The Violin Society of America 2020 Scholarship recipients

Violin Making School of America

Jarad Suchoski was born and raised in Salt Lake City. "I've always had a deep love and appreciation for stringed instruments; in both their beautiful sound and aesthetic and have known that I wanted to be a maker since I was 18 living around the corner from VMSA. Years later I am finally making that dream a reality. I look forward to providing quality and beautiful instruments to everyone for the rest of my life."

Andrew Stolfa was raised in North Texas, and completed a Bachelor of Music at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, where he discovered his passion for stringed instruments by playing bass in the orchestra. Feeling the need for formal training in instrument making, Andrew moved to Salt Lake City and enrolled in Violin Making School in 2019. As Andrew’s second year of violin making school begins, he is looking forward to the completion of his first two violins in the white, as well as the set up of his freshly varnished bass. Andrew is honored to receive the support provided by the Violin Society of America.

Aaron Goll was born in Ashland Ohio before moving to Gainesville Florida. In Florida he was able to study violin repair and restoration at Gainesville Violins, then owned by Jan van Rooyen. In 2016 Jan retired as shop owner and Aaron made the decision to move to Ann Arbor Michigan. There he worked for Shar Music for 1 year. Deciding to channel his focus into making, Aaron moved to Salt Lake City where he currently studies at the Violin Making School of America while working at Peter Prier and Sons Violins.

Matthew Estlack, a Double Bassist born and raised in the heart of Texas, always had a fascination with woodworking and musical instruments. After graduating from the University of North Texas with a Degree in Performance on the Double Bass, He taught privately as well as performed with the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra. Luthiery was the perfect way to bring both passions together, and the VMSA was the perfect place to do it. Moving to Salt Lake City, Utah was an arduous but necessary step, so that he may one day become a well regarded maker in the Double Bass community. In the future He hopes to build and repair Fine Double Basses all across the world, and also strives to bring the Double Bass to the forefront of the luthiery world.

Benjamin Ward, 21, is a student at the Violin Making School of America, in his final year of instruction. Having started playing the violin from a young age, Benjamin took a strong interest in the forms and the construction of the violin. This passion, along with the support of some local bow restorers led Benjamin to enroll at the VMSA. Benjamin hopes to further his education and experience after school, and is very thankful to receive support from the VSA to support this.


Steve Eddy: I am a native of California. Violin dealing and playing have almost always been a part of my life. I began playing in grammar school and I sold my first violin in middle school. Upon my graduation with a degree in business administration from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I spent many years in the corporate world of insurance. The corporate world was never my passion but it paid the bills. Eventually, I followed my true passion and became a full time violin dealer. In 2015, I became ill and was placed on the heart transplant list. During that time, I had time to reflect and to think about what I’d do if I lived. Overwhelmingly, violin making was the answer. It was a natural progression to become a violin maker. In 2017, I received my new heart and now I am following my passion full time.

Minnesota State College - SE Technical - Redwing

Quinn Hallenbeck grew up in rural California and moved to Seattle, WA after earning a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography at UC Irvine. Quinn started playing the violin in 2019 and quickly became fascinated with lutherie. The violin presents a paradox: historical, scientific, aesthetic, and sociological. An object that appears pleasingly simple to the eye yet taking years of dedicated attention to render, existing in a confluence of heritage mythologies and precision research. The foundational education at the Red Wing Program has only pique her interest and she plans to spend the next lifetime refining her skills in repair and restoration working with historic instruments and bows as well as collaborating with new makers. Quinn heartily looks forward to pouring through the literature, data, and observations in the VSA archives and beyond, working to serve the violin and the people who love it.

Angela Thompson was raised in Bowling Green, Ohio. She began playing the violin at the age of eight and knew it would be a lifelong passion. She discovered interest in violin making after watching a documentary on the craft during a class in the eighth grade. After high school, she decided to study classical music performance at Bowling Green State University, but transferred to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a performance degree in other musical styles. In the years following her graduation in 2016, she still desired to learn more about the instrument, leading her to attend the violin repair program at Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing, Minnesota. During her study, she has greatly enjoyed and excelled in learning the craft and is currently restoring two violins from her personal collection. She hopes to work closely with a violin maker after graduation to learn more about the making process.


