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zefir68

Becoming a reputed expert

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Steve,

Your notions on finding and developing philanthropic sources, curriculum development, accreditation, and selecting faculty come to mind as being a bit naive. As I said, I see no need for replacing the excellent institutions and practices that now exist without interference by an academic bureaucracy.

Sorry, as a former and very active member of academe, I just see you chasing a solution to find a problem. Nevertheless, this is just my opinion. ;)

Best,

Mike

PS: I am not being snarky with this question, but am truly interested: Did all those degrees help you get a job? In what? We read how degrees do not guarantee employment in the field of study. So Steve, you have my interest. :)

You seem more interested in my private life than the issues on this thread, and I've indulged that curiosity as much as I'm going to.

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You seem more interested in my private life than the issues on this thread, and I've indulged that curiosity as much as I'm going to.

Sorry, Steve, that I asked and tried to open a dialog with you. My mistake. <_<

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You nevertheless continually try to disqualify the violin trade re. violin expertise/research

Where have I done that? Please be specific.

You also seem to have an impression of researching in archives which leaves me thinking you have never been in one yourself. The normal case is that you spend days and weeks searching, without finding anything of any interest. The only time when archival research gets noticed in Idaho sitting rooms is the exceptional case when something of interest gets found.

I don't know what impression of researching archives you think I have, but the rest of that paragraph is entirely true, but also irrelevant.

Re. Duane: Roger has already spoken regarding Duane, who is anything but a contrast to those in the trade. He has no inhibitions to ring and ask for information.

I would hope that a researcher, whether university based or completely independent, could ring up a respected dealer and get the dealer's help, assuming that the dealer believed the researcher was doing worthwhile work. I don't know why a dealer would necessarily slam the door in a researcher's face just because the researcher is from a university.

Quite what you wish to achieve in a University setting, unsullied by any perceived commercial interest: (your post#137)

The advantages of a university setting for violin research would be that people who don't or can't attract the attention of dealers for research support would still be able to conduct meaningful research.

without the basic knowledge (point 1. above), and without the knowledgeable support of the trade and to what extent this would be “meaningful”, is your secret.

The research support I was referring to in the above quote was financial support; I should have made that clear. I would not expect dealers to necessarily offer financial support to just any researcher; if you're in business, you can't just throw money around.

If you're a university you are in the business of asking for research from students (undergraduates and graduate students) and you can expect students (undergradautes, for sure) to undertake that research without financial support. Presumably, if you're a university student, you have blocked out the time and put away the money to do what the university will ask of you, and that is to do some research. That's all I meant in my sentence in the above quote.

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Roger,

I'm not arguing...

I do want to point...

Oh, please. That's your opinion against the opinion of all the rest of the violin world....

Nobody's arguing that dealers aren't a good source of violin information....

I would respectfully disagree...

There's a false dichotomy being presented here...

Ski;

I honestly do love your tenacity, but I'm not seeing an effort on your part to really understand what's been being said to you in response. Several of us here have suggested that there are subjects that, in a university setting, could aid a person interested in establishing some sort of expertise in the field, but that a university program FOR pursuing the subject seems unproductive and limiting by it's nature. Those voicing these opinions actually have some experience in the field and are not known as the status-quo of the industry or the "insiders" if you prefer. In other words you're speaking to more open minds than you might be in a different venue.

I get the impression you like to debate, and you're very good at it, but unless there's some movement, I tire of it.

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I get the impression you like to debate, and you're very good at it, but unless there's some movement, I tire of it.

Debate which moves a topic forward is worth having. We've not having that debate, and so it is tiring for me, too.

At the very least, we all seem to agree that you don't have to be a dealer to be a violin expert. And we agree that dealers are, currently, the most important source of violin knowledge. Nothing in those two sentences excludes the possibility of universities becoming sites for training in violin connoisseurship.

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I don't know why a dealer would necessarily slam the door in a researcher's face just because the researcher is from a university.

