Exhibiting Cello Makers
British maker Robin Aitchison developed a deep desire to become a luthier while learning to play the cello as a child. After working in engineering and business for ten years, he trained at the Newark School of Violin Making, from which he graduated with Distinction in 1996. He worked as the Assistant Instrument Custodian for the stringed instrument collection at the Royal Academy of Music in London, before establishing the Aitchison & Mnatzaganian workshop in Ely, Cambridgeshire. He now builds cellos on commission and is in high demand among cellists throughout Europe for setup and tonal adjustments.
Aitchison attends the Violin Society of America Violin Making Workshops held in Oberlin, Ohio each summer. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, as well as other BBC and ITV television and radio news programs, and has appeared as guest speaker at pre-concert talks for the Academy of Ancient Music.
American luthier Gregg T. Alf is one of the leading makers in the world today. A graduate of the International Violin Making School in Cremona, he returned to the United States in 1984 to found Curtin & Alf with Joseph Curtin in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1995, he established Alf Studios with workshops in Ann Arbor and Venice, Italy, where he currently builds instruments for many of the world’s top string players.
Alf’s violins have won the most prestigious awards in international competitions, including several Gold Medals at the Violin Society of America competitions, earning him the top honor of “Hors Concours” membership in the VSA in 1982.
Daniel Arlig studied Jazz Double Bass Performance at New England Conservatory, before becoming interested in violin making. He began studies in instrument repair at Minnesota State College in Red Wing, Minnesota, then returned to Boston to train in violin making and restoration at the North Bennet Street School, where he worked with Kevin Kelly, David Polstein, and Thomas Hummel. After graduating in 2002, Arlig returned to Minnesota, where he apprenticed with John Waddle in Minneapolis, before establishing his own workshop there.
Arlig currently builds violins, violas, and cellos, while performing regularly as a multi-instrumentalist in the Twin Cities area. He was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Art of Sound Violin Making Competition and is a member of The Violin Society of America.
American luthier Michèle Ashley was raised in the United States and completed her secondary education in France, where she studied cello and ethnomusicology. At age 19, she moved to Italy to train as a violin maker at the International School of Violin Making in Cremona, where she worked with G. B. Morassi and Pietro Sgarabotto. Ashley established her own workshops in Parma and later Verona, where she studied briefly with Renato Scrollavezza. Moving to Mantua, Ashley then apprenticed with Mario Gadda, for whom she worked and made copies for many years. Several of Ashley’s instruments of that period are being played on in major symphonies throughout Europe and Asia.
In 1985, Ashley moved to Boston, where she began to focus primarily on building cellos. She has made over 130 instruments, owned and played by professional symphony musicians, students, and faculty of the top conservatories in the country. In 2004, she opened a second shop in Montréal, Quebec, and lives and works between Canada and the U.S.
Australian violin maker Rainer Beilharz (b. 1964) began his violin making career in with John Ferwerda in Melbourne, Australia. He worked in Germany with Bernhard Franke and Antoine Muller in Stuttgart, and also studied in Markneukirchen, where he received journeyman’s certificate in 1993. Beilharz received a Geigenbaumeister honor of distinction from the Mittenwald school of Instrument Making, and has participated in the Violin Society of America Violin Making Workshops at Oberlin College.
Beilharz’s instruments have received numerous awards at VSA competitions, including a Silver Medal for Cello Workmanship in 2014, Silver Medals for Violin, Viola, and Cello Workmanship in 2012, and Certificates of Merit for Violin and Cello in 2010. Beilharz is a member of the Entente Internationale des Luthiers et Archetiers and a founding member of the Australian Violin Makers Association. His workshop is in Guildford, Victoria in Australia.
Peter Bingen was born in Los Angeles in 1974, and was raised in the American Midwest. A strong passion for art and a career in woodworking led him to the North Bennet Street School in Boston, where he graduated from the Violin Making and Repair Program in 2006. He has worked for violin maker David Gusset, and maker and restorer Andrew Carruthers.
He currently works from his studio in Santa Rosa California, where he makes new instruments and performs restorations, repairs, and setup work. His own instrument models include violins based on Stradivari and Guarneri, Brescian-style violas, and Venetian model cellos. He received a Certificate of Merit for violin tone from the Violin Society of America Competition in 2006, and First Prize from the Art of Sound Competition in 2012.
