TunaDay

Conservatory Instrument Collections

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When I was an undergraduate at a prominent Ivy League college many decades ago, I was in a conversation with the chair of the music department and he told me about a collection of musical instruments that were left to the school by alumni.  They were sitting in a closet because there was no program to catalogue or care for the instruments.  I asked to go through the closet and found some very interesting instruments.

More recently, I've noticed that some of our prominent musicians were loaned instruments by their conservatories when they started their music studies, including Juilliard and the Royal School of Music.  Are there prominent collections of musical instruments held by colleges and conservatories that we hear little about?  Perhaps schools like Curtis, New England, Thornton, Oberlin, and so on?  And are any of these schools looking for instruments that might be willed to them, perhaps as living will artifacts for tax purposes?

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I don't think such programs are uncommon, but I don't know.   Berkeley lent historical instruments to students when I as there.   I believe that collection was officially held by the UC library.

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Eastman has a Stradivari (the 1714 "May-Jacquet, Vormbaum"), an Andrea Guarneri, a Vuillaume, a Guadagnini, a Lupot, and an Oddone. They are not maintained well ... students need to go through an application process in order to sign them out (with faculty approval), but the instruments are nonetheless quite badly abused.

Here's a recording of the Stradivari violin in use by a (now-former) Eastman student ... it is rather amateurishly set up.

One of the local Rochester luthiers took it upon himself to increase the rib height of the Andrea Guarneri ...

The Guadagnini is quite badly caved in; it is probably in danger of imminent collapse.

The Oddone was a very fine example, in nearly mint condition, donated to the school by John Celentano (a former professor of violin and chamber music at Eastman) along with his gold mounted Tubbs and William Salchow bows ... after the least 4-5 years of use by careless students, it is nearly unrecognizable, and much of the varnish is now gone.

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Back in the early 80s, the instruments at UC Berkeley were also shamefully maintained.   I know there were quite a few instruments, but don't know all the names.  I was lent a Vuillaume, in a very nice Vuillaume veneered case, with a Nurnberger bow.   The school also had a Strad, but that was not normally lent to students.  You could however fairly easily make special arrangements to play it.   Because of real horrible setups, neither the Strad, or the Vuillaume I was lent didn't really perform wonderfully.  I do hope the situation has improved.     

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The IU Jacobs School of Music has a vast collection of bows and instruments, as well as a luthier on the faculty to maintain them. I haven't seen them all, but I have seen the school's Alessandro Gagliano and GB Guadagnini violins, a couple of Voirins, three Sartorys, and a Postacchini cello. The last of which was actually just donated this week. 

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One needs to think hard about where instruments are donated (a Cal university-no way). Sometimes keeping them in private hands is the best fate for a nice fiddle.

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Oh well.  Just working through the tedium of preparing my will.   Leaving instruments to a school seemed like a great idea for a moment, since I was the beneficiary of alumni fine instrument donations in the past.  Now I realize why instrument collections, like those at the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, are accompanied by endowments to care for them.  

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32 minutes ago, TunaDay said:

Oh well.  Just working through the tedium of preparing my will.   Leaving instruments to a school seemed like a great idea for a moment, since I was the beneficiary of alumni fine instrument donations in the past.  Now I realize why instrument collections, like those at the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, are accompanied by endowments to care for them.  

Perhaps sell your instruments, then donate the proceeds to an institution, like those above, that are in need of funds to maintain their existing collection.

Unless maybe you have something that's really of historical interest that isn't well represented in collections.

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