I don`t know why either Steven, it certainly couldn`t occur here since I am always impeccably nice to whoever walks into my shop, even Jehovah`s Witnesses. This can`t become a debate, to our mutual regret though, because you refuse to get the point.

Appraising violins is quite difficult enough already, without a dilettante who hasn`t got even basic knowledge (I defined this in point 1 of post #146) in the way. Should I not be able to form an opinion, I would consult one of my colleagues (about 30 vms are within a half hour drive, and I know who is worth asking), and certainly not the said dilettante. This leaves your “academic” course as a self satisfying esoteric event, with little or no practical use for the rest of the republic. One could just as well blow bubbles.

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Most of us violin makers get to know a bit about the instruments that most frequently come through our doors, and may be more interested in, and familiar with, our local makers of the past than makers elsewhere. None of the experts I know would ever claim to be experts in all the violin making traditions.

I fail to see how any school could teach anything but a most rudimentary knowlege in violin appraisal, and even then in only one or two traditions, without the students having a day in day out involvement with the violins they are studying.

In my view, ours is a generous trade. Those who show an interest and an aptitude tend to find their own level, and some become experts.

To set out at a tender age to 'become an expert' would seem to me the wrong place to start. Much healthier I think that experts develope in an organic way, as they do now, from a love for the violin.

I myself am an expert in the violins of Conor Russell, at least the last few that I can remember.

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I am always impeccably nice to whoever walks into my shop

I guess you save up your less than friendly comments for Maestronet. If I walked into your shop and were treated nice, I'd be taken aback, wanting the sardonic Jacob, who, I know, will say only what he truly believes, regardless of what general opinion is in the larger violin world.

I still think the best thing that could happen for the free flow of information about violins would be a university based connoisseurship training system, in addition to all the existing means of getting training. But I understand why there's resistance to it. I get the point.

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I don't have the time to read every word of what has been written and admit to having skimmed through a lot of the posts so please forgive me for glossing over a lot of what has been said, however it seems to me that some of what skiingfiddler envisions could well be done and could work.

I don't believe that he is suggesting that a "supremely qualified expert" would come out of the course, but rather someone who would have received a well rounded grounding in the field of violin identification. Would graduates of such a course be considered experts? No, and I don't think that anyone harbors such beliefs, but they may have basic tools from which they can continue to learn. I don't believe that the only way to learn basic violin identification is the "school of hard knocks"..or "paying ones dues", by which most of us have learned and some people seem to suggest.

In one of his posts Jeff mentioned Bob Beins idea of having some type of "seminar" for a "select" few. Well, that is not necessarily so different from an actual course, though it would have been for people with prior experience. (Jeff also said that Bob could only come up with a small list of people which he thought could profit from such a "seminar", but perhaps he was somewhat limiting his pool of potential "students" by counting only those with whom he did business?)

It is not at all unusual for a school to have entrance exams, or placement exams for students who want to enter certain programs, thereby weeding out unlikely candidates, the same could be applied for a violin identification course of study. Or maybe a prerequisite to entering such a program would be a degree in violin making from one of the schools or an apprenticeship with a recognized shop in addition to an entrance exam. Under the auspices of a University, Museum or Conservatory, I could imagine such a program being successful and if so, the graduates being well placed with established shops. It's quite possible that many of the smaller shops which abound would welcome someone with some basic identification knowledge and the "tools" or system to acquire more. However, just as an apprenticeship or violin-making school does not turn out a fully mature maker or qualified restorer, (usually..as there may be the exception), a course such as this would not be expected to turn out a fully formed expert. Perhaps such a course might steer many a fiddle fancier on a better path then they may otherwise take.

As has been pointed out in previous posts, there are many "experts" in our field who have learned in the "accepted" way, have established very large and commercially successful businesses, have written certificates of authenticity and yet, have made a lot of major mistakes, so it seems that the violin business could profit from an additional approach. Hey, it wasn't until after the Second World War that proper violin making schools began popping up, before that time the only accepted way was an apprenticeship, and I'm sure there were many skeptics of the schools when they opened. Many of us are the products of those schools.