A sixth generation woodworker from Lawrence, Kansas, Eric Caldwell’s interests in violin making came from his family history as well as a personal interest in music. While studying oboe in California, Caldwell had the opportunity to study violin making with Karl Roy in a summer workshop, and continued his studies for several more years at the University of New Hampshire Summer Violin Craftsmanship Institute.
Caldwell worked in instrument repair for various workshops throughout the U.S. before taking a job with Potter Violin Company in 2006, where he was appointed Repair Department Manager. He left the firm in 2009 to establish his own workshop.
He has won several awards for his instruments, including a Certificate of Merit for Violin Tone in the Violin Society of America competition of 2010, and was invited to include two violins at The Art of Sound 2011 Exhibition.
A native of Oxfordshire, England, Andrew Carruthers worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Research Labs before deciding to follow his passion for building stringed instruments. He studied at the Welsh School of Violin Making and Repair, near Cardiff, then moved to the United States to join the restoration workshops of Bein & Fushi in Chicago, where he apprenticed with master cello restorer, Russell Wagner.
In 1996, Carruthers opened his own workshop in Santa Rosa, California, providing restoration services to some of the leading dealers in the violin trade. He currently spends his time crafting his own violins, violas, and cellos for musicians throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Alvaro Corrochano graduated from the Violin Making School of Gubbio in Umbria, Italy in 1999. He moved to Cremona following year to work in the workshops of Luca Maria Gallo, Robert Gasser, and Edgar Russ, while also studying bow making with Giovanni Lucchi. In 2001, Corrochano opened his own workshop in Milan, where he worked for several years before relocating to Neuchâtel, Switzerland to join Philippe Girardin’s workshop in 2008.
Corrochano has received numerous recognitions for his instruments entered into international competitions, including the Pisogne International Violin Making Competition of 2014. In 2015, he moved to the United States to join Reed Yeboah Fine Violins in New York, where he currently restores and builds instruments.
Award-winning American violin maker Paul Crowley worked as a sound engineer and professional double bassist before training to become a violin maker. After graduating from the North Bennet Street School in Boston in 2002, he worked with Michèle Ashley and Marco Coppiardi for several years. He established his own Boston workshop, then moved his business to Brooklyn, New York, where he currently builds his own instruments.
Crowley’s instruments have won numerous awards, including a Silver Medal for Violin Tone from the Violin Society of America competition held in 2004, as well as two Certificates of Merit in 2014: one for Violin tone, and another for Viola workmanship.
He was elected to the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers in 2010 and is a member of the VSA, regularly attending the VSA’s Summer Violin Making Workshops.
American cello maker and restorer Gary Davis has served as a luthier for over 25 years. His cellos have won numerous awards, including Silver Medals for Cello Tone at the Violin Society of America competitions of 2002 and 2006. Based in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Davis heads a full service shop, where he builds new cellos and provides tonal adjustments and restoration for distinguished clients, including cellists Andrés Díaz, Sergey Antonov, and Terry King. Davis also holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance from the Boston Conservatory of Music.
Italian luthier Michele Dobner (b. 1967) is a native of Vicenza, Italy. He trained in violin making and restoration in Milan, before moving to Madrid, Spain to work with Jose Maria Lozano. He now resides in Cremona, where he builds and restores instruments.
At the 2008 Violin Society of America competition, Dobner won two Silver Medals for cello and for a quartet. In both 2009 and 2012, he was a finalist at the Cremona Triennale lutherie competitions. He was also a founding member of “Stradivariazioni,” a Cremonese makers’ group which hosted concerts and contemporary instrument exhibitions at the famous Stradivari House, where Stradivari worked and lived.
Gary Garavaglia is one of the most prolific makers in recent history. The first twenty five years of his career were devoted solely to making cellos based on Stradivari, Guarneri, and Montagnana, as well as his personal models. To date, he has made and sold over 400 violins, violas, and cellos.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Garavaglia studied at the former Kenneth Warren School (now the Chicago School of Violin Making) in Chicago, Illinois. For much of his career, he has worked exclusively with William Harris Lee and Company in Chicago.
Garavaglia’s instruments are sought after by students and professionals alike.
French luthier Fabienne Gauchet trained at the Newark School of Violin Making in England, graduating in 1998. After apprenticing in her native France, Gauchet moved to Canada in 2000.
Gauchet has worked for the workshop of Wilder & Davis in Montréal in restoration and tonal adjustment since 2002, and currently dedicates her time to building her own instruments.
Gauchet is a member of the Violin Society of America, and was awarded a Certificate of Merit for workmanship for her cello entered into the VSA competition of 2014. Gaining popularity among professional players, Gauchet’s instruments are owned by top string players, including the pioneering, multi-styled cellist Mike Block.
