How to take my violin making career to the next level?


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Hello Pegbox!  This is my first post, so I'll be figuring out how this works.  

First, my background: I've been playing violin since age 8 and began studying violin making at age 14.  I am now 20 years old and looking to make this my career.  In my research, it has become apparent that the vast majority of makers attend a 3 year violin making school.  However, this is not the route I've taken.  I started out learning from a local established maker, and for the past 6 years I've been working under his guidance.  I've completed 5 violins and 1 viola, as well as some minor and major restorations.  The master I study with is well-respected, but we live in a very rural area and don't see much traffic.  

I'm not aiming to be the next Strad, but I would like to refine my work to the best it can possibly be.  The next logical step for me seems to be to find an apprenticeship/internship with a shop.  Would a shop even consider hiring someone without a certificate from a violin making school?  I am willing to study in a school setting, but I really hesitate to go back to square one, considering I've already learned a great deal from my master.  I have been looking at summer workshops for advanced repair, but ideally I'm looking to spend the next full year doing violin work.  Another option I've considered is to apprentice with a master full-time.  Am I too ambitious to assume this path is open for me?  

Any advice would be appreciated!  

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On 3/25/2021 at 3:36 AM, chiaroscuro_violins said:

Hello Pegbox!  This is my first post, so I'll be figuring out how this works.  

First, my background: I've been playing violin since age 8 and began studying violin making at age 14.  I am now 20 years old and looking to make this my career.  In my research, it has become apparent that the vast majority of makers attend a 3 year violin making school.  However, this is not the route I've taken.  I started out learning from a local established maker, and for the past 6 years I've been working under his guidance.  I've completed 5 violins and 1 viola, as well as some minor and major restorations.  The master I study with is well-respected, but we live in a very rural area and don't see much traffic.  

I'm not aiming to be the next Strad, but I would like to refine my work to the best it can possibly be.  The next logical step for me seems to be to find an apprenticeship/internship with a shop.  Would a shop even consider hiring someone without a certificate from a violin making school?  I am willing to study in a school setting, but I really hesitate to go back to square one, considering I've already learned a great deal from my master.  I have been looking at summer workshops for advanced repair, but ideally I'm looking to spend the next full year doing violin work.  Another option I've considered is to apprentice with a master full-time.  Am I too ambitious to assume this path is open for me?  

Any advice would be appreciated!  

Wow, congratulations. Being 20 years of age, you have accomplished a whole lot! 

Continue the apprenticeship full time, and do more violin making. 

Maybe after lock down talk to shops in the city. Show your violins, that will make the biggest impression. Make a resume. I doubt you won't get hired. 

With programmers and graphic designers it goes very much by portfolio. 

Your experience is worth a lot more. 

People fresh out of college don't have the experience that you have.. 

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

The market for violin makers is already pretty well saturated. Most aspiring makers end up making most of their living by doing repairs and maintenance.

But the there was one... He might be that one... 

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34 minutes ago, Rachell66 said:

But the there was one... He might be that one... 

Sure. However, I think it's good that anyone contemplating this be aware of the odds. Should they choose to go ahead anyway, aware of the odds, that's their call.

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On 3/25/2021 at 3:36 AM, chiaroscuro_violins said:

Hello Pegbox!  This is my first post, so I'll be figuring out how this works.  

First, my background: I've been playing violin since age 8 and began studying violin making at age 14.  I am now 20 years old and looking to make this my career.  In my research, it has become apparent that the vast majority of makers attend a 3 year violin making school.  However, this is not the route I've taken.  I started out learning from a local established maker, and for the past 6 years I've been working under his guidance.  I've completed 5 violins and 1 viola, as well as some minor and major restorations.  The master I study with is well-respected, but we live in a very rural area and don't see much traffic.  

I'm not aiming to be the next Strad, but I would like to refine my work to the best it can possibly be.  The next logical step for me seems to be to find an apprenticeship/internship with a shop.  Would a shop even consider hiring someone without a certificate from a violin making school?  I am willing to study in a school setting, but I really hesitate to go back to square one, considering I've already learned a great deal from my master.  I have been looking at summer workshops for advanced repair, but ideally I'm looking to spend the next full year doing violin work.  Another option I've considered is to apprentice with a master full-time.  Am I too ambitious to assume this path is open for me?  

Any advice would be appreciated!  

It's impossible to give even semi-sensible advice without knowing what your current standard is. Can you show some photos?

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On 3/24/2021 at 11:36 PM, chiaroscuro_violins said:

 I am willing to study in a school setting, but I really hesitate to go back to square one, considering I've already learned a great deal from my master.

There may be some schools which will let you "test in" at the second or third year level. Perhaps Davide knows if the Cremona School will do that?

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25 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Sure. However, I think it's good that anyone contemplating this be aware of the odds. Should they choose to go ahead anyway, aware of the odds, that's their call.

True, he should definitely go ahead and give it his best shot. He is of the minority, so young and so much experience.. Not the traditional way. It is exciting, I think people will like that. 

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3 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

There may be some schools which will let you "test in" at the second or third year level. Perhaps Davide knows if the Cremona School will do that?

