Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Best US Violin Making School


Nick Allen
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello all!

 

     I am a prospective violin making student and wish to start attending violin making school next year, or even possibly this upcoming spring. I have been looking at a number of domestic schools and programs and while they all look reputable, I don't know which one is the best. By best I mean which one I will learn the most at and have the best chance to find a job and also will provide opportunities for good networking and such. I am most interested in the Chicago School of Violin Making. It's the closest to me and seems to be the most affordable as far as tuition goes, which is less than half of the North Bennett Street School. The Violin Making School of America out in Utah looks rather good too, but it's REALLY far away. Normally I would be wiling to go anywhere, but I have a girlfriend and I really like seeing my family and friends.

 

    Now I know that sacrifices must be made in order to pursue my dream of being a luthier, but if I can afford to stay quasi-local I will. But if it happens that I will be much better off in the long run traveling farther to much better education opportunities then I may have to man up and do it.

 

   But I digress. Back to my main point. I was just wondering if anyone had any UNBIASED input as to which are(is) the best school(s) to attend for violin making as far as tuition and education quality is concerned.

 

    I thank anyone dearly for their input!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Graduate from any one of the three and you will have a start and may be able to find a job. You will find many people, myself included, who attended one of these schools for a few years, didn't graduate, and still are earning a living in the trade.

 

When I was considering going to SLC, a maker who owned a shop and had gone there suggested that I could have an acceptable experience at any of the three and that he might have space in his shop for me once I graduated. He considered a graduate to be qualified for an entry level job in a violin shop and in need of much practical training.

 

Having been to SLC, I am not sure that you could consider my opinion to be unbiased, but I think that there are good makers who have attended all 3 schools that you mention and I think that you could accomplish your basic goal through any of the three. I consider who you work with after graduation to be more important in guiding your future career.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All three are good. There's something to be said for networking in the geographic area that you'd like to be in long term. The job market is competitive near the violin making schools, and it pays to know people. Also, consider hanging out in a shop sort of like an 'intern' if they'll let you. You'll learn a lot, and may land a job before it even gets listed. A friend of mine got a job in a top shop that way even though he only had a year of repair school at Red Wing under his belt. I doubt his resume would have even been considered without the connection and opportunity to prove himself. In his case, working for free paid off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, what duane said. Chicago has a double-edged sword for you. You're in the middle of an absolute storm of amazing shops and makers and opportunites. And... you're in the middle of 100 violin makers all trying to get your market share. Becky, Roman, and the Aubbie/Lee are each great teachers, and you can't go wrong choosing one of the three.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You might want to visit each of the schools you're considering and spend a day at each to see how you feel about them.  You could visit classes (with permission) and talk to students.  There's no substitute for actually being at the school and getting a feeling about it, positive or negative.

 

Just in their settings, they're very different.  One setting might appeal to you more than the other two.  For example, if you like to snow ski, hike, mountain bike, you can't beat Salt Lake.  (That's assuming you'll have any free time.)  Chicago and Boston are both world cities, with a lot of cultural advantages.  But the Midwest is a different place from the East Coast.

 

No amount of second hand reading will let you know how you will feel, emotionally, about actually living and studying in a place.  You've got to physically be there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Muscles, What do you want to do for a living? If ultimately you wish to be a restorer, than maybe school would not be as productive as persistently searching for a top quality shop to take you on.

Jp

 

I think there was some talk of introducing some courses on repair at the Chicago school, but I'm not sure of that.  Anyway, if a school did offer some repair courses, in addition to new making courses, such repair courses would be a plus.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there was some talk of introducing some courses on repair at the Chicago school, but I'm not sure of that.  Anyway, if a school did offer some repair courses, in addition to new making courses, such repair courses would be a plus.

 

There is an optional repair class taught in the summer months at the Salt Lake school. Prospective students are always welcome. Just email ahead of time (info@vmsa.net) to let us know you are coming, and to make sure that we will be open.  - Aubbie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am looking to learn violin making, but also acquire some repair, restoration and maintenance skills as well. But primarily making. I'm not looking to learn whatever skill will make me the most money the fastest. I worked in a shop for a while and picked up some tidbits here and there, but nothing really substantial. So I am looking to really bolster my development as a luthier and get into the trade perhaps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm entering my 3rd year at the Chicago school, and would be happy to answer some questions. If you're in Pittsburgh, you might also try contacting Josh Beyer, who graduated from CSVM somewhat recently. http://beyerlutherie.com/

 

There is indeed one trimester (out of the 9 trimesters to graduate) dedicated solely to repair and setup, taught by Henni Hahn. They just started doing this 2 years ago.