Grubaugh & Seifert
Acclaimed makers and restorers Joseph Grubaugh (b. 1950) and Sigrun Seifert (b. 1954) have been working partners for more than 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they also raised their two children. Sigrun studied at the Mittenwald School of Violin Making, and Joseph studied with Albert C. Muller. The couple met in Los Angeles while working at Hans Weisshaar's workshop, before moving to San Francisco to establish their own business. Grubaugh & Seifert instruments have won multiple awards for tone and workmanship in international competitions, including five Gold and four Silver medals at competitions held by the Violin Society of America, receiving the Hors Concours designation in 1998. Both have presided as judges at the VSA and other international competitions, taught at the VSA's Violin Making and Restoration Workshops at Oberlin College, written numerous articles for The Strad and Strings magazines, lectured extensively, and are sought after for their restoration expertise on important antique instruments. Grubaugh & Seifert instruments are owned by leading players in major orchestras throughout the world.
Kile Hill studied cello as a child and became interested in violin making after watching a television documentary on PBS. He studied cello performance at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, before attending the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2000.
Hill has worked with Scoggins & Scoggins Violins, Ryan Soltis, and Stephanie Voss in Atlanta. He currently works from a home studio in McMinnville, Oregon.
Christopher Jacoby (b. 1981) studied violin making at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Utah, and repair and restoration with Peter Prier.
Jacoby is a member of the Violin Society of America, where he serves on the Board of Directors, and is the Editor of the membership magazine, The Scroll. He is a regular contributor to Strings magazine, often penning the “Ask The Expert” column, as well as other industry periodicals. Currently the luthier in residence at The Violin Shop in Lincoln, Nebraska, Jacoby has over 120 instruments to his credit.
Kurt R. Jones
American contemporary violin maker Kurt Jones studied at the Violin School of America in Salt Lake City, Utah, and apprenticed with Peter Paul Prier. He worked for several years as a restorer at Carrabba Violins in Seattle, Washington, then opened his own workshop in Montana in 1991. He currently works from his studio in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Min Sung Kim
Korean maker Min Sung Kim (b. 1971) studied at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Utah with Peter Prier, before moving to Cremona, Italy to study with Primo Pistoni and Alessandro Voltini at the International Violin Making School. He is a member of the Consortium of Violin Makers “Antonio Stradivari” Cremona.
Sung’s instruments have won numerous awards in international competitions, including a Bronze Medal for Cello at the 2006 at the Cremona Triennale lutherie competition in 2006; a Certificate of Merit for Cello Tone at the Violin Society of America in 2006; Fourth place for Cello Tone at the Manchester International Competition of Cello Making in 2007; a Gold Medal at the Pisogne Italian National Violin Making competition of 2008; a Silver Medal for Cello at the Pisogne competition in 2009; a Gold Medal for Best Cello Setup in the China International Violin Making competition in Beijing in 2010; a Silver Medal and Best Workmanship for Cello, and Fourth place prize for Viola at the Mittenwald competition of 2010; a Certificate of Merit for Quartet Workmanship at the VSA in 2010; a Gold Medal and Best Setup for Cello at the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Making competition in Poland in 2011; a Silver for Viola, and a Bronze for Violin in the China International competition in Beijing 2013.
Celebrated American luthier James McKean was among the first group of students at the Violin Making School of America, founded in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1973. He then worked with Vahakn Nigogosian in New York City before opening his own workshop in 1981.
A prolific and award-winning maker of violins, violas, and cellos, McKean is also a corresponding editor for Strings Magazine, for whom he has written extensively on all aspects of the violin over the past 30 years. His articles also appear in The Strad, and his recent memoir, Art’s Cello, was selected by its publisher, Kindle Singles, as one of the 20 best books of 2014.
Ray Melanson studied art and violin performance at the University of Lowell in Massachusetts in the mid 1970s, before becoming interested in violin making. At the University of Rhode Island, he studied bow rehair and repair with Arnold Bone and violin repair with Hans Nebel, then traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah to study violin making with Peter Paul Prier at the Violin Making School of America. Ray returned to Massachusetts in 1983 to found the Violin Making and Repair program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, where he taught for four years, while continuing to restore stringed instruments and build his own violins, violas, and cellos. He now maintains his own workshop in Rochester, MA.