The Chicago School of Violin Making

Luke Eliot McDonnell: "I have absolutely loved anything detailed and hands-on from the time I was born. From a very young age I have been fixing cars, computers, and doing cabinetry. I was so young when I first started taking things apart and fixing them that I don't even remember when I started. My first introduction to very fine woodwork was at the age of 15, when I apprenticed under Rick Thacker, a luthier, at a quickly growing small business called Plum Grove Music. Rick is a graduate of CSVM and started a music business shortly after his studies there. I began in his shop with lighter repairs and processing rentals (a lot of rentals). I very quickly excelled at any complex repairs and restorations I was given. I loved the challenge so much that I started getting as much information on methodology of repair, and testing the finest restoration techniques I could find. I also recieved guidance from several friends who are shop owners and luthiers. I was instantly obsessed. Within a few years I was the only technician executing advanced repairs within the company and I started managing and instructing the shop employees and apprentices. I stepped out of the management position two years later when starting my studies at The Chicago School of Violin Making in 2017, under Fred Thompson and Becky Elliot. I still work full-time for Plum Grove Music doing all of the advanced restorations from my personal workspace in Chicago. I'm finishing my CSVM degree under the new CSVM director Antoine Nedelec. After this I will avidly pursue a career in full-time luthiery."

Kaelyn Finwall was raised in Ashland, Oregon where she found her love of the arts, especially the violin. She began her experience in instrument repair apprenticing at Ashland’s Bellwood Violins. She was inspired to continue learning about the trade an instrument creation and was eager to begin her studies at the Chicago school of violin making. Now having been a student for just over a year she has completed two violins in the white and her third instrument, a viola, is underway. Upon graduation she plans to return to her hometown and continue working with local makers and repair shops.

My name is Trevor Austin I live in Sugar Grove IL, I  am the 7th child of 8. My mother and father studied in violin making. My father and sister Holly graduated from the Chicago School of Violin making, where I am currently attending. My mother and father opened up a shop here in Sugar Grove which has been open 39 years now. I plan on finishing school and returning to the shop and helping run the business.


Claire Rowan, 24, previously lived in Colorado before moving to Chicago to pursue violin making. She started with a background in fine arts with oil paintings and figure drawings. Claire found violin making as a career through an animated film, Whisper of the Heart, where the protagonist was a luthier. Inspired and without any previous background to the violin, she took a leap of faith two and a half years ago to attend the Chicago School of Violin Making. Studying to be a luthier has become a passion and one of the most rewarding steps in her life. Claire is on track to graduate this upcoming December and looking at extending her career to outside the States.

North Bennett Street School

Veronica Vaillancourt grew up in a musical family on Long Island, New York. After studying history and music in college, she worked as a receptionist at Reed Yeboah Fine Violins in New York City, where she learned invaluable lessons about classical and contemporary instruments, as well as the day-to-day operations of a top flight violin shop. She then made her way to Boston to study violin making at the North Bennet Street School under Roman Barnas, where she is currently in her second year.

The Violin Society of America 2019 Scholarship recipients

Violin Making School of America

Pete Morris. Pete was raised in Savannah, GA and has bachelor’s degrees in Nursing and Turfgrass Management.  He has a love of playing music which grew into a need to know how the instruments were built.  Pete is in his second year of study at the VMSA and has completed two violins in the white and working on a third.  He also has built a violin at home in the evenings after school that is completed and being played.  Before starting school, he has also attended a bow making workshop with Lynn Hannings where he made two violin bows.

The Chicago School of Violin Making

Haddon Brown. Haddon was born in the North Country of New York state and moved to Wisconsin when he was 8 years old. As part of a large musical family, Haddon was actively involved in choirs, musical theater, dance, art, and instrumental music. Following his passion to work with his hands, Haddon started attending The Chicago School of Violin Making in Fall 2017. Thus far, he has completed two violins and a viola in the white and has plans to make a cello in the summer.


The Violin Society of America 2018 Scholarship recipients

Violin Making School of America

Paige Henson.
  Paige was raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, and received a BA in Anthropology and Music Theory from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Even though she had no woodworking experience prior to starting at the VMSA, Paige chose to attend because of her passion for music and her love of working with her hands. She is currently a second year student at the VMSA, where she has completed three violins in the white and will be learning repairs over the summer.