Basically, I don't think it such a harebrained idea as many people think, and although it would certainly present challenges in setting up and running, I think could be very valuable addition to the violin business in general.

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I'm sure Bob's short list was partially constructed of those he wanted to spend time with and/or did business with... but honest, I'm not so sure the numbers would increase all that much do in part to the way he wished to set it up.

Actually, I'm happy (in part for Ski) that you see some possibilities here... and I think you're pretty qualified to say so. May I nominate you as a potential professor? :)

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I don't have the time to read every word of what has been written and admit to having skimmed through a lot of the posts so please forgive me for glossing over a lot of what has been said, however it seems to me that some of what skiingfiddler envisions could well be done and could work.

I don't believe that he is suggesting that a "supremely qualified expert" would come out of the course, but rather someone who would have received a well rounded grounding in the field of violin identification. Would graduates of such a course be considered experts? No, and I don't think that anyone harbors such beliefs, but they may have basic tools from which they can continue to learn. I don't believe that the only way to learn basic violin identification is the "school of hard knocks"..or "paying ones dues", by which most of us have learned and some people seem to suggest.

In one of his posts Jeff mentioned Bob Beins idea of having some type of "seminar" for a "select" few. Well, that is not necessarily so different from an actual course, though it would have been for people with prior experience. (Jeff also said that Bob could only come up with a small list of people which he thought could profit from such a "seminar", but perhaps he was somewhat limiting his pool of potential "students" by counting only those with whom he did business?)

It is not at all unusual for a school to have entrance exams, or placement exams for students who want to enter certain programs, thereby weeding out unlikely candidates, the same could be applied for a violin identification course of study. Or maybe a prerequisite to entering such a program would be a degree in violin making from one of the schools or an apprenticeship with a recognized shop in addition to an entrance exam. Under the auspices of a University, Museum or Conservatory, I could imagine such a program being successful and if so, the graduates being well placed with established shops. It's quite possible that many of the smaller shops which abound would welcome someone with some basic identification knowledge and the "tools" or system to acquire more. However, just as an apprenticeship or violin-making school does not turn out a fully mature maker or qualified restorer, (usually..as there may be the exception), a course such as this would not be expected to turn out a fully formed expert. Perhaps such a course might steer many a fiddle fancier on a better path then they may otherwise take.

As has been pointed out in previous posts, there are many "experts" in our field who have learned in the "accepted" way, have established very large and commercially successful businesses, have written certificates of authenticity and yet, have made a lot of major mistakes, so it seems that the violin business could profit from an additional approach. Hey, it wasn't until after the Second World War that proper violin making schools began popping up, before that time the only accepted way was an apprenticeship, and I'm sure there were many skeptics of the schools when they opened. Many of us are the products of those schools.

Basically, I don't think it such a harebrained idea as many people think, and although it would certainly present challenges in setting up and running, I think could be very valuable addition to the violin business in general.

"Violin appreciation for scientists?" like "Physics for poets?"

If I'm not mistaken, I don't think that people here are necessarily arguing that these identification skills can't be learned or taught.

The tough pill for most "doubters" here to swallow is something like this can even be educationally and financially viable in a university setting. After all, there are only a handful of people in the whole world obsessed with violin identification. While there might be big demand for the first few years after the program starts, after that there probably won't be sufficient enrollment year after year. Something like this will just die on the vine.

I read somewhere that when Emil Herrmann and his brother were growing up (Emil started when he was 8), they were presented with a different fiddle each day by their father, and they'd have to write a critical report on it. How many of us have that kind of opportunity at that early an age, never mind discipline?

It was only when Emil turned 18 that his father had enough confidence in his skills to set him loose.