 

One interesting difference between VMSA and CSVM that I didn't know about until recently:

The hours at CSVM are pretty strictly limited - you don't work on your school instruments (including the graduation exam) outside of school hours. I think the idea is that everyone's on equal footing - those who must work to support themselves are not at a time disadvantage.

By contrast, VMSA requires you to be a self-sufficient builder by the time you finish - your graduation exam is done at home with your tools in your own space. I'm not sure but I think you can work on school instruments outside of hours at VMSA.

 

Other unspoken difference: CSVM students tend to finish in 9 or 10 trimesters. I'm under the impression (but not 100% sure) that the VMSA curriculum takes closer to 4 years to complete (3 years for international students), but students are all ready and set up to build immediately after they graduate. Not everyone at CSVM has a full tool set and home workshop set up when they graduate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would that you should visit all three, and find out where their recent (last five years or so) graduates landed after school. The school should be able to facilitate some contact with recent graduates so that you can ask them about their experience. This will give you real data to make a decision with.

 

Jerry's point is a good one, but I think may be less easy to do now than it was in the past. Personally I won't hire anyone who has not already had good training.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm entering my 3rd year at the Chicago school, and would be happy to answer some questions. If you're in Pittsburgh, you might also try contacting Josh Beyer, who graduated from CSVM somewhat recently. http://beyerlutherie.com/

 

There is indeed one trimester (out of the 9 trimesters to graduate) dedicated solely to repair and setup, taught by Henni Hahn. They just started doing this 2 years ago.

 

One interesting difference between VMSA and CSVM that I didn't know about until recently:

The hours at CSVM are pretty strictly limited - you don't work on your school instruments (including the graduation exam) outside of school hours. I think the idea is that everyone's on equal footing - those who must work to support themselves are not at a time disadvantage.

By contrast, VMSA requires you to be a self-sufficient builder by the time you finish - your graduation exam is done at home with your tools in your own space. I'm not sure but I think you can work on school instruments outside of hours at VMSA.

 

Other unspoken difference: CSVM students tend to finish in 9 or 10 trimesters. I'm under the impression (but not 100% sure) that the VMSA curriculum takes closer to 4 years to complete (3 years for international students), but students are all ready and set up to build immediately after they graduate. Not everyone at CSVM has a full tool set and home workshop set up when they graduate.

Josh is a fine guy and you will get to see my violin he is making for me, a copy of the Chanot-Chardon Stradivari.  He is varnishing!

 

dlb

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm entering my 3rd year at the Chicago school, and would be happy to answer some questions. If you're in Pittsburgh, you might also try contacting Josh Beyer, who graduated from CSVM somewhat recently. http://beyerlutherie.com/

 

There is indeed one trimester (out of the 9 trimesters to graduate) dedicated solely to repair and setup, taught by Henni Hahn. They just started doing this 2 years ago.

 

One interesting difference between VMSA and CSVM that I didn't know about until recently:

The hours at CSVM are pretty strictly limited - you don't work on your school instruments (including the graduation exam) outside of school hours. I think the idea is that everyone's on equal footing - those who must work to support themselves are not at a time disadvantage.

By contrast, VMSA requires you to be a self-sufficient builder by the time you finish - your graduation exam is done at home with your tools in your own space. I'm not sure but I think you can work on school instruments outside of hours at VMSA.

 

Other unspoken difference: CSVM students tend to finish in 9 or 10 trimesters. I'm under the impression (but not 100% sure) that the VMSA curriculum takes closer to 4 years to complete (3 years for international students), but students are all ready and set up to build immediately after they graduate. Not everyone at CSVM has a full tool set and home workshop set up when they graduate.

Peter gave me wood to make a violin during the summer. I think that it was to encourage me. Charlie discouraged us from working on school instruments at home, but we all started our own stuff at home.

 

The school had tools, but you were encouraged to purchase your own. We had a "tool check", I believe that it was the end of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd year. Your set of tools was laid out on a table in the room upstairs for other students to view. It helped new students figure out what to purchase and we were able to exclude purchasing things that others had bought that just didn't work. One student, who I will not name, purchased a large amount of tools from Woodcraft for the tool check and then returned them afterward!

 

As for the time dis-advantage, I left early on Fridays to work. I was a Nurse and worked weekend nights. Some students were offered the opportunity to work at Peter's shop. I don't recall a discount on tuition, and there was a loss of time at school, but it was invaluable experience.