Shelby Martignacco.    Shelby grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho where she fostered her love of stringed instruments, playing viola for over 14 years. She began her violin making training in Chicago at the Chicago School of Violin Making in 2015 and transferred to the Violin Making School of America in 2016. Having attended both schools has given her diverse insights in the field and techniques used in violin building and varnish.


Mike Dunham.  Prior to attending the Violin Making School of America, Mike worked as a Chemical Engineer and Materials Scientist for more than 30 years.  He is wrapping up the plates for a cello and preparing to varnish the several violins and a viola already completed in the VMSA program.  After many years working with modern high tech materials, Mike is especially excited to be learning about the resin polymers, natural colorants, and very old processes used to make and apply violin varnishes.  Upon graduation Mike plans to return to his home in Flagstaff, AZ to make violins and help care for the instruments in community’s string music education programs.  The VSA scholarship helped Mike attend the Summer repair course offered by VMSA.

Bob Spetz.  Bob and his wife lived in Bozeman, Montana before moving to Salt Lake City so Bob could attend the VMSA.  Bob worked in the field of lasers and optics for twenty years before deciding to pursue his passion for music and express his creativity in woodworking by becoming a violin maker.   Bob is currently in the varnish and setup portion of the program at VMSA, is working on the scroll of his final school program violin, and is also making several instruments at home.  The VSA scholarship will help Bob afford the Summer repair course at the VMSA.


Benjamin Ward.  Benjamin Ward received no formal woodworking training before school, but since his admission into the VMSA in fall of 2016 he has finished 3 violins in the white. Being a long time violin player, and a having curiosity for the detailed workings of the violin led Benjamin to the school.  He has thoroughly enjoyed learning violin making, and will be learning to perform more extensive repair work over the summer.


Chicago School of Violin Making

2018 CSVM Scholarship Recipients: From Left to Right: Steve Thomas, Brennan Biasotti, Dylan Kole, Aaron Ryker, Eric Hwang

Eric Hwang is originally from the New York Hudson Valley and currently in his final year at the Chicago School of Violin Making studying under Rebecca Elliott and Frederic Thompson. He started playing violin at the age of 9 and was introduced to the string trade by a close friend who is a collector of fine instruments. Since September 2015 Eric has been responsible for the setup and maintenance of a storage room of instruments at the Betty Haag School of Music in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. He spent the summer of 2016 working at the shop of Lou Torick, and has also studied repairs and bow maintenance with luthiers John Bowen, Ken Stein, Eric Swanson, and Yumi Fujimoto. Eric is making a career change into violin making after nearly 20 ingratiating years in the corporate world. He holds degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago. You can reach Eric at IG: lutheriehh

Dylan Kole. I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan and have been playing the viola/violin since 5th grade. I worked for the family business as a roofer after high school. After visiting the workshop of a family friend who was a violin maker, I decided to enroll at the Chicago School of Violin Making. I have completed three violins so far and I am expected to graduate in the summer of 2019.

Aaron Ryker began attending the Chicago School of Violin Making in 2016. He is currently working on the construction of his second violin under the instruction of Rebecca Elliot and Fred Thompson. In addition to these he is helping to make a double bass as well as repair and set up a violin commissioned outside of school.

Steven Russell Thomas was born in St Albans, England June 5 1990. Moved to the Chicago area when he was about 2 and was raised in the western suburbs. Began attending the Chicago School of Violin Making in January of 2015. Since has completed all the requirements for graduation and also an additional violin at home through set up. In his second year of school he began working at the bench for Peter Seman at Seman Violins. Honing his set up knowledge and learning about repair and varnish touch up. He is very thankful for the scholarship that the VSA has provided to help him reach his goals. 

Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical – Red Wing -


Angela Handshoe is a recent graduate of the Minnesota State College Southeast Violin Repair program. Before entering the program, she began her experience in instrument repair at the locally-owned dulcimer shop, Simple Sounds Inc., located in her home town of Shipshewana, Indiana. After her high school graduation in 2017, she began work at the larger music corporation, Quinlan & Fabish Music Company, which allowed for her to focus primarily on violin repair. In the fall of 2017, Angela traveled from Indiana to Minnesota to attend the Violin Repair program in Red Wing, and graduated in the spring of 2018. Currently, Angela is shadowing VSA members Kevin Rouch and Mark Dill at Quinlan & Fabish Music Company, and plans to learn as much as she can from the both of them. Angela is in waiting for the reestablishment of the violin making program at Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing, Minnesota, and plans to take the course upon its reinstatement.

