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nathan slobodkin

American Federation of Violin and Bow makers

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In a recent thread involving the violin technology shop at University of Indiana there were a number of comments about training of violin makers and how the public can know whether the person they are trusting to work on their  prized and possibly valuable instrument is competent to help them. While in some parts of the world business owners including violin makers are required either by law or custom to have certain credentials in their field of expertise in the Americas there  is a tradition of totally free enterprise and anyone can call themselves a violin maker and start doing business the next day. While there are a few self taught makers, dealers or restorers who are extremely competent there are far more who are taking advantage of the public's ignorance and selling shoddy overpriced goods or charging for repairs that leave the instrument in worse shape than before.

The American Federation of Violln and Bow  Makers was founded to encourage the proper training of violin makers and to encourage high standards of competence and professional conduct. When I first heard of the Federation I had been working in music stores and taking classes on repair for a decade but recognized my limitations and asked the secretary what should I do to become a professional worthy of membership. I was sent a bound booklet with information about the organization which included the requirements for membership which at that time were three years of training as a maker, three years of training as a restorer and three years of running an instrument business followed by presenting an instrument for inspection of the governing board and then again by the full membership who voted up or down and could award either a full membership or an associate membership to people who had passed the requirements but had specific skills which the members felt should be improved. I did that. No complaining. No messing about. Ten years after my initial inquiry I had completed the requirements and was elected to membership.

As Jeffrey has pointed out there are many highly skilled, respected, scrupulously honest and in some cases downright nice violin professionals who for one reason or another have chosen not to join the Federation and whom I reccomend to clients on a regular basis. However when I am asked how to tell which violin or bow maker or restorer will be a good person to contact I feel comfortable reccomending that the customer look on the Federation membership list. Even if I don't know every member personally I do know that they have demonstrated a professional level of competence to a knowledgable group of their peers and that they have not been caught with their hand in the cookie jar or acting unprofessionally. If they are caught in unscrupulous acts then we throw them out.

Returning to the training of violin makers. For a high standard of competence in any trade or profession to be maintained the students  can not be allowed to decide for themselves when they have achieved an adequate level of competence. That must be decided by their teachers or the profession as a whole. I certainly remember in the second year of my apprenticeship after completing a few dozen instruments thinking "wow I've really got this now" In the following year I started to panic when I realized how much there was still to learn. I am still studying 30 years later. The problem with some of the shorter or less formal training programs is that they give enough training to give students a false sense of their own abilities. Obviously some people have the discipline to use the short course as a stepping stone to continuing their education but too many start doing business and contribute to the problems in the field while proclaiming both to themselves and their customers that they have "apprenticed" with some one or have completed a full course of study.

It is because of this that I have gone to extreme lengths to put off some rather important life issues and drive all night through one of the worst snow storms of the year to attend  the Federation bi-annual meeting and exhibition which starts tonight and runs through the players meets makers exhibit Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Center in NY city.

Hope I'll see some of you there.

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Good points all Nathan.  Sorry to miss the convention, but never sorry to stay out of Manhattan.

There really is no reasonable argument against the AFVBM having done a lot of good for our profession.  Even those who choose not to be members have benefitted from the existence of the AFVBM.  I must admit to getting a little (by little I mean a whole bunch) impatient with those who choose to criticize this organization, the VSA competition, or the Oberlin programs,  and have never been to any of the above.  The one thing that seems to be very consistent with the best of the best in our business, is they are the faces you see at these kind of continuing education opportunities; and those that choose to throw insults from the outside out of envy, contempt, or because it happens to be that time of night,  tend not to be the best of the best....at least not when the light of peer scrutiny which of course is the very fear that prompts the criticism in the first place.

Enjoy the convention, and I hope you get to see the old Workshop room...it looks a lot different these days.

 

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Glad you made it, Nathan.

What's been remarkable about various posts most critical of the Federation, is that they have come from people who are also the most ignorant about the Federation.

"Just a social gathering?" Not at all! Two recent events were visiting the Chimei Museum in China, and touring the D"Addario string manufacturing facility (manufacturing approximately 3/4 million strings per day!).

Sure, the social aspect is great too. :)

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Really nice convention. Just got home. Some darned nice lectures/presentations.

Daniel Weishaar (the current President and Hans Weisshaar's grandson) is a pretty amazing guy.

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29 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Really nice convention. Just got home. Some darned nice lectures/presentations.

Daniel Weishaar (the current President and Hans Weisshaar's grandson) is a pretty amazing guy.

How many new members?

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1 minute ago, David Burgess said:

Probably three. I wasn't present when the outcome of the voting was announced.

I hope you did not play hooky from the business meeting....

 

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It was very nice meeting you Nathan and chatting for a bit. Your instruments are stunning and I had a wonderful time taking your awesome cello for a test run. Thanks for your post and participation in this event.

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14 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

I hope you did not play hooky from the business meeting....