 

I don't see anything that you have mentioned as a plus or minus for one program or the other, although being out in the big, bad world of Violin Making and not having the tools to complete a violin doesn't exactly seem like a good idea. You can, and I have seen it done, bend ribs around a fat curing iron...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Take this with a grain of salt, as I sincerely doubt you will ever hear this opinion from a well-known maker here who uses their name. I have heard this from several world-class makers though. They weren't even talking to me, but here I am selling them out. Regret! As in, "I would have matured as a maker faster/reached this level I'm on sooner if I had never gone to school"...I swear it, more than one VSA award winner has said this (to my spouse). Schools teach one true way of doing the job. It's a sort of indoctrination and you just might spend a decade or even more "unlearning" some of it. This is an alternate view, obviously, but a caveat to ponder perhaps.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With any learning opportunity you will only ever out what you put in. The instructors that I know from these schools, both present and past, are all top notch. Each of them have a wealth of knowledge, some of which you will only ever get to by asking the right questions.

I think some of the best things I have learned about this business have been the tidbits picked up from Bill Salchow, Rene Morel, or a host of others that we just bombarded with questions on the Tank hall deck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

^^True Dat! But you have to start somewhere.

 

I was getting nowhere with dulcimers and mandolins...

I stand corrected. And no one else I ever heard talking about this would have said something bad about their teachers either. It's probably more an inevitable set of problems attendant with any trade school environment that promises to release students straight into careers.

Those who get experience working in a one-on-one apprenticeship sort of situation have a set of advantages that might be difficult to overcome for those without that opportunity--same as those who go to school versus those who don't. School is a good thing, of course. Still, each school has their method. And those who attend one of the major schools are unlikely to follow that training up with a lengthy apprenticeship. Anyway, sorry for blathering.

I think as long as you want to constantly learn and improve, it doesn't matter how you start.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I would have matured as a maker faster/reached this level I'm on sooner if I had never gone to school"...I swear it, more than one VSA award winner has said this (to my spouse). Schools teach one true way of doing the job. It's a sort of indoctrination and you just might spend a decade or even more "unlearning" some of it. This is an alternate view, obviously, but a caveat to ponder perhaps.

This sounds to me like a 'grass is greener' way of thinking. 3 years in violin making school is enough to give you a well rounded understanding of making, but I expect that it is important to limit the complexity presented to the budding young students. Too much information all at once doesn't necessarily help you learn faster. Once you leave school there are many paths you can follow, and that well rounded education enables you to pursue those paths more easily. I have certainly seen people struggle to grow because they are hanging on to one way of doing things, and don't make enough effort to collaborate with, and learn from their colleagues. I don't see violin making school as the cause of this necessarily. Keeping an open mind and pursuing opportunities for growth (VSA events, and Oberlin for example) will allow you to move past the limitations of 3 year violin making schools.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow. Thanks for all of the replies and info! I didn't think that people would be so willing to give me advice but I was wrong lol. MJ I just checked Josh Beyer's site and he has marvelous instruments in his gallery, and from what I can see I live right next to the guy! Maybe I could arrange to visit his shop and get a personal interview of sorts.

 

As far as apprenticing vs schooling I would like to add that I feel as though if one were apprenticing he/she would be much more suceptable to indoctrination than at a school. I can only say this because I was an apprentice for a while and it's hard to figure out other methods when you only have one first hand source to work with. Plus, you are pressured to implement these practices as you learn them. Whereas at an institute I feel like one would be surrounded by a myriad of different people and have more opportunities for learning from different sources. But this is all speculation and I could be talking out of my butt.

 

To be perfectly honest, the scariest part of this is trying to finance it. Getting some kind of loan and also affording to live there too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In terms of where the most luthiers get started these days, one might make a case that the most successful violin making school is right here on MN, but it's based in Canada, of course, and the OP asked about US schools.   :)  :ph34r:

 

It certainly has the most diverse, numerous and impressive faculty.  

 

Now, if Addie would just pop up to design a diploma......  :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 but I expect that it is important to limit the complexity presented to the budding young students. Too much information all at once doesn't necessarily help you learn faster.

 Yes, agreed.

 

An educator once said, "The only things you can learn are the things you almost already know."  Knowledge acquisition is a gradual, step by step process, not to be hurried.  The purpose of any school or teacher is to make clear what those steps are.  Otherwise you are walking around randomly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...