Brawley Campion. I am a student and recent graduate of the Violin Repair program at Minnesota State College Southeast. In the summer of 2017 I applied to MNSCSE with the dream of becoming a luthier. I spent the school year loving the program and work under fantastic instruction. I’ve learned so much about the violin family; history, construction, repair, and even playing techniques. So fortunate to have found the career path that resonates and fulfills me in life, I am extremely excited about my future in this field. I will be returning to MNSCSE for the 18-19 school year as a Guitar Repair and Building student, and likely the year following for further instruction. The Violin Society of America has recognized the efforts of students in this field, and I want to thank them for awarding me with this scholarship.

North Bennett Street School -

Brooke Esplin. A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Brooke enrolled in her high school’s welding and woodworking classes as a way to decompress from academics. She then spent a year at Brigham Young University jumping between majors in opera, engineering, and wildlife science, but couldn’t find anything that quite matched the joy she found while working with her hands. After completing a year and a half long full-time service mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in southern Spain, she moved to Boston to begin studying Violin Making & Repair at the North Bennet Street School. At school she gets to do what she loves every day, surrounded by a community of musicians and makers, and couldn’t be happier. She feels very honored to receive the support of the Violin Society of America in pursuing her craft.


The Violin Society of America 2017 Scholarship recipients

Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical – Red Wing -

Julie Baker

Julie's in her final year of musical instrument repair at Minnesota State College Southeast where she's learned to mend violin family instruments and guitars. Life events prompted her return to college after 16 years IT communications work. She enjoys music, languages and traveling and has lived in 4 countries: teaching English and practicing t'ai chi ch'uan in China, absorbing bossa nova in Brazil, gorging on spaghetti in Italy, and engaging in the American communities she calls home. Outside school, she volunteers with Red Wing's HOPE Coalition. Julie attended the VSA's 2016 Convention (then as Julie Moxley) and plans to pursue a career in string instrument repair after graduation.

Ruth Miyamoto

Ruth Miyamoto holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Cello Performance from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she studied with cellist Astrid Schween. A few years after graduation, with no experience, she decided to apply to Minnesota State College Southeast to study Violin Repair. Not knowing what to expect, Ruth quickly became engrossed in the world of violin luthiery, eager to learn all that her instructors had to offer. She attended the 2016 VSA convention and competition, where she was inspired to join the community of Violin makers and restorers. Ruth now works at Atelier String Instruments in Connecticut, where she will continue her learning under Constantin Popescu. Ruth is very grateful for the VSA for awarding her this scholarship to help support her success in her new career.

Violin Making School of America -

Andrew Hooper was raised in Danville, Kentucky, graduated from Boyle County High School and formed a music industry centered small business while attending Eastern Kentucky University. He is currently a second year student at the Violin Making School of America working on a viola. Primarily an upright bass player, he has a passion for music and helping out the local music scene.

Chicago School of Violin Making -

Joel Thompson received his BM in performance studying cello and viola da gamba. Before entering the Chicago school of violin making, he apprenticed for two years with Linda Shortridge making and repairing violas da gamba. He is currently in his third and final year at CSVM and is very grateful to all members of the VSA who contributed to the scholarship fund. It provided a tremendous leg up on the final lap as a student.  


The Violin Society of America 2016 Scholarship recipients

Chicago School of Violin Making -

Mary Jane Kwan

Mary Jane Kwan of Austin, TX is a third-year student at CSVM, where she currently is varnishing her cello. She learned setup and repair working at A440 Violin Shop. She is a participant of the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop. She draws comics for her violin making blog at Mary Jane is very thankful to the VSA for this scholarship and to everyone who has supported her in becoming a violin maker. 

Ona Oliver

Ona currently works for the Merit School of Music where she is an independent contractor doing repairs on student instruments.

Tommy Coleman

Tommy is a lifelong woodworker and has been a professional woodworker most of his adult life. He has made several stringed instruments including acoustic guitars, octave mandolins, ukuleles and an electric guitar. He has briefly worked at Classic Violins in Mundelein, Illinois.

