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Jonathan M.

Cremona violin shop summer involvement?

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 I have spent several years trying to teach myself how to make violins and now I think it is time to observe and hopefully assist a professional. I will be graduating from college in May and cant think of a better time than this summer and this coming fall to follow my passion for the structure of the violin. I don't plan on making a living with violins, I plan on using violin making as a way to channel my creativity. 

 

My hope would be to work or volunteer in a violin shop in Cremona for several months doing odd jobs or even sweeping the floors perhaps in exchange for room and board. I live in California currently, speak English, and am trying to learn Italian. Does anyone know who I might contact to accomplish this goal?

 

 

 

Here are a couple photos of whats currently on my workbench, all while I finish up my degree...

 

Cheers,

Jonathan

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post-29299-0-36518100-1422420750_thumb.jpg

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Hi: 

 

Your work looks good especially if you are self taught.  I think you maybe better off going to week-long workshops closer to home, like Michael Darnton's course, or perhaps the New Hampshire course.  While it is certainly a romantic notion to being a floor sweeper in a Cremona shop in exchange for room and board and a few tips on violin making, I think you would be hard pressed to find a shop that would offer this opportunity to you, since there are likely cheaper alternatives for housekeeping in Cremona.  From a shop's point of few, what would you as a hobbyist be able to offer them that they couldn't already get or have?  In fact, for what you want to do, you should be paying the shop.  Not to burst your bubble; you may find that shop in the end, but I'm just thinking from 1) what would be higher yield to you with the most efficiency (intense summer workshops/courses) and 2) what a shop in Cremona would have to gain by taking on an floorsweeper/errand boy.

 

Good luck,

 

Rod

 

PS - now,....if you could pay your own way, that might be a different story......

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I agree with what Rod says. And especially as you have no intention of doing this as a living. Cremona whilst nice is not Cremona of the 16th-18th centuries ,there is nothing you couldnt learn about violinmaking in another  country .

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Thanks Roderick and thanks Fiddlecollector, that is good honest feedback. I have considered the New Hampshire workshop but haven't heard of Michael's workshop. Ill look further into it.

 

I have wanted to do some traveling in Northern Italy for quite some time. I figured it would be exciting to incorporate my passion for violin making into my traveling as a way to connect to the place, the people, the culture, instead of simply being a tourist.

 

 I do have the ability to pay for my own living expenses and potentially extra. How might that change the equation?

 

Thanks,

Jonathan 

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Cremona whilst nice is not Cremona of the 16th-18th centuries ,there is nothing you couldnt learn about violinmaking in another  country .

 

"Everything that is not tradition is plagiarism"

 

Eugeni d'Ors

Salvador Dali

Igor' Fëdorovič Stravinskij

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Jonathan,

It is certainly NOT out of the question. I worked in Cremona for a summer for two well known violin makers, and I found the experience invaluable. Being in that city, surrounded by so many talented violin makers working everyday was a very important dose of reality for me at the time. I found that it grounded me, and stripped away some of the romantic notions I had about being a violin maker, which was very useful in the long run.

 

If you really do some research, and contact as many luthiers there as you can find, (and learn some Italian!), I would find it hard to believe that you could not find someone to accommodate you.

 

This was years ago, but the way it worked for me was I stayed with one of the makers at his house, and made two violins while I was there. They kept one to sell, and I took the other. The violin they kept was basically their payment. I had to pay for food (and drink!), and any other extras. There were at least 4 other "kids" working in that shop besides me, and it seemed that every other shop I visited had a similar situation going. 

 

Summer workshops here (USA) are great, but they are nothing like the immersive atmosphere to be had working in a shop in Cremona. 

In this endeavour (violin making), don't settle. If you want to go to Italy to learn, DO IT!

 

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Your aspirations are admirable!  I would always encourage a young person to travel as widely as possible early in life.  All too soon life becomes more inflexible as we make choices about family and career.  A few years ago my daughter was agonising over applying for a 'dreamy' post-graduate internship.  She felt she didn't compare well with the other candidates so why bother even applying.  My advice was simple - do your homework and fill out the application as honestly & completely as possible.  Don't limit yourself - let them make the decision.  To her surprise and delight she was accepted.  She had an enriched year that included travel to London, central Africa, Chicago and Toronto.