Melanson’s violins have received 14 awards at the International Violin Making competitions held by the Violin Society of America. Three of his instruments have won Silver Medals for tone, and most recently, he won a Gold Medal for tone at the 2012 Art of Sound International Competition. During his 30 years as a violin maker, he has built over 300 instruments, 80 of them cellos. His instruments are owned by musicians all over the world, including many well-known soloists, players in major symphony orchestras, and recording artists.
American luthier Geoffrey Ovington (b. 1946) studied violin making with James Coggin in Manhattan before opening his own studio in upstate New York.
Ovington’s instruments have won numerous awards, including medals at the Violin Society of America International Competitions. Many are played by professionals in prestigious European and American orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic, who commissioned Ovington to make three violas in 1991.
Polstein and White
Highly acclaimed Boston-based makers David Polstein and Christopher White began a collaboration in 2006 to produce professional quality instruments at affordable prices. Both are graduates of the North Bennet Street School in Boston, where they currently serve as advisors in the violin making program, and both participate in the Violin Society of America Violin Making and Restoration Workshops at Oberlin College.
In addition to the honors their individual instruments have received, their collaborative “Polstein & White” instruments have also been recognized with awards, including a Silver Medal for Viola Workmanship at the 2012 Violin Society of America competition.
French luthier Yann Poulain (b. 1979) studied as a violinist before becoming interested in violin making. After graduating with distinction from the Newark School of Violin Making in England in 2001, Poulain returned to France to work for Friedrich Alber and Frédéric Chaudière in Montpellier, where he opened his own workshop in 2005. Poulain's instruments have appeared in exhibitions worldwide, including Musicora in Paris, Mondomusica in Cremona, the Royal Northern College of Music Cello Festival in Manchester, and Music Korea in Seoul. He is a member of L'Association des Luthiers et Archetiers, and Académie Internationale de Musique de Montpellier. Poulain's articles on violin research and construction have appeared in The Strad magazine.
Guy Rabut was raised in a musical and artistic family where he began to play the cello at the age of nine. Along with his musical studies, he also developed a strong interest in the visual arts through his father, an artist by profession. This seminal association with music and art led to his career in violin making which began at The Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he graduated in 1978.
After working for five years at the prestigious firm of Jacques Français in New York City under Master restorer René Morel, Rabut established his own shop in New York City in 1984, dividing his time between making and restoring instruments. In 1992, with the opening of a workshop in Carnegie Hall, he began to focus exclusively on creating new violins, violas and cellos. Established over 30 years in New York, Rabut continues his dedication to new instruments in his workshop in the Chelsea district of Manhattan.
He has been featured in numerous articles and interviews in magazines and radio programs, and was the subject of a short film by Laredo Montoneri in 2014.
His instruments have won several awards in international competitions, and are owned by professional musicians throughout the world.
Among the most highly regarded contemporary violin makers, Benjamin Ruth was awarded gold medals for both violin and viola in the 2012 VSA international competition. Active in violin making for 40 years, his instruments have been featured by leading violin shops nationwide. Today, Mr. Ruth concentrates on working directly with musicians to create ideal instruments for demanding careers, with the help of his wife Susan. They live and work in Boston's North Shore.
Mr. Ruth is committed to the highest standard of artistry in violin making, and is a leading participant and teacher in the Oberlin Violin Making Workshop, a highly regarded gathering where top notch makers from all over the world come together to exchange ideas and knowledge. He has also participated in similar professional development events in Europe.
A graduate of the Violin Making School of America, Benjamin Ruth received advanced training from 1979 to 1982 with Rene Morel at Jacques Francais Rare Violins.
After opening a shop in his native Philadelphia, in 1989 Mr. Ruth joined Reuning & Son Violins in Ithaca, New York, specializing in restorations. He remained in Ithaca to concentrate on making violins after Reuning & Son moved to Boston in 1994. For the last twenty years, he has concentrated exclusively on producing new violins, violas, and cellos for discerning artists.
Having been awarded gold medals in three distinct VSA competitions, he has been designated Hors Concours, and has served as a Judge for the VSA. He also received a top prize for tone at the most recent competition of the British Violin Making Association in London.
Nathan Slobodkin is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, whose more than 40 years in the musical instrument field include an internship in the musical instrument collection of the Smithsonian Institution, five years of building instruments in the W. H. Lee workshop in Chicago, two years on the restoration staff of Jacques Français Rare Violins in New York, and a twelve-year collaboration with Reuning & Son Violins in Boston, producing more than 70 cellos modeled after the famous Ex-Messeus Guarneri del Gesù. He has provided services for many of the top violin shops around the United States and his instruments have been sold in Europe, Asia, and across North America.