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Now, it's worth pointing out that Faber is not a violin expert, and he does not cite, specifically, where he got the Francesco information. But, at the end of the book, he does cite the people he talked to...So, it looks like Faber did not get his information about Francesco heads from you or Desmond Hill. Apparently, others besides Desmond Hill believe the theory of heads by Francesco after about 1700, and shared that with Faber.

I have a hobby of doing some (non-violin) historical research, and this is beginning to look like what I've found to be a common problem in historical research. A says X, and is quoted by B and C; D quotes B and E quotes C. F writes a compilation of opinion that quotes E (who got information from C) and D (who quoted B. ) Finally, G writes a thesis that concludes that since A, B, C, D, E, and F have all mentioned X, it is therefore supported by the experts and must be true.

It can be illuminating (and a bit fun) to seek out the primary sources, and see where a particular theory arose and how it was disseminated to become the accepted version of events.

I'm not saying that such speculations are wrong; just that one has to be very careful when using the prevalence of a speculation as evidence of its veracity. :-)

-Claire

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I wrote the previous reply to something that was said several pages ago; I didn't realize the reply would not appear under the post I was replying to. My apologies if the point I was making is not really all that relevant to the conversation as it continued to develop.

-Claire

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"Actually, I'm happy (in part for Ski) that you see some possibilities here... and I think you're pretty qualified to say so. May I nominate you as a potential professor? :)"

Hey...with healthcare, pension, lots of guest lecturers, summers off, could be a good gig!

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The tough pill for most "doubters" here to swallow is something like this can even be educationally and financially viable in a university setting. After all, there are only a handful of people in the whole world obsessed with violin identification. While there might be big demand for the first few years after the program starts, after that there probably won't be sufficient enrollment year after year. Something like this will just die on the vine.

Actually, the same thing was said about the violin schools. And as far as I know, all of the schools are thriving. Granted, many of the students who graduate do not continue on in the violin business, but that is no different than in many professions. One good program, attached to one good or prestigious school would, in my opinion, have applicants from all over the world. No doubt, funding would probably not be easy to come by, but it's not impossible either.

Music schools continue to graduate young musicians at an astounding rate...and whereas there are very limited job openings for them, say in major orchestras, there definitely has been a positive "trickle down" effect for nearly all other, (2nd, 3rd, 4th tier), orchestras in that they have benefited by being able to recruit highly trained people. Now, extend that idea to the violin business. From major violin shops down to their smaller local colleagues. The end result could be an overall rising of the bar. Think that could be a possibility?

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To erocca and also to Ron a few pages back: Thanks. It was getting lonely.

When the VSA, at its beginning in the 1970s, was exploring the possibility of a violin making school, there were violin makers who were opposed on the basis that no more violin makers were needed. It was the early 1970s and the economy was bad, and some of the already existing makers didn't see the need for more makers.

Today, we have not one but at least 3 well established violin schools in the US, and the US isn't suffering from an overflow of professional violin makers. It's hard to imagine not having those 3.

Maybe the evolution of a university based connoisseurship program will take the same path. Today we're arguing about whether there should be one, and in a couple of decades there will be 3 or 4. If that happens someone lay a victory wreath on my grave.

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To erocca and also to Ron a few pages back: Thanks. It was getting lonely.

When the VSA, at its beginning in the 1970s was exploring the possibility of a violin making school, there were violin makers who were opposed on the basis that no more violin makers were needed. It was the early 1970s and the economy was bad, and some of the already existing makers didn't see the need for more makers.

Today, we have not one but at least 3 well established violin schools in the US, and the US isn't suffering from an overflow of professional violin makers. It's hard to imagine not having those 3.

Maybe the evolution of a university based connoisseurship program will take the same path. Today we're arguing about whether there should be one, and in a couple of decades there will be 3 or 4. If that happens someone lay a victory wreath on my grave.

Come on ski, I'd much rather attend a program in viticulture connoisseurship at a university than a fiddle one.