 

I would suggest that you take the best of both sets of advice.  Take some short courses before heading overseas. Not only will you become better versed in the formal side of the violin world but you will be creating contacts that will be invaluable in your endeavours.  You mentioned you have started the Italian lessons - good for you!  As well being conversant, there is a lot of literature in Italian that becomes accessible.  Your query here has given you the information you needed from arglebargle.  Your idea is certainly partially romantic - but it looks feasible!  What better place for a romance with violins than Italy.  Just make sure you have your plane ticket home in your back pocket.

 

I am curious what you are studying for your degree?  Any relevance to this dream?

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Piergiuseppe, can you call the international cast of characters in Cremona a representation of the tradition the city stands for?

 

Posterity will say it, not me. In this town you can just glimpse a history of violin making tradition especially in things that do not directly relate to violin making.

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Jonathan,

It is certainly NOT out of the question. I worked in Cremona for a summer for two well known violin makers, and I found the experience invaluable. Being in that city, surrounded by so many talented violin makers working everyday was a very important dose of reality for me at the time. I found that it grounded me, and stripped away some of the romantic notions I had about being a violin maker, which was very useful in the long run.

 

If you really do some research, and contact as many luthiers there as you can find, (and learn some Italian!), I would find it hard to believe that you could not find someone to accommodate you.

 

This was years ago, but the way it worked for me was I stayed with one of the makers at his house, and made two violins while I was there. They kept one to sell, and I took the other. The violin they kept was basically their payment. I had to pay for food (and drink!), and any other extras. There were at least 4 other "kids" working in that shop besides me, and it seemed that every other shop I visited had a similar situation going. 

 

Summer workshops here (USA) are great, but they are nothing like the immersive atmosphere to be had working in a shop in Cremona. 

In this endeavour (violin making), don't settle. If you want to go to Italy to learn, DO IT!

Arglebargle, the immersion is what I am looking for! In addition to being a piece of art, I suppose I look at the violin as a tool, an implement to connect me with both music and the culture of the people around me. If I were to stay in the United States to study violin making, I wouldn't be using this wooden tool or my own passion behind the wooden tool, most effectively. After-all, I am familiar with New Hampshire having grown up near by and I am acquainted with Los Angeles having gone to school in California.  Not to say I am intimate with the life blood of these places, I just feel I have more ways to grow in a land that doesn't prescribe to the America way. When you went to Cremona, how did you make your contacts with the different shops? Did you need a working visa?

 

 

I am curious what you are studying for your degree?  Any relevance to this dream?

Bob Sp, I appreciate your advice as well as the open mindedness you passed on to your daughter. I will take your encouragement to heart. I am about to complete my BS in mechanical engineering. The ultimate goal would be to figure out how to incorporate both into my future. 

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I am sure I am simply regurgitating what other people have said - but for a start you'll get a whole lot more out of any visit to Cremona after you have developed enough skills and knowledge to understand the importance of the things that are out there. At the risk of being shot down - I think a lot of kids go to Cremona "because they can" and get so used to the idea that there are incredible resources at their disposal, that they never really get to benefit from them, which is why quite a lot of Cremonese new violins are nothing special at all. A pilgrimage when you are ready will be far more eye opening than not.

 

Try to get that immersive experience closer to home - where it is available, and then really reap the benefit of going to Cremona with an informed perspective. I think that will do you a lot of favours. Frankly, just getting to the next VSA conference would be a million times a better next-step forward than following a romantic idea just yet.

 

 

From another (curmudgeonly) perspective - people who have the right to call themselves Cremonese violin makers have trained in a school in Cremona for three years, and afterwards committed strongly to working in Cremona, working to certain standards, and in certain traditions. If they brought in people who circumvented any part of this process, they would effectively open the flood gates to people who claim to have "trained in Cremona" just because they swept the shavings off a shop floor for a summer, and therefore completely undermine the brand that they have carefully built up for themselves. Whilst I am not remotely accusing you of opportunism, I am reminded of a charlatan violin maker I knew who admitted to me that he had spent a weekend in Cremona, visited the school and left a lecture after 10 min because he couldn't understand Italian... a few weeks later he waxed purple prose on his website of how he "...had travelled to Cremona in order to study and discover the secrets of classical Italian making for himself" (or words to that effect), with the unashamed implication (much to the anger of others) that he was as Cremonese trained as someone with a diploma from the violin making school. Enough of this kind of thing happens to make the idea of letting a stranger through the door in the way you proposed unattractive.

 

Whatever you chose to do - good luck!

