UNH Campus Journal
UNH  |  Calendar  |  Storm/Emergency
Home | Archive | Subscribe/Unsubscribe Contact

Making Music From Scratch

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
July 23, 2008

Every summer for the past 35 years, Karl Roy has traveled to New Hampshire to share a passion born in the Alps of his German homeland and bred at UNH’s Violin Craftsmanship Institute.

Roy makes violins. Since 1973, he has come to Durham to teach the skills he learned at the Bavarian State School for Violin Making in Mittenwald where, for 20 years, he was an instructor and then director.

He is joined at the institute by fellow Mittenwald native Horst Kloss, who specializes in violin repair and restoration; Lynn Armour Hannings, who teaches bowmaking techniques and repairs; and George Rubino, the bowmaking instructor. Roy is retiring this year.

Master craftsman Karl Roy inspects a student's work.

The five-week institute draws people from all walks of life: a dentist, a professional violinist and a surgeon have all been students. Attendees--beginners to career musicians are welcome--can sign up for one workshop or all five. The workshops run from 8 a.m. to 9 o’clock at night with an hour for lunch and two hours for dinner.

This summer marks Jan Wahl’s fourth year of coming to the institute. A dentist from Melbourne, Fla., Wahl says it will take her another year, still, to finish the violin she began in 2004. She has played the violin since she was a young girl. The decision to make her own instrument came from a sense of need.

“There’s a feeling you have—that you have to do something more than play,” Wahl says.

And for Jim Robinson, Roy’s shop foreman for six years, that has meant taking his interest in violins to a higher level. Since coming to the institute as a student in 1999, Robinson has made 30 violins, six cellos and four violas. And he has sold them all.

When he started, the Violin Institute was held for seven weeks. Robinson attended all seven weeks for four years.

“As a new person, you don’t see much progress in a week,” Robinson says. “I wanted progress.”

Zoran Stilin of Arizona has been studying under Roy for 12 years. A professional cellist with the Tucson Orchestra, he has made cellos and violins.

“I’m still learning. I come back because there is so much to learn,” Stilin says.

“We’re all always learning,” says Roy, a master craftsman. To earn that designation, one starts as an apprentice, moves on to journeyman and then works as an assistant for five years before being eligible to apply to be a master.

“In Europe, the title of master is protected. You can’t open your own shop, you can’t teach, until you are a master,” Roy says.

A Roy violin sells for 18,000 to 20,000 Euro or $30,000 U.S. dollars. It takes about 130 hours to make.

A student in the Violin Craftsmanship Institute. measures the bottom of the violin she is making.

George Rubino can teach a student to make a bow in about two weeks. It takes a week alone for the stick; three or four days for the frog, and the button, another few days. Every one is different, Rubino says.

“It’s a very individual thing,” Rubino says. “It depends on how long the bow stays on the strings. The more cooperative the bow, the better it will sound. It’s a marriage of the player, the instrument and the bow.”

Rubino plays bass with the Portland, Maine, Symphony. His first summer at the institute was in 1981. He owns a bow shop in Pownal, Maine, and earns his living as a professional bow maker.

“My bows go all over the world,” he says. “I just sent one to New Zealand. I have a lot in major orchestras. It’s great fun.”

Horst Kloss, master violin maker, works on a scroll.

Kloss owns the oldest professional violin shop in Boston. Business is so good he has to turn down almost 90 percent of the customers who seek him out. Yet he relishes the time he spend at the Violin Craftsmanship Institute.

“The thing that’s unique about UNH is you don’t have to pass an exam to come,” Kloss says of students. “You just have to have interest and motivation. Some have never held a tool in their hand before.”

Kloss, who also grew up in Mittenwald, began playing the violin when he was 13.

“On the way to school I’d pass the violin shops and the old violin makers would invite me in so I’d go,” he says. “I was on very fertile ground. I fell in love with the violin and I’m still in love.”

The Violin Craftsmanship Institute is sponsored by UNH Professional Development and Training. For more information go to https://www.learn.unh.edu/forms/vregnow.html.

email this page!

We welcome your story ideas, letters, photos, notable events, achievements, obituaries and/or memorium.

If you would like to submit an item, please contact the Editor at 862-1567.

Deadline for submissions is Tuesdays at 4 pm.

Print this article Print
Email this

UNH Home | UNH News | Manage Your Subscription | follow UNH News on Twitter!
Campus Journal is produced by
UNH Media Relations
8 Garrison Ave., Durham, NH 03824
University of New Hampshire