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Indiana University violin shop - future uncertain


JacksonMaberry
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I am trying to understand this course of study which Jackson has brought to our attention.  Here is a PDF description of the course:  http://music.indiana.edu/degrees/undergraduate/files/requirements/StringTech2011.pdf

It appears to be a two year course that will result in an Associate of Science degree, String Instrument Technology.  24 credit hours are in the area of string repair.  There are also some general education courses which add up to a total ofabout 60 credit hours.  I do not see any course focused specifically on instrument building, but it is probably tucked inside a repair course.

Germany appears to still have a Guild system in the luthery business.  What Jacob Saunders has accomplished is a big deal.

Mike D

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I did sign and I do understand both views.  Here in central EU the school system is different from US and University programmes are mostly theoretical, even on technical schools they ar emore concerned about theory behind inventions or processes than the actual production. Woodworking faculty at local university has department of applied physics where you can do research of acoustics but it is not really about making violin. These crafts are domain of high schools that emphasise the physical work and skills needed.

Not long ago legislature didn't allow you to make business as luthier unless you had the education either in luthiery, or general woodworking plus three years of practice at luthier post somewhere or without formal education but ten or so years of practice. Same applied to plumbers, electricians etc...  Later some of these laws were loosened because there was no luthiery school in whole country and some others were pretty far apart and the craft could be learned from "masters" (often father or grandfather etc.) without formal proof.

I understandJacobs view that without requirement of solid hands-on formal education everyone can put a sign on the door but before "market force" closes his busines ambitions there may be many many frustrated customers and damaged instruments...

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In the US, one can open a violin business without any training or accreditation whatsoever. That's one of the reasons the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers was formed: To provide musicians with a list of people who have met certain training or proficiency standards.

http://www.afvbm.org/american-federation-of-violin-and-bowmakers-about-us

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

What is it that I remain (even though I have never called myself Professor Burgess)? :(:)

 

I will prudently keep my council on that!

 

America seems to lack an adequate vocational education system, and seems intent on its universities degenerating to a secondry education level, where people get irretrievably into debt. Seems unsurprising that they need the chineese if anything needs to get made.

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56 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

 

I will prudently keep my council on that!

 

America seems to lack an adequate vocational education system, and seems intent on its universities degenerating to a secondry education level, where people get irretrievably into debt. Seems unsurprising that they need the chineese if anything needs to get made.

And it would seem that Austria needs the Germans if anything needs to get made. :P

Austrian imports from Germany (per capita) are many many times what the US imports from China.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

In the US, one can open a violin business without any training or accreditation whatsoever. That's one of the reasons the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers was formed: To provide musicians with a list of people who have met certain training or proficiency standards.

http://www.afvbm.org/american-federation-of-violin-and-bowmakers-about-us

You forgotten that famous integrity the Federation is famous for....  :)

Bottom line is what good does it if he fixes it well but I can't get it back ?

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55 minutes ago, carl stross said:

You forgotten that famous integrity the Federation is famous for....  :)

Bottom line is what good does it if he fixes it well but I can't get it back ?

At least one person has been kicked out of the Federation (or resigned preemptively) when integrity issues developed. Those with known integrity issues are not admitted in the first place. So yes, the Federation continues to place high emphasis on integrity.

54 minutes ago, carl stross said:

Austrians are Germans. 

Separate countries.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

In the US, one can open a violin business without any training or accreditation whatsoever. That's one of the reasons the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers was formed: To provide musicians with a list of people who have met certain training or proficiency standards.

http://www.afvbm.org/american-federation-of-violin-and-bowmakers-about-us

There is similar organisation here as well but, sadly, only two or three makers are worth their salt, most others are barely capable of making VSO or "crude folk fiddles"...

Our country completely lost any connection to violinmaking during Czechoslovakian era as all the instrument making was located in the furthest edge of Czech rep. near the German borders (former Schonbach area) and had virtually no slovak students.

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6 hours ago, Mike_Danielson said:

I am trying to understand this course of study which Jackson has brought to our attention.  Here is a PDF description of the course:  http://music.indiana.edu/degrees/undergraduate/files/requirements/StringTech2011.pdf

It appears to be a two year course that will result in an Associate of Science degree, String Instrument Technology.  24 credit hours are in the area of string repair.  There are also some general education courses which add up to a total ofabout 60 credit hours.  I do not see any course focused specifically on instrument building, but it is probably tucked inside a repair course.

Germany appears to still have a Guild system in the luthery business.  What Jacob Saunders has accomplished is a big deal.

Mike D

Mike, 

I understand your puzzlement. The program is, as I understand it, different enough from the other violin trade schools in the US to warrant some explanation. 

