This is my dad, Marv. He used to be a research chemist, but now he’s retired. Since the time I can remember he has always had more hobbies than I can keep track of. Trains, trees, birds, drawing, piano, classical music, seashells, sailing, racketball, running. When you start to go through the list, it’s really an impressive amount of interests for one person. About eight years ago he picked up a new, pretty amazing hobby: violin-making!
See that thing in his hand? That’s his most recent violin-in-progress. At the beginning of the week it looked like this:
And by the end of the week it looked like this, complete with its own hand-carved cherry chin rest:
Isn’t that cool? Sometimes I think it’s a little crazy. But it’s definitely cool.
Dad started making violins with a book and a kit after he would come home from work. Now that he’s retired, it’s expanded into nearly a full-time obsession. We’re talking ordering-large-shipments-of-spruce-from-Germany-obsession here. Learning to make violins well is something that takes years and traditionally involves hours and hours of apprentice-style instruction, so Dad has spent numerous weeks during summers and winters at “violin school” and “bow camp” to learn how to craft from experienced violin makers. And just in case you’re wondering, we’re talking no power tools here, everything is done by hand. For the last year he’s been driving into Seattle to work side by side with a local violin maker as a student in his studio. He managed to make this violin in about two and a half months. So far he’s made five violins (one of which I play) and one cello (for my sister Elli). It’s been fun to play the violins he’s made. Each one sounds different, and — I think this is really neat — better than the one before!
On top of that, about five years ago he decided he should probably take some violin lessons so that he could play the instruments he was making. So now he’s getting really good at playing them too.
I’m so fortunate to have grown up in a musical family; classical music was on the radio or record player (and then CD player) all the time and all of us, my three sisters and both my parents, played one or more instruments. While I may have groaned about it as a teenager, waking up at 9 AM sharp on weekends to one of your parents practicing the piano just isn’t something that happens in every house. I used to complain about having to practice the violin or piano when I got home from school, but now I am so grateful to be able to play both instruments reasonably well (and pipe organ maybe not-so-well, but at least I try…). As I get older I appreciate that more and more.
Dad really is an inspiration to me when it comes to doing what you love; he’s always found time for his hobbies, whether it’s practicing piano or making a violin (and of course my mom deserves full credit too for supporting him and helping him to make that happen, especially when we were small). And music is such a wonderful creative outlet, even if you’re just listening. I hope you enjoyed meeting my dad and seeing his latest violin!
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