the stories of a los angeles violinist

violin heaven

Added on by Jordan Martone.

the best days are when class gets cancelled so you and all your friends can go to colburn and watch the 5 greatest violin-dealing minds work their magic.  

something like this hasn't happened since elizabeth pitcairn (owner of the red violin) was 18. my professor from CSUN and the profesor at colburn, robert lipsett, invited 3 other men to come together and try out some legendary historical violins with intent to buy.

one of these men, weaver, happened to be the man i bought my violin from and he was kind enough to bring his tools along with him and do some free adjustments for all the students. it was amazing watching him work so quickly and skillfully. he slipped my pegs out, fixed them up, slid them back in and adjusted my sound post. it was like watching ollivander in his wand shop. (harry potter references were abundant that day. lipsett is dumbledore.) 

lipsett's top students came to play on these instruments for us: a guadagnini, vuillaume, pressenda, etc. and of course, a stradivarius.  

now, there's a lot of hype around strads. i used to think it was all just talk. like the way someone tells you a community theater production of les miserables is going to be good and you think "suuuuuuure it is…"  

but NO. strads really are that big of a deal. there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the strad was heads and tails above the rest of the instruments there that day. it sounded like the gates of heaven and made you feel like you were floating on a cloud of jet-puffed marshmallow fluff. 


brandon, jessie, chang and i all arrived much too early so we strolled over to grand park for some morning coffee. (a personal favorite activity of mine.)


weaver, lipsett, reuning, ferril, and benning. the fabulous 5.

isn't zipper hall gorgeous?! the thing i couldn't capture in these photos is how high the ceiling was. it was about twice as high as the wood plank design over the stage, which gave this hall some very impressive acoustics.

it was shocking how every little variable made a difference in the sound of each violin. the first difference was the player. each student that played could get certain things out of the violin that others couldn't. some adjusted quickly to each instrument while others took a while to settle in. then, where they stood on stage was a large factor. the instructors made sure to stress that each student stand in the same place on the stage to even out the acoustic playing field. next, each student had to play the same song, to better tell the differences between the violins. we heard a lot of tchaikovsky, massanet, mendelssohn, and barber and it was all gorgeous. reuning would tell us a little historical background on each violin before it was played, then an "a" was given from the piano for the student to tune each instrument to. (at one point, the hit-the-"a"-on-the-piano-person had to run off to class, so i jumped up on stage to hit the "a" for simone porter. it was pretty cool to be able to hear those violins from the audience perspective and then up close from the violinist's perspective.)

i'm counting my lucky stars that i was able to witness such a historic event in the city that i love, at a place that i love, with people that i admire, and on amazing violins. this had been all ferril was talking about for weeks. he really enjoys this aspect of the violin world and wanted to show his students how it works. i am very grateful to him for that.