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Thanks for this interesting and thought provoking conversation. Whilst this is all hypothetical, my worries are:

1)That any such course would embolden people who had studied it into making over-confident decisions,

2)It could create an imbalance by which people with the 'professional qualification' may seem more qualified than those who have acquired knowledge through conventional routes.

3)If it was a university course, it would certainly have to conform to the academic criteria of a degree/masters. This may create the wrong barriers to entry, and end up assessing on the wrong elements of connoisseurship.

4) I'm not certain that a course of this sort would be able to guarantee the necessary flow of instruments for its students to study meaningfully.

These concerns rise out of experience in other fields. For example the International Council of Museums (ICOM)is demanding that conservators are accredited. Unless you have done a master's degree, this is very, very difficult - which means untested and new graduates are easily getting accreditation, whereas some of the leading conservators of the last generation (the people who have taught them) fail to reach the 'standard' either because they took a different route, or because masters degrees didn't exist back then. Down-the-line, museums and contractors only hire 'accredited' conservators, because its a criteria that that administrators/insurers/lawyers can understand. Likewise, courses on connoisseurship - principally Christie's and Sotheby's Education - are clearly designed to be the starting blocks for people moving into the auction and art world. Some of their graduates follow that trajectory, and others assume that after a year's intense study they are a fully qualified expert and go their own way for better - or for worse. (It is telling that their courses are not a requirement for becoming a specialist).

In the end this could well end up with a court-enforced black-and-white distinction between those who have a degree certificate and those who don't. A very dangerous endgame, and one in which it is well worth considering the fate of the one violin dealer in the world who holds an honourary professorship as recognition of his expertise.

Thankfully, we ARE talking hypothetically, aren't we????

Ben

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Hey...with healthcare, pension, lots of guest lecturers, summers off, could be a good gig!

What? You don't take the summer off now??? :)!

Actually, the same thing was said about the violin schools. And as far as I know, all of the schools are thriving. Granted, many of the students who graduate do not continue on in the violin business, but that is no different than in many professions. One good program, attached to one good or prestigious school would, in my opinion, have applicants from all over the world. No doubt, funding would probably not be easy to come by, but it's not impossible either.

I believe the employment rate for today's graduates is still pretty decent, but it seems the number of "high quality" jobs has diminished since the days when many of us attended.

Before you get Ski too excited, violin making schools are trade schools... and I don't believe they would work nearly as well within a university setting. I see the same difficulty with a U program for expertise, though I agree it might offer better benefits for the teachers!

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I guess you save up your meanness for Maestronet. If I walked into your shop and were treated nice, I'd be taken aback, wanting the sardonic Jacob, who, I know, will say only what he truly believes, regardless of what general opinion is in the larger violin world.

I still think the best thing that could happen for the free flow of information about violins would be a university based connoisseurship training system, in addition to all the existing means of getting training. But I understand why there's resistance to it. I get the point.

Like some hard nosed lawyer you have continually turned our words around to suit your arguments. Initially I was sympathetic, but now I realize that you are just stubbornly pushing your point home. Your analysis of my last words is a perfect example.

Re: Rosengard, …yet he has achieved a level of expertise without being a dealer.

But the point that we are all making here is; not without the dealer network.

Re: Hargrave, You are an expert and you are not a dealer.

Whatever I might or might not be, I did not achieve it; without the dealer network.

Re Pollens, I, for one, (and judging from other posts in this thread, there are others) now firmly believe that the Messiah is a Strad.

Well that is good, but most serious experts did not need this debate to believe that the Messiah is a Strad. This particular debate was a waste of valuable time, and it is still wasting valuable time. Moreover, it is an insult to a great institution, (the Ashmolean) and to the Hill brother’s memory. As for the dendrochronology, this would have happened sooner or later anyway.

Now, Nobody's arguing that dealers aren't a good source of violin information.

Maybe not, but you are continually failing to see that they are the ONLY really viable source of violin information. And that without their individual or collective cooperation no individual or student group can ever hope to learn this subject. You may not like this. I also do not always particularly like this, but for the foreseeable future it is absolutely unavoidable.