Ilsa Reed

Before attending the Chicago School of Violin Making, Ilsa had no previous experience. She has played violin her entire life and is currently employed by Austin’s Violin Shop in Sugar Groove Illinois where she works the front desk and mantians rental instruments.

Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical – Red Wing -





Tyler Lubke

Tyler started at Red Wing with no past experience in the field of violin making and restoring. He has yet to officially work at a shop outside of school but has helped out with miscellaneous tasks at Claire Given’s shop in downtown Minneapolis.

Carleton K. Johnson

Carleton has focused on the construction and repairs of acoustic guitars. He is currently working on a viola da gamba and bow in addition to a school violin.

Catherine Autrey

Catherine has no experience in the field other than playing the violin, although she greatly enjoys the program she is currently enrolled in.

North Bennet Street School -

Seth Colon

Seth arrived at violin making when he was living in New York City. He working on custom furniture and playing violin on the side, dreaming of getting into the violin making field but couldn’t see it as a reality. One day while he was browsing at the library, he found  a short book on violin making and it sparked his interest immediately. Soon after he learned an acquintance of his was a violin maker in the lower east side of Manhattan. After visiting his shop and talking about the trade he decided that attending the North Bennet Street School was his best option. “Violin making has been even more fulfilling than I immagined. I have finished three violins and am currently working on a viola. I look forward to bringing my passion into the field and learning from current masters. I’ve had the privilege of spending a week in Cremona, Italy connecting with makers there and being in the presence of the home of Stradavari, Del Gesu, and Amati.

Evan Davenport

Evan has spent most of his life woodworking in some degree, mostly making instruments. He first started by nailing a couple fo 2x4’s together and attaching strings across, making “guitars” from as young as five years old. He bagan playing music at a very young age, starting with piano then later migrating to upright bass. During high school he started apprenticing with Boyd Paulson. Upon completing high school he moved to Brooklyn, NY to intern at Fodera Guitars and the following year he started the violin making program at North Bennet Street School. In the summers since beginning at NBSS, he has had internships with Arnold Schnitzer and Boyd Paulson and has taken varnish courses with Chris Pederson. Evan also contributed to the International Society of Bassists; “Build a Bass in a Week” project, in the summer of 2015.

Violin Making School of America -

Michael Murray

Mike Murray grew up on a small farm in rural Idaho and enjoyed playing instruments, singing, and loving music. Later during his college years at BYU-Hawaii, I was introduced to the arts and really took to drawing, painting, and ceramics. It took years to figure out how to marry the disciplines. That's when I discovered instrument making. After finishing a Bachelors of science degree in business, I moved to Utah to attend the Violin Making School of America. The incredible marriage of design, craftsmanship, music, history, and all the arts has captivated my mind, and will do so for years to come. 


Spencer Allen Stenquist

Spencer Stenquist was born in Lompoc California in 1993, graduated High School in North Ogden Utah in 2012 and began studying at the Violin Making School of America in 2015. He is currently on his second year of school finishing up his third violin. He also does work for Scoggins and Scoggins Violin Shop in Salt Lake City.



Zachary Goad

While attending the magnet program of Wheeler High School, Zachary was required to fulfill an internship of his choice, as long as it applied to his field of study in his acoustics program. He secured a spot at Williams Gengakki Violins in Atlanta Georgia, where he worked closely with owner Reginald Williams, and his makers Cameron Robertson and Ryan McLaughlin. Both these makers taught Zachary an elementary overview of woodworking, tonewoods, tools used in violinmaking and the life in a shop. Mr. Williams focused more on violinmaking history, matching instruments to bows, and how to deal with customers.  


The Violin Society of America 2015 Scholarship recipients

Chicago School of Violin Making -

Levi Samuelson

Currently in his third year of school Levi has completed 2 violins, 1 viola and is finishing building a cello. His first violin was displayed at the 2014 VSA convention in Indianapolis, IN. He has also participated in the repair of a bass top, including: cracks, patches, a new bass bar and varnish touch up. This was done after hours at the CSVM with Fredric S. Thompson. Levi is currently building a violin based on a Peter Guarneri of Mantua violin as a home project.