Slobodkin was awarded a Certificate of Merit for workmanship by the Violin Society of America in 1996 and a second prize for violin making at the Art of Sound International Violin Making Competition in 2014. He has recently attended professional development workshops at the Violin Society of America’s Violin Making Workshops at Oberlin Conservatory and at the Emerson Arts Centre.
Since 1993, Slobodkin has operated his own business in Bangor, Maine, where he makes new instruments in all price ranges to meet the demands of the most discriminating students and professional musicians.
Born in New Zealand and with roots as an electronics technician, Noel Sweetman is a second generation luthier. His father Ian precedes him, and his son Mark J. Sweetman continues the family profession.
Sweetman specializes in restoration and replicas from his workshop is based in Cambridge, New Zealand. He has been featured by local news sources for his copy of Guarneri del Gesù’s “il Cannone violino,” played by Nicolo Paganini. Sweetman is also known for making his own tools from unusual materials such as deer antlers.
When not building instruments, Sweetman raises lambs and dairy cattle on his farm in Waikato.
Born in Lecce, Italy in 1972, Francesco Toto studied at the G. Pellegrino Institute for Art in Lecce and the International School of Violin Making in Cremona.
Toto is an award-winning maker, placing third in 2001 and second in 2005 at the International Violin Making Competition in Mittenwald, Germany. In addition to numerous other accolades, he won first prize at the 2006 Cremona Triennale lutherie competition. He is a member of the Cremona “Antonio Stradivari” Consortium of Violin Makers and the Violin Society of America. Toto has maintained his own workshop in Cremona since 1996.
American luthier Christopher Ulbricht grew up in Stafford, Virginia studying the cello, before becoming interested in violin making. He trained at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City under Charles Woolf, then apprenticed in the workshop of Peter Prier. Ulbricht also studied bow repair and restoration with Michael Vann in British Columbia, Canada at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Ulbricht opened his own workshop, Indianapolis Violins, located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, where he currently builds, repairs, and restores instruments.
Italian luthier Andrea Varazzani (b. 1982) studied at the International Violin Making School of Cremona under Massimo Negroni and Wanna Zambelli. After graduating in 2000, he worked for Daniele Tonarelli for several years, before opening his own workshop in Sesto Cremonese in 2006. He has participated in international competitions, including several Cremona Triennale lutherie competitions, as well as the 2008 Pisogne Italian National Violin Making competition, where he won a bronze medal. He is a member of the Consortium of Violin Makers “Antonio Stradivari” and the Italian Lutherie Association.
Canadian luthier Gregory Walke (b. 1952) studied violin making at the Welsh School of Violin Making and Repair. He worked for several years in Wales, then in Germany with Hieronymus Koestler in Stuttgart, before returning to his native Canada.
In 1988, Walke established a studio with Sibylle Ruppert in Paisley, Ontario, where he worked as a restorer for top North American shops, including Moes & Moes. He also has collaborated with his his brother, bow maker Bernard Walke. He currently dedicates his time solely to making his own instruments.
Lawrence Wilke’s interest in musical instruments began when he started playing cello at 8 years old. He studied cello with Marijane Carr Seigal of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, then with William Klenz at SUNY Binghamton.
While also studying cello, Wilke began an apprenticeship as a violin maker at the age of 16 with his uncle, master violin maker David Caron. He also trained in bow making and repair with Philip Krause, before moving to Taynton, England in 1986 to work for Andrew Dipper in instrument restoration. In 1988, Wilke opened his own studio in Clinton, Connecticut where he currently builds violins and violas, and specializes in cello making.
A native of Hawaii, American luthier William Whedbee (b. 1952) attended the University of Chicago, where he studied with Italian sculptor Virginio Ferrari and with musicologist Howard Brown. This combined interest in music and wood sculpture led to his traveling to Cremona, Italy in 1976 to train at the Institute of Violin Making.
Whedbee returned to Chicago in 1979 at the invitation of William Harris Lee to found and develop a violin making workshop there. During his twelve years with Lee, he built more than 400 violins, violas and cellos, as well as training and supervising nearly twenty violin makers from around the world.
Since 1992, Whedbee has worked independently in his own workshop on Chicago's North Side, focusing primarily on building cellos in response to growing demand from players and teachers. He has now completed more than 200 cellos, 275 violins, and almost 300 violas. His cellos have been praised by some of today’s top cellists, and are in high demand among students and professionals from all over the world.