the US to go look for an acoustics program or full year course at their local college or university. Here, I'll even help you out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_programs_in_acoustics

The first thing you'll notice is how dreadfully few schools even have an acoustics program of any sort. The second thing you notice, with a few possible exceptions, is that these are not among the top ranked schools in physical sciences or engineering. The most charitable translation for all this is: backwater.

The reality is large percentage of schools in the US are not equipped to teach acoustics even if they happen have faculty who have an interest in it. The supply isn't there, nor is the demand.

I don't know about you, but I have zero interest in playing my fiddle under water at the US Naval Academy. :)

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Flyboy,

I've lost track of what your point is. It seems to be that there are no fields of knowledge outside of the current offerings by American violin making schools which would be helpful to the student studying violin making. If that's your point I disagree.

If your point is that there's a problem of scarcity of acoustics courses at universities, then how to cope with that problem, if it is one, is best left after a violin making school decides that their students need to know something about acoustics.

By the way, I'm not suggesting that acoustics be a mandatory part of a violin making curriculum. I don't know enough about violin making or acoustics to support that. It, however, does seem to be an important topic for many makers.

I am suggesting that violin making students be offered the opportunity to pursue interests and skills, above and beyond competent wood carving, perhaps in fields such as acoustics, chemistry, art history, business management. That additional knowledge might contribute to their success as makers. A possible setting for acquiring that additional knowledge is some kind of cooperation in classes between a violin making school and a college or university.

Indiana University would seem to be the ideal place to try to integrate a violin making program into the larger college curriculum, because of the great music school there and because it has some kind of violin making program there, now. How that program compares to those at Salt Lake, Boston, and Chicago, I don't know.

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To me, an important, maybe the most important, point is "are the violin making schools offering an appropriate education for the needs of the employers and market, and the basic skills required to progress within the trade". In other words, after spending 3 to 3 1/2 years studying, can the graduate make some sort of living.

The top end of the class are often individuals who, while attending, go outside the school to establish themselves in the industry, or augment their education with further study/work/etc. It will probably always be that way.

As far as "other subjects" that would be useful for the trade, probably best to ask those who managed to establish themselves after school what experiences/courses/etc. that they found contributed most to their careers (in addition to continued training in the trade). For me, it was woodwork, drawing, sculpture, working for a conservator, and music... maybe a chemistry class or two... and business courses including appraisal standardized practices and accounting. For others, it may be other things.

To think a trade school can cover physics, acoustics, chemistry, business and the myriad of other possible subjects that "might" come in handy for the grads to any significant degree is, frankly, a fantasy. The schools have a need to cover the basics, get the students up to speed with tool work and the other basic skills & concepts. Exposing the students to other, directly related, subjects, and giving them the information on how they might gain access (Oberlin, local colleges, etc.) is a realistic goal, however. This can be done through guest lectures, workshops, handouts and encouragement. Those interested will find their way.

OK? :)

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Flyboy,

I've lost track of what your point is. It seems to be that there's nothing being offered outside of the what American violin making schools currently offer that would be helpful to the student studying violin making. If that's your point I disagree.

You suggested a few posts back that aspiring makers study physics or chemistry at university, and minor in something like violin making.

Sure, I agree that's a nice concept. It'd also be nice that I win some money at casinos while vacationing in Vegas.

Sometimes you got to realize the system isn't set up to give you the big payoff. You need a deep understanding of the strengths & weaknesses the higher educational system possess, especially in the physical sciences & engineering. It's not geared in any way for violin makers. If sincere people with finite capability really make a good faith effort to do what you suggest they will most likely fail on all fronts. They won't be good engineers, chemists, physicists, or makers.

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Flyboy,

I've lost track of what your point is. It seems to be that there are no fields of knowledge outside of the current offerings by American violin making schools which would be helpful to the student studying violin making. If that's your point I disagree.

If your point is that there's a problem of scarcity of acoustics courses at universities, then how to cope with that problem, if it is one, is best left after a violin making school decides that their students need to know something about acoustics.

By the way, I'm not suggesting that acoustics be a mandatory part of a violin making curriculum. I don't know enough about violin making or acoustics to support that. It, however, does seem to be an important topic for many makers.

I am suggesting that violin making students be offered the opportunity to pursue interests and skills, above and beyond competent wood carving, perhaps in fields such as acoustics, chemistry, art history, business management. That additional knowledge might contribute to their success as makers. A possible setting for acquiring that additional knowledge is some kind of cooperation in classes between a violin making school and a college or university

And what would you suggest the average student should know about acoustics ?

Now, some theory of materials might come handy. As applied to wood, of course. But to start with a dubious physicist in order to obtain a competent violin maker might just end nowhere.

And, by the way, what EXACTLY is acoustics ?

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You suggested a few posts back that aspiring makers study physics or chemistry at university, and minor in something like violin making.

Sure, I agree that's a nice concept. It'd also be nice that I win some money at casinos while vacationing in Vegas.

As I've noted above, Indiana University already has some kind of program in violin making. It certainly offers undergraduate majors in physics and chemistry. Whether there's a minor in violin making, there, I don't know. They may have such a minor, or could develop one if it doesn't now exist.

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To me, an important, maybe the most important, point is "are the violin making schools offering an appropriate education for the needs of the employers and market, and the basic skills required to progress within the trade". In other words, after spending 3 to 3 1/2 years studying, can the graduate make some sort of living.

I agree with this. Both violin making and repair are pretty much life-long learning processes. There's only so much which can be taught in 3 to 4 years, so maybe that time should focus on a foundation which can be shown to be most useful to the largest number of people. It doesn't need to be the end of learning, nor should it be, in my opinion.

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To think a trade school can cover physics, acoustics, chemistry, business and the myriad of other possible subjects that "might" come in handy for the grads to any significant degree is, frankly, a fantasy.

I agree. That's why some kind of partnering with a university or college would be a good solution.

As to what might come in handy, let the student decide that, and let them pick from the college's offering.

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[

And, by the way, what EXACTLY is acoustics ?

+++++++++

Study of sound. (just my guess without looking up a dictionary)

I don't think we have to know a lot of science in order to make a good violin. Einsten knew a lot of science, he only played a violin, not making one.

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The problem with teaching acoustics in violin making school like something that is going on at Oberlin, is I'm not sure if everyone agrees on what is important yet. There is a lot data being collected which I think is important, but I get the sense from talking to a lot people studying acoustics that they aren't completely sure of what they are interpreting from the data. When you take a physics 101 course in college, you aren't studying cutting edge stuff. You are learning what has already been vetted.

edit: Acoustics are studied in violin making school to a certain degree by the way.

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Both violin making and repair are pretty much life-long learning processes.

That's true of any field or occupation which has any mental substance to it. The question then becomes how to prepare makers and repairers for life-long learning or to instill in them the desire to seek life long learning. Exposure to other, but potentially related fields might help.

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To add to this discussion about getting outside training of some sort. Most students who enter violin making school have already studied something else in college before attending. Also, violin lessons are offered to students at Salt Lake and Chicago, (pretty sure NBS has them too). There is also a ton of literature and other opportunities at school for extended learning. The problem is often that some students don't take enough advantage of them. You have that kind problem in every school though.

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