Caitlin Cook

Although she had no previous experience in violin making before attending school, since beginning school, she has built a violin at home through varnishing. Additionally, since attending the intensive set-up and repair trimester, she has cut new bridges and sound posts for several violins and her cello at home. She was able to attend the AFVBM convention in May of 2014 as a student representative and at the VSA convention last September as a volunteer checking instruments and working with the quartet judges.

John Griffin

John has made two violins and a viola at school under the direction of Rebecca Elliott and Fred Thompson. He is in the process of making his third violin and has helped with the restoration of a double bass with several other students. In his repair class he cuts bridges and sound posts, has re-shaped fingerboards, reset fingerboard pitch angles, re-shaped and made new nuts, and has re-shaped and stained necks. He has also done custom color varnish touch-up on the instruments that he has worked on.

Sara Deliberato

Sara was first given the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Terry Carlin’s Violin Shop in Cleveland, OH, where she shadowed her for a couple of weeks in the summer of 2013. She was able to clean, polish and set-up their rental instruments during this time. The following fall she started at CSVM where after a semester she began working at Seman Violins as a receptionist. A few months later she was offered the chance to move to the bench where for the past nine months she has been working on their rental instruments. Working on these instruments, she was able to do tasks such as: gluing seams, wings and top cracks, fixing rib cracks, dressing fingerboards, making new pegs, touching up varnish, sound post adjustments, reshaping nuts and assisting with chinrest and shoulder rest consultations.

Violin Making School of America

Andrew Seelhammer

Andrew has been attending the VMSA for about 2 years and has made 4 violins in the white. He’s about to start making a cello and is very excited for the challenges it may bring. Experimenting with making tools has also been a part of his making experience. Having built a bending iron from scratch, custom clamps and some chisels for special steps, his current project is figuring out how to make finger planes.

Rachel Becker

Having enrolled at the VMSA in March of 2013, up to this point Rachel has completed three violins and a viola in the white, and is midway through a cello. She has recently collaborated on a commissioned viola for a local musician with another student and last summer participated in the VMSA repair class where she practiced crack repair and soundpost patches on two cellos. This, along with her experience of building a cello has cemented the idea in her mind that she would like to focus on cello making and repair in the future. This summer, she will be traveling to Columbia with Sounds of Change, as a resident Luthier, where she will be repairing and setting up student instruments and instructing teachers and musicians in basic instrument maintenance while her colleagues work with the kids to spread string music to underprivileged communities.

Robert J. Wood

Robert worked full-time at Petr’s Violin Shop in Anchorage Alaska before attending VMSA. It was there that Petr Bucinsky taught him repair techniques passed down by his father Ivan Bucinsky and Hans Weisshar, who Petr worked for after graduating from the VMSA. Robert has also done repairs for Thomas & Vessel Stringed Instruments in Modesto California.

Marinos Glitsos

Prior to attending the VMSA Marinos served a two year, part-time apprenticeship with lute builder Danile Larson of Gamut Music, Inc.

Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical in

Nickolaus W. Capps

Prior to attending classes at Minnesota State College, Southeast technical, Nickolaus worked as an instrument repair person at Mellr Music in Milwaukee Wisconsin where he was required to do small repairs on violin family instruments and bows. This led to his desire to learn more about repairing them, so that eventually he could do high quality repairs.

Sean Fowler

Sean began his career in lutherie in 2010 through self study and seeking help from local Luthiers. Between 2013 and 2014 he worked in the repair shop of Wilhite Strings, in Knoxville Tennessee under the supervision of Linda Blosser. Here he performed repairs and set-up on both rental and customer instruments. He also worked for Lane Music during this time.

North Bennet Street

Julia Felix

Despite never having done any sort of repair or making before attending the North Bennet Street School, Julia has learned so much since she arrived in September 2012. She has built 5 instruments now, including a Da Salo model and a Del Gesu model, done basic set-up work such as making a fingerboards, replaning fingerboards, replaning necks, fitting soundposts, carving bridges, etc., alcohol and oil varnishing, and even some repair work such as fitting patches, removing bass bars, and closing cracks. “I have many years of practice and hard work ahead of me, but I believe that I have a good footing to get started on. Receiving a scholarship from the VSA would allow me to make some much needed final purchases to get started as a full time violin maker, as well as help me with some tuition fees for school.”