…as if the two couldn't possibly work together. And even if they were to cooperate, would you give a 5,000,000 dollar violin or even one worth 100,000 or 25,000 to a bunch of students? An individual that manages to win your trust possibly, but an untutored group? And even if all of this were possible, just how many places do you think would be available for study after university? As I pointed out before we are already training far too many violin makers. This is unfair to them as it would be for students wishing to become violin connoisseurs. Where even less opportunities would present themselves. I really do understand your point, but it really is a non starter

Finally, I think that you are getting too personal here, which is what you are accusing Jacob of doing. I believe that Jacob (in his admittedly rather dour English manner) has been incredibly patient with you throughout. Either you are simply not reading or not understanding what is being said, or we are not putting it clearly enough. Either way I am bailing out of this debate

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Re Pollens, I, for one, (and judging from other posts in this thread, there are others) now firmly believe that the Messiah is a Strad.

Well that is good, but most serious experts did not need this debate to believe that the Messiah is a Strad. This particular debate was a waste of valuable time, and it is still wasting valuable time. Moreover, it is an insult to a great institution, (the Ashmolean) and to the Hill brother's memory. As for the dendrochronology, this would have happened sooner or later anyway.

I can't help but think that Mr. Pollens did that just to draw attention to his own business. He hasn't seemed to suffer too much from it. dry.gif

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If there were a right or wrong in this issue of university based training, those of us who are judged by others to be wrong should indeed confess our mistake and retreat. But there is no right or wrong, here,

Proposing that something as cross disciplinary as violin connoisseurship might be taught in an environment (the university) which promotes cross disciplinary study is a very natural proposal.

We who might believe in that proposal need to listen to objections and see if we can answer them. I haven't heard any objections that are insurmountable.

The main objection seems to be the availability of instruments to students. That is indeed a concern. The main flow of violins is in the hands of dealers, and if they weren't the least bit cooperative with a university based program, that might impair the program. But dealers share their knowledge with other dealers and individuals not related to dealers. Why would dealers specifically exclude sharing with someone who comes from a university? Where's the threat there?

Even if dealers universally decided not to cooperate, there are, at the larger universities with large music schools and in the public domain, a fair number of instruments. Not nearly enough to produce real experts? Well, as has been stated again and again by the advocates of the university based program, the goal is not to produced finished experts, but to produce people who have some basic knowledge on which they can build if they choose to. That's as in any training program in which the subject is complex.

In the end, who the experts are will not be decided by where a student trained, whether at a dealer's bench or at a university. It will be decided by the quality of their work after training, and that quality will be determined by those in the profession who are currently recognized as experts.

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Those who still would like to know more about expertise and when it turns to being an expert might not have seen this. Note the section called, "Remembering Robert Bein."

http://www.beinfushi.com/beinLetter.php

It seems as if Mr. Bein blossomed very quickly and people of note appreciated his talent and personal traits and helped him along. What seems surprising is that he went from having a little shop in Cincinnati to opening Bein and Fushi in 4 or 5 years. I for one would like to know what B and F was like at the beginning. I hope someone eventually writes a book on Mr. Bein, Mr. Fushi, and the firm.

Also, I'm wondering where Zefir is; he's not been heard from since page two. I'd like to know, Zefir, if you feel you are getting your actual questions answered. If not, give us some direction.

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Also, I'm wondering where Zefir is; he's not been heard from since page two. I'd like to know, Zefir, if you feel you are getting your actual questions answered. If not, give us some direction.

I hope from all this discussion it is clear how one becomes an expert: Someone is an expert when the existing community of experts agrees that that someone is an expert. If that seems circular and problematic, that problem exists in all professions which require designation of experts.

Charles Beare could create a potential expert overnight by declaring X to be an expert -- X who previously was a total unknown. If a handful of currently recognized violin experts then looked at X's body of work and agreed, X would be an expert.

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