 

I didn't. The voting and results were at a later occasion, to give people more time to examine and discuss the instruments submitted.

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5 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I didn't. The voting and results were at a later occasion, to give people more time to examine and discuss the instruments submitted.

I had my eyes out for Hulk Hogan yesterday but no dice. Next time.

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I've seen no evidence that the AFVBM isn't a sterling organization of its type.  I've occasionally gotten impatient myself with posters who call for it to apply more stringent discipline to erring members.  Even organizations with an almost absolutely free hand in how brutally they enforce discipline (the CPSU's problems with Lavrenti Beria's unauthorized but officially ignored part-time hobbies of rape and murder come to mind, as do the recurring cycles of executions of CP officials for corruption and economic crimes in the PRC) cannot always keep their membership from straying.   Those professional organizations with sufficient power to do what some posters seem to want from the AFVBM (defrocking and license revocation) usually seem to have too many internal conflicts-of-interest to function well in this area anyway (I could, but won't, name some well-known US professional organizations in this regard).   I say things are fine, and don't fix what ain't broke.  :)

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On 3/14/2018 at 11:01 AM, nathan slobodkin said:

In a recent thread involving the violin technology shop at University of Indiana there were a number of comments about training of violin makers and how the public can know whether the person they are trusting to work on their  prized and possibly valuable instrument is competent to help them. While in some parts of the world business owners including violin makers are required either by law or custom to have certain credentials in their field of expertise in the Americas there  is a tradition of totally free enterprise and anyone can call themselves a violin maker and start doing business the next day. While there are a few self taught makers, dealers or restorers who are extremely competent there are far more who are taking advantage of the public's ignorance and selling shoddy overpriced goods or charging for repairs that leave the instrument in worse shape than before.

The American Federation of Violln and Bow  Makers was founded to encourage the proper training of violin makers and to encourage high standards of competence and professional conduct. When I first heard of the Federation I had been working in music stores and taking classes on repair for a decade but recognized my limitations and asked the secretary what should I do to become a professional worthy of membership. I was sent a bound booklet with information about the organization which included the requirements for membership which at that time were three years of training as a maker, three years of training as a restorer and three years of running an instrument business followed by presenting an instrument for inspection of the governing board and then again by the full membership who voted up or down and could award either a full membership or an associate membership to people who had passed the requirements but had specific skills which the members felt should be improved. I did that. No complaining. No messing about. Ten years after my initial inquiry I had completed the requirements and was elected to membership.

As Jeffrey has pointed out there are many highly skilled, respected, scrupulously honest and in some cases downright nice violin professionals who for one reason or another have chosen not to join the Federation and whom I reccomend to clients on a regular basis. However when I am asked how to tell which violin or bow maker or restorer will be a good person to contact I feel comfortable reccomending that the customer look on the Federation membership list. Even if I don't know every member personally I do know that they have demonstrated a professional level of competence to a knowledgable group of their peers and that they have not been caught with their hand in the cookie jar or acting unprofessionally. If they are caught in unscrupulous acts then we throw them out.

Returning to the training of violin makers. For a high standard of competence in any trade or profession to be maintained the students  can not be allowed to decide for themselves when they have achieved an adequate level of competence. That must be decided by their teachers or the profession as a whole. I certainly remember in the second year of my apprenticeship after completing a few dozen instruments thinking "wow I've really got this now" In the following year I started to panic when I realized how much there was still to learn. I am still studying 30 years later. The problem with some of the shorter or less formal training programs is that they give enough training to give students a false sense of their own abilities. Obviously some people have the discipline to use the short course as a stepping stone to continuing their education but too many start doing business and contribute to the problems in the field while proclaiming both to themselves and their customers that they have "apprenticed" with some one or have completed a full course of study.

It is because of this that I have gone to extreme lengths to put off some rather important life issues and drive all night through one of the worst snow storms of the year to attend  the Federation bi-annual meeting and exhibition which starts tonight and runs through the players meets makers exhibit Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Center in NY city.

Hope I'll see some of you there.

Nate,

Good to see you there!

Perhaps a peer review arm of AFVBM could emerge to qualify the work of non-members....

Joe

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4 hours ago, BassClef said:

I had my eyes out for Hulk Hogan yesterday but no dice. Next time.

:)

I didn't stick around for the "Makers Meet Players" event on Sunday, since I don't have anything to exhibit or sell.

Thanks for the review of the event though. There are some really fine makers among the bunch,  and you have done a service to both players and makers.

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58 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

:)

I didn't stick around for the "Makers Meet Players" event on Sunday, since I don't have anything to exhibit or sell.

Thanks for the review of the event though. There are some really fine makers among the bunch,  and you have done a service to both players and makers.

Care to share your name or background BassClef?

 

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Thanks for writing this, Nathan. I was irritated as well by what went down in my thread, and moreso because of the slander against the Federation than anything else. 

Ever since I learned about the Federation I have aspired to be a member. I hope one day to make it and will work as hard as I can.

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11 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Thanks for writing this, Nathan. I was irritated as well by what went down in my thread, and moreso because of the slander against the Federation than anything else. 

Ever since I learned about the Federation I have aspired to be a member. I hope one day to make it and will work as hard as I can.

Well, you're free to be irritated and some of us are free to irritate you. That's the benefit of freedom of speech. :lol:

There was NO slander against the Federation. 

slander

ˈslɑːndə/

noun

LAW

1.

the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation.

"he is suing the TV company for slander"

verb

1.

make false and damaging statements about (someone).

You're never too old to learn what words actually mean.

The reality is that some of the Federation's members were crooks. One BIG crook was the President. There were more crooks than the two I mentioned. Given that the Federation recommends members to the ( unsuspecting ) public it would be NICE if the Federation would offer some sort of guarantee should one of the members be less than honest. The argument put forward by one of the members here that other similar institutions are no better, is complete rubbish. David B's argument that one should not criticize the Federation because one doesn't know enough if anything about it is another complete nonsense. One criticizes what one sees or becomes aware of in the respective context. Absent that, anybody could do anything. 

Get brain in gear before posting and slowly release the clutch. And do not confuse MN with reality

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1 hour ago, carl stross said:

Well, you're free to be irritated and some of us are free to irritate you. That's the benefit of freedom of speech. :lol:

There was NO slander against the Federation. 

 

On this board, it's probably not a good idea to irritate me, however.  How about the word innuendo?

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12 hours ago, carl stross said:

The reality is that some of the Federation's members were crooks. One BIG crook was the President. There were more crooks than the two I mentioned. Given that the Federation recommends members to the ( unsuspecting ) public it would be NICE if the Federation would offer some sort of guarantee should one of the members be less than honest. The argument put forward by one of the members here that other similar institutions are no better, is complete rubbish. David B's argument that one should not criticize the Federation because one doesn't know enough if anything about it is another complete nonsense. One criticizes what one sees or becomes aware of in the respective context. Absent that, anybody could do anything. 

 

Carl, the Federation does not have the law enforcement or prosecutorial powers of a police department or the criminal court system. During the application process, there are opportunities for others to question, or comment on an applicant's level of integrity. if it isn't good, the applicant doesn't get in. If that level should deteriorate after one has become a member,  or past misdeeds surface, about the only recourse the Federation has is to kick that person out. Under US law, punishments like beatings and whippings are no longer allowed. :P

Which past president was a "BIG crook", and when did he/she serve? I've been a member for decades, have served on the board once or twice, and know of no such situation. It sounds like you really have no clue what you're talking about! So yes, I don't think one should criticize if they really don't know anything about it, or are just making stuff up.

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4 hours ago, carl stross said:

Well, you're free to be irritated and some of us are free to irritate you. That's the benefit of freedom of speech. :lol:

There was NO slander against the Federation. 

You're never too old to learn what words actually mean.
 

Slander and free speech? Not all forms of speech are protected. Here's something to help you out with the legal definition of slander, since you have asserted that "you're never too old to learn what words actually mean."  ;)

https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Libel+and+Slander

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On 3/19/2018 at 4:47 PM, David Burgess said:

:)

I didn't stick around for the "Makers Meet Players" event on Sunday, since I don't have anything to exhibit.............

What delightfully refreshing restraint on your part (and possibly candor as well).   A scandal in the media could have been so counterproductive. :ph34r::lol:

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7 hours ago, carl stross said:

Well, you're free to be irritated and some of us are free to irritate you. That's the benefit of freedom of speech. :lol:

What's often misunderstood is that this idea, while a basic component of Western civilization, was originally considered two separate rights (with two different Greek terms for them), that of any enfranchised citizen to vote or to express their views on matters before the public assembly, and that of saying things in ordinary conversation or in writing.  While the former was generally unlimited in scope, as a matter of political equality. the latter was subject to constraints of custom as well as of law, to limit the degree of offense given to others, and to protect public morals (referring here to the concept that the Romans later called the mos maiorem, representing the unwritten customary basis of the society).  Confounding the two as a single concept, IMHO, has led to a massive amount of confusion and mischief.

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4 hours ago, Violadamore said:

What delightfully refreshing restraint on your part (and possibly candor as well).   A scandal in the media could have been so counterproductive. :ph34r::lol:

What scandal pertaining to me? Just post any alleged such scandals, and I will be happy to respond publicly in this thread. Didn't you once allege that I'd had issues associated with employment in New York, despite the fact that I have never been employed in New York, and have never even applied for any sort of job in New York? You and others (Carl and Jacob?) might want to consider more reliable sources of information than whatever y'all have used in the past.

My track record is actually really clean, and I'm willing to take on superstitions and fantasies alleging otherwise.

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