Jedidjah de Vries

Jedidjah came to North Bennet Street as a lifelong violinist with, admittedly, little direct making experience. This has pushed him to work even harder. In addition to coming in to the bench room early and leaving late every day, he has gone out of his way to pursue as much information and experience as possible. For example,  by travelling to exhibits at Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Yale, by attending events such as the VSA conference in Indianapolis, the federation meeting last year in Chicago and Mondomusica, and by participating in enrichment opportunities such as the Hans Nebel workshop. Still, most of his experience has come from the daily work at the bench, under the tutelage of Roman Barnas. In my two years at NBSS he has learned an incredible amount, most of which, at the end of the day, merely reminds him of all that he has yet to still learn. “I am very excited to continue my studies and appreciate the assistance the VSA has to offer.”

The Violin Society of America 2014 Scholarship recipients

North Bennet Street School, Boston, MA

Jedidjah de Vries: Jedidjah de Vries is mostly from California, but has also lived in Israel and the Netherlands. Currently in his second year at NBSS, he is excited to be soon starting work on a viola.

“I have been playing the violin since I was a young child. And, while I enjoy playing, it was always the violin’s sound that really attracted me to the instrument. I was captivated by the seemingly magical relationship between the music in my ears and the beautiful object in my hand. As a violin maker my goal is to combine physics, history, and craft into the best possible tool for the musician and, ultimately, for the music.”

“I greatly appreciate the VSA scholarship for helping make my dream a reality.”

Julia Felix: I am from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and started at the North Bennet Street School in September 2012. Before coming here, I attended Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Studio Art, and am probably one of the only Art Majors ever to say that the experience has helped immensely with my career so far. I also come from a very musical family and have played multiple instruments over the course of my life, so between my love of music and my love of making things, Violin Making made a lot of sense to me. I'm currently in my third year here, and am working on building a variation of a 1580 Gasparo Da Salo Viola, which has been extremely interesting and rewarding so far.

Thanks to the VSA Scholarship, I was able to put some money towards my tuition as well as afford a number of tools that I had been squeaking by without, but actually needed very much. It could not have come at a better time, and I am so grateful that this scholarship exists.



Ryan Fini: Ryan Fini grew up in a very musical family in Albuquerque NM.  He had a fascination with the violin from a very young age and began playing at 8 years old.  Upon completing his bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico he was accepted into the violin making program at NBSS.  Ryan is now a graduate of the school as of June 2014.    

 “I have always been infatuated with the violin.  As a child I was greatly intrigued by the lore and mystique surrounding the great violin makers.  When I look back, I can see that becoming a violin maker was only natural for me.”

 “I greatly appreciate the generosity of the VSA in awarding me this scholarship.  It has enabled me to buy many of the tools that I need, and has assisted me in paying my monthly tuition.  I am truly grateful.”

Ryan Stulb: Ryan Stulb is from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and started school at North Bennet Street School in September 2012. He is currently working on 4 Stradivari violins, an Andrea Guarneri viola, and is restoring a German Stainer copy. He is expected to graduate in June of 2015.

As far back as I can remember, I have been obsessed with music. My father is a finish carpenter. My mother is an art teacher. Both parents influenced me into appreciating visual art and craftsmanship. Violin making was the perfect combination of the visual art, craftsmanship, and the auditory. I worked for 5 years as a registered nurse and decided I wanted to to pursue a passion of mine and really go for it. I enrolled in the school. After 2 years of intense training under Roman Barnas, I could not be happier with my decision. I look forward to a life long career in doing what I love every day.  

"To the Violin Society of America, thank you for awarding me this scholarship. It was incredibly helpful in this last year where I could cut back my hours at my part time job to focus on perfecting my craft."

Not pictured: Daniel Lewis McIrvin Jr.

Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical, Red Wing, MN

Ryan Juntunen: Ryan Juntunen is  from Deer River, Minnesota and a graduate of the Violin Repair, as well as both Guitar Repair programs at Southeast Technical College. He started doing repair work and building while he was in high school and was registered as a sole proprietor by the time he graduated. After graduating from Red Wing he moved back to northern Minnesota and he is currently building a shop where he will be building violins, mandolins and guitars.

"I would like to thank the VSA for the scholarship and their support of violin repair students."

Not Pictured: Reed Schmidt and David Tