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Santagiuliana

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3 hours ago, Santagiuliana said:

...Is going to violin making school the best path for someone my age?...

You might get a better answer to this question if we knew your age.

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There are a limited number of well paying full time jobs available in the industry, and I would say the competition for those jobs is pretty tough, you have to be really really good to make a good living at it, if you're not the top of your field better to make it a hobby or part time work.

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Hello and welcome,

You’re certainly not the first person to discover an interest in luthierie while in music school. There are a lot of people who started from a similar place.

I think the place to start is to ask yourself some blunt questions. Is there anything else that you want to do as much? Do you feel like it’s something you’d be just as happy doing in ten years? Are you willing to make major changes in your life to support your career that might involve significant risk? Take some time to consider each question—they’re intended as an exercise to envision what your life could look like, not a quick test to eliminate ideas.

You’re at a good age to go to a violin making school, so don’t worry about that part. Working as an apprentice can be a great start as well, but it’s a lot harder to find a spot.

As far as the financial side, it’s not a very lucrative career, so you have to be ready to plan accordingly. Many luthiers work more than one job to make ends meet. Repair is a more stable field than making for most people because there’s a guarantee of getting paid for your work once you sign it in; as a maker, you have to do all the work and then hope you can sell your instruments. It is possible for a good maker to build up a clientele or establish a working relationship with a shop, but it takes a long time to cultivate. Comparing your income to that of a freelance player is difficult because both vary considerably. You might be able to make more as a player if you’re able to market yourself so that you keep busy. Per hour, the pay is generally higher for playing, but your hours aren’t as consistent     unless you’re playing in a group full-time.

Once you have some solid tool skills, you can apply to shops. There are a lot of small shops out there that have rental fleets in need of maintenance. This is where you may need to start, then you can work your way up to more responsibilities as you learn.

As to your question about whether you can succeed, it is possible to make a career for yourself, but it takes a lot of hard work and determination. There are no guarantees, even if you follow the conventional path.

Playing ability definitely won’t hurt, but it’s not uncommon in the field. Some players do get into sales. Typically, you need to know a lot about the history and makers and have a good sense for matches between instruments and players. 

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17 minutes ago, Santagiuliana said:

hey brad, I'm 19.

IMHO, hunker down and finish your degree at NEC before you start considering alternatives.  A lot of us have "been there".  Mid-flight through your undergrad years is rough in any discipline.  :)

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5 hours ago, Santagiuliana said:

I have been getting a lot of satisfaction from woodworking.

The trade-off is satisfaction vs. having food and maybe eventually a house.

There are other threads on MN about careers in the instrument making and repair field that you should read up on; it has been discussed at length before.

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I think the previous post are a little too dark for me. 

I think life as a musician is much more difficult than being a luthier. 

The question is, are you an outstanding player? One of the top of your class at NEC? Then I would think it might be good to pursue playing. 

Do you have excellent social skills? Together with your playing abilities you might become an excellent sales person. Or maybe one day you can open your shop and become dealer.

Or Are you really good with your fine motor skills, do you think you can one day repair high end instruments? Maybe consider violin restoration. 

Compared to Europe, at the moment the US has a lack of skilled restorers. That might change in a decade or two, no one can predict that. There are a lot of schools that pump out a lot of young violin makers. However it is difficult to get good training in the US (much easier in Europe , personally I believe the general level of restoration is a lot higher there(Germany, UK especially)). Maybe consider training in Europe.

Are you into new making? There are makers that barely make ends meet, but also a few that scoop in a six figure income. It all depends how skilled you are. 

Most guys I know have frequented a violin making school, although I know a few that have pursued an apprenticeship. Schools will only teach you new making and very little restoration. North Bennet Street school is an outstanding school by the way. The are also schools in Italy (Cremona and Milano) that are pretty much free but by far not as good. Mittenwald is also a very good school. 

So you need skills and a little bit of luck. I wish you all the best. Although I originally planned becoming a physicist  I certainly do not regret becoming a violin maker.

By the way, the majority of violin makers are pretty bad players, although there are exceptions. Excellent playing is not necessary but a plus. Fine motor and social skills are more important. 

Please give me call if you need advice. 

 

 

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Whichever direction you choose, I'd suggest getting some business education to augment the practical elements. A large part of being self-employed is the work that nobody sees: promotion / advertizing, pricing, invoicing, financing, taxes, insurance, legal advice, copyright protection, managing cash-flow...  I've been a self-employed photographer for 15 years and the photography part is a small portion of the time I spend working!

My own efforts in luthiery are best described as a hobby or side hustle but as I approach "retirement", I expect that it will become a bigger part of how I spend my time.

Best of luck to you, either way!

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Well, 19 isn't a bad age to start. I know several graduates from the North Bennet St. School, and they have all spoken highly about the school. But, do you know where I have met them? I've met them at Violin Restoration Workshops at MCLA. Violin making and violin repair/restoration are two different skills. You need to take that into account when you plan your time and finances for training. VSA occasionally posts job openings for luthiers, but they are all over the country. Unless you are able to land one of those jobs, plan on having a real job to support yourself.

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10 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

There are a limited number of well paying full time jobs available in the industry, and I would say the competition for those jobs is pretty tough, you have to be really really good to make a good living at it, if you're not the top of your field better to make it a hobby or part time work.

ok, good to know. Just curious, is getting one of those well-paying full time jobs a politics/marketing game, or is it based purely off the quality of your work? I suppose that statement also applies to being a violinist where there's not much room at the top, and it's often better to keep it as a hobby if you can't really keep up with the pros. Thanks for your comment.

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When people think about lutherie, in general they think about making new instruments but, eventually, most professionals will work with restoration and set ups.

I remember visiting a famous luthier (one of our beloved members here) as we walked around his nice workshop, he showed me the benches saying "this is the bench of our master varnish restorer, he is working now on a rent Chinese violin... ... this is my bench, I am fitting the pegs on a Chinese violins".

 

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17 hours ago, Santagiuliana said:

 I am studying violin performance at New England Conservatory, and I just don't feel like a life of performing is really for me. I'm 19. Violin playing doesn't bring me much joy anymore and a lot of times it begins to feel like a chore. 

19 is a bit early to be able to handle the roadblocks/humps that learning the life of music presents.  If you can confront these hinderances/slowdowns one at a time you won't feel that you let yourself down when in the future at some time you look back at your past.  Me personally, I hated it when I turned thirty.:(

Violin making is for old people, repairs too - now restoration on the other hand?  One may be on to something there.

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3 hours ago, Santagiuliana said:

ok, good to know. Just curious, is getting one of those well-paying full time jobs a politics/marketing game, or is it based purely off the quality of your work?

I'd say that getting a high-paying job in the luthier field depends a lot more on quality, than does most of the music business.

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9 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I'd say that getting a high-paying job in the luthier field depends a lot more on quality, than does most of the music business.

Yes, the number of well paid musicians is much higher than that of violin makers.

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41 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I'd say that getting a high-paying job in the luthier field depends a lot more on quality, than does most of the music business.

 

31 minutes ago, MANFIO said:

Yes, the number of well paid musicians is much higher than that of violin makers.

Looking over who and what goes platinum, as well as infests the celebrity pages, along with what instruments outsell everything else, quality may have little to do with success in the music business.  Sometimes there actually seems to be an inverse relationship.  :lol:

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1 hour ago, TJ Fuss said:

Been waiting... nobody's pulled this one out yet:

How do you make a small fortune as a luthier?.......  Start with a large fortune.

Yes, and marrying a rich spouse is essential to be a violin maker too!

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The OP should ask around the American colleagues (who I am assured are all very nice) and find a place where he can do a practicum for a week or two, to find out if violin making really suits him

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