Firstly, because we're in a large conservatory, the courses are open to all students, meaning that up in the shop there are people like me who are striving for life as a professional luthier, as well as doctoral trombone students looking for an interesting elective. 

Because of that mixture of ability and dedication, and because we have only one instructor, it amounts to a one-room schoolhouse. Each student is going at their own pace, focusing on different things. The courses are named "violin repair" as a convenient catch-all, as it is difficult to name a class in which one person is making two violins, one a cello, another cooking varnish, several repairing school violins, etc.

This is not to say that there is no formal organization to Tom's method of teaching, just that everyone is going at their own speed. Everyone starts by learning to sharpen. Then one makes split soundposts with hand tools until they are correct, then learns to open a violin, replace the splinters, chalk fit a bassbar, cleat cracks, and close the violin. Then you make a walnut form based on the Titian and proceed in making a violin.

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Back to the topic: My understanding of the original purpose of the position created at IU was to install a luthier capable of restoring the instruments owned by the university who would also be able to provide services for the instruments owned by the students.  I believe Ole Dahl was involved before Tom Sparks.  That position morphed into also providing classes for the music students.

If my information above is correct, which I believe it is, over time the initial purpose was overshadowed by the class.  

My understanding is that there is still interest, at least by some at the U, to continue on having a luthier at the institution.  I do not know if a new luthier is installed, the focus would return, in part, to the original intentions for that position or not.

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Jeffrey,

Yes, Ole Dahl, who trained at the Hjorth shop in Copenhagen, was the first professor. However, it is not the case that the classes were added after the fact. Tom, Mark Womack, and others were Ole's first students and began studying with him at IU as soon as he took the job. 

Further, the IU shop still maintains the schools collection of instruments and also provides services to the students. This is still a major focus for the program - when someone comes up for repair, Tom drops what he's doing to take care of it, and if he finds a teachable moment in the instrument he gathers us around to learn while he works. By necessity, he delegates certain things to more experienced students, because we have so many players to help. 

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

In the US, one can open a violin business without any training or accreditation whatsoever. >>

I'm fortunate to be in this country where a formal training or accreditation isn't necessary.

I'm honest and tell people that I'm a self taught maker trying to sell violas.  

This is similar to a self taught doctor trying to sell cadavers. 

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57 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Jeffrey,

Yes, Ole Dahl, who trained at the Hjorth shop in Copenhagen, was the first professor. However, it is not the case that the classes were added after the fact. Tom, Mark Womack, and others were Ole's first students and began studying with him at IU as soon as he took the job. 

Further, the IU shop still maintains the schools collection of instruments and also provides services to the students. This is still a major focus for the program - when someone comes up for repair, Tom drops what he's doing to take care of it, and if he finds a teachable moment in the instrument he gathers us around to learn while he works. By necessity, he delegates certain things to more experienced students, because we have so many players to help. 

JM: Not trying to be abrupt, but I didn't say that it morphed "after" the position was filled.  Just that it morphed from the original intention. Starker, others in the U, and industry professionals were involved in the creation of that position and the selection of Ole Dahl to fill it.

I've very recently seen the list of the collection held by the U.  I'm also aware of what's been done and what has not.

Personally, I think a class that allows music students a little hands-on is a good thing... and that sentiment is very likely why classes were established.  Many string players just don't understand much about the instruments they rely on.  If exposure in that class inspires others to pursue further education and a career as a maker or restorer, that's great too.  As possibly unpopular as my view may be, I'm not sure a conservatory/university setting is ideal for a serious "program", however.  

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I seem to have misunderstood you, sorry about that. 

As for the collection, the fine instruments are managed by a cello instructor that I'm sure you know, who has to formally request any work and is under no obligation to have that work done by the school luthier. If he does elect to have Tom do the work, there is a Byzantine web of internal accounting procedures that come into effect. The budget that the administration allots for the maintenance of the fine fiddles is unfortunately small. Such is the nature of bureaucracy at such a massive school.

Maybe you're right about the program here, though I think that if the right person were hired and given ample support to develop the program it could become quite viable and competitive. 

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26 minutes ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Maybe you're right about the program here, though I think that if the right person were hired and given ample support to develop the program it could become quite viable and competitive. 

"there is a Byzantine web of internal accounting procedures that come into effect..... Such is the nature of bureaucracy at such a massive school."

Thus, the problem.  It's a university, not a trade school... just my opinion.

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1 minute ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Right there with you, Jeffrey! 

Still, if the budget and procedure for maintenance and restoration could be streamlined for the "right" person (connected, skilled, energetic, good with people), the position and the opportunity to teach some classes, could be a very attractive one.  Maybe too much to ask?

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