He can contact the school, send resume and photos or a video clip of his violins. For what reason should he be wasting time in first years? 5 violins, man, I can't get my head round it! 

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3 minutes ago, Rachell66 said:

He can contact the school, send resume and photos or a video clip of his violins. For what reason should he be wasting time in first years? 5 violins, man, I can't get my head round it! 

I've seen some astonishing work produced by first year VM school students. I wouldn't assume that the OP would be way ahead and/or wasting their time. 

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11 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

There may be some schools which will let you "test in" at the second or third year level. Perhaps Davide knows if the Cremona School will do that?

They did at one time as I was able to get into the second year pretty quickly with less experience than the OP, but that was a long time ago.  It's a good thing too, as the "master" who was running the workshop I was in didn't even know how to sharpen tools.  It was a tough week or two...

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18 minutes ago, Rachell66 said:

True, he should definitely go ahead and give it his best shot. He is of the minority, so young and so much experience.. Not the traditional way. It is exciting, I think people will like that. 

People will be more interested in the quality of the experience, and in what he can do, and how well he can do it.

Saying that one started playing the violin at two years of age, and practiced four hours every day, is not enough to get one into Juilliard, or to win an orchestra audition. One needs to actually be pretty good.

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On 3/24/2021 at 11:36 PM, chiaroscuro_violins said:

...Would a shop even consider hiring someone without a certificate from a violin making school?...

I think there are some shops that would.  I think it would depend on the quality of work that you are capable of.  The violins that you made are evidence of your skill.  You would have to relocate to take a job in a shop.  Congratulations on the instruments you have completed and good luck.

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It might not be difficult to get a job doing setups on factory or rental instruments. Whether there was the potential to otherwise advance other skills would very much depend on the shop. There are some shops where it is very difficult not to learn a great deal, if only by "osmosis" from the super-skilled people around you.

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

The market for violin makers is already pretty well saturated. Most aspiring makers end up making most of their living by doing repairs and maintenance.

Thankfully, I enjoy this kind of work quite a lot.  However, I'm just not that good at it yet.  I've got a lot of fiddles to practice with, but perhaps I should seek some further training in repairs.  

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1 hour ago, Bodacious Cowboy said:

It's impossible to give even semi-sensible advice without knowing what your current standard is. Can you show some photos?

I was afraid someone might ask after photos... 

I am at the stage right now where my eye is developing much faster than my ability.  Each fiddle I make is much better than the previous one, but I know I still have improvements to make.  I have had excellent results in terms of tone production, but I haven't yet completed a violin with corners I'm happy with.  I have two in progress right now that look much more promising in that department.  By the end of the summer, I hope to have completed a violin with no mistakes.  I know I'm capable, I just need time to do it.  

Also, not trying to flex, but I haven't been able to afford a set of gouges until last week, so all the scrolls pictured were carved without gouges.  

Pictured are two of my violins and my viola, at various stages.  

 

White top.jpg

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Finished scroll.jpg

Finished.jpg

White scroll.jpg

Scroll 1.jpg

Scroll 2.jpg

Scroll 3.jpg

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IMG_20210317_234528_234.jpg

IMG_20210317_234528_236.jpg

Edited by chiaroscuro_violins
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16 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Have you sold any of the instruments that you have made?

I have sold my first, my third, and the viola.  The viola sold in less than two weeks after I set it up.  My second and fifth violin have never been for sale (my sister's and my personal instruments).  My fourth has been for sale for about four months.  I get a lot of business for repairs too, although I attribute this mainly to the fact that I don't charge enough for my work.  

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55 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

People will be more interested in the quality of the experience, and in what he can do, and how well he can do it.

Saying that one started playing the violin at two years of age, and practiced four hours every day, is not enough to get one into Juilliard, or to win an orchestra audition. One needs to actually be pretty good.

My work is not top-notch, but I know the specific things I need to improve to get there.  I forgot to mention in my original post that while I started learning 6 years ago, I've only been serious about it for the past year and a half, and most of that time I've worked independently and/or experimentally (think cedar bass bars).  This summer I'm going to study more intensively with my master, and I'm hoping that this will help me iron out all the errors.  I know I will have to study elsewhere in order to be a well-rounded maker, which is also something my master has encouraged me to do.  

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12 hours ago, arglebargle said:

Best advice? Marry a successful lawyer/doctor/etc. 

The second best advice can be found here. 

 

Sound advice indeed.  The unspoken common agreement:  This is a calling not a career.   Keep the overhead at a minimum.

Grab each opportunity as it shows itself...no telling where It will lead.

on we go,

Joe

 

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

There may be some schools which will let you "test in" at the second or third year level. Perhaps Davide knows if the Cremona School will do that?

Yes, at the Cremona school it is possible to directly enter the third year by skipping the first two, passing a workshop exam (something like sharpening a tool and making a fingerboard or similar things depending on what the commission decides) and also passing a test for the Italian language, which is mandatory to know.

Frankly speaking, it is not too severe an exam, for the OP it would certainly not be a problem to overcome it, but often the admission of new students to the third year is limited by the number of places available, if the classes are already full even if you pass the exam you are placed in second, or even in the first year for the same reason.

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