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I am sure I am simply regurgitating what other people have said - but for a start you'll get a whole lot more out of any visit to Cremona after you have developed enough skills and knowledge to understand the importance of the things that are out there. At the risk of being shot down - I think a lot of kids go to Cremona "because they can" and get so used to the idea that there are incredible resources at their disposal, that they never really get to benefit from them, which is why quite a lot of Cremonese new violins are nothing special at all. A pilgrimage when you are ready will be far more eye opening than not.

 

 

You make a good point. I went after making a dozen or so instruments and working in a shop for a few years. 

In the same vein, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with the instruments in the library of congress, with some other students, unsupervised. :blink:  This was after only several months training, still sopping wet behind the ears. I know that I got a tiny fraction out of that visit compared to what I would take away from it today.

 

 When you went to Cremona, how did you make your contacts with the different shops? Did you need a working visa?

 

 

 

The makers visited the shop I was working in at the time. I showed them an instrument I made, and they invited me. (It was a pretty shabby effort, in retrospect, but I guess they saw something.) However, judging by the environment in the city, I'm sure a cold call (or letter) to some shop or other would get a response. Enthusiasm goes a long way. I don't recall needing a visa. Good luck!

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Despite whatever romantic inclinations I might have, Gotta say that Ben's right.

Important Cremonese tradition died a hard death somewhere around 1760, and never resurfaced at the prior level. Some of the best Cremonese makers today have benefited from outside training, even in the US, of all things! :o

 

Jonathan (the original poster), what are you up to? Is it your goal to be a professional violin maker, or to muse on a mountain top?

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Thank you for all the wishes of 'good luck.' I appreciate the positive sentiments.

 

I am sure I am simply regurgitating what other people have said - but for a start you'll get a whole lot more out of any visit to Cremona after you have developed enough skills and knowledge to understand the importance of the things that are out there. At the risk of being shot down - I think a lot of kids go to Cremona "because they can" and get so used to the idea that there are incredible resources at their disposal, that they never really get to benefit from them, which is why quite a lot of Cremonese new violins are nothing special at all. A pilgrimage when you are ready will be far more eye opening than not.

Ben, I am all for higher efficiency or getting the most out of a given amount of time spent in Cremona. However, this logic seems risky as it lends itself to inactivity. When can one say they have developed enough skills and knowledge to understand the importance of the things that are out there? It is not a quantifiable question. I could indefinitely sit introspectively in my dorm room working on instruments without ever knowing I was 'ready' for the pilgrimage.

 

 

Then off to Cremona with you, forthwith!  Something good will come of it, I'm sure.  Others have done it too.  I think a chap named Guadagnini spent a couple of months in Cremona, and thereafter referred to himself as a Cremonese violin maker, though it was said he dare not call himself one while he was there.

No need to worry, the name is safe with me! The concern for the misrepresentation of oneself or one's violin making skill has emerged a couple times in this topic. It is strange how this thought portrays someone with passion for the art as a threat to the meaning and sacredness of the name Cremona. I do think it is important to respect those that are violin makers from Cremona or professional violin makers in general by reserving such titles. I will not take the assumptions personally. 

 

Despite whatever romantic inclinations I might have, Gotta say that Ben's right.

Important Cremonese tradition died a hard death somewhere around 1760, and never resurfaced at the prior level. Some of the best Cremonese makers today have benefited from outside training, even in the US, of all things! :o

 

Jonathan (the original poster), what are you up to? Is it your goal to be a professional violin maker, or to muse on a mountain top?

 

David, I am on a quest not to make violin making my profession. I went to engineering school so I could keep violin making a fun stress-free hobby. With that said, I am searching for inspiration when incorporating violins into my future. And I am searching for the thrill of learning a new way of life in a distant town centered around a skill I have passion for. Whether Cremona is or isnt like it used to be doesnt concern me as I understand the fact that few places have been able to keep traditions strong and pure. If nothing else, I am interested in the shear density of violin minded people in a single town.    

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Jonathan, to put it another way - if you get the job sweeping floors, I'll be impressed (and well and truly proven wrong). But if you don't have any luck getting that, be assured that there are some extraordinary opportunities to develop violin making in the best Cremonese traditions right on your doorstep, and the opportunity through things like the VSA conference, and the contemporary violin makers exhibition in New York arranged by Julie Reed, to get to experience the craft of violin making at it's best - and learn from it...

 

As for the 'pilgrimage' - go as many times and for as long as you want to, you'll only discover more each time. Personally, after 4 days in Cremona I get a bit cross eyed and start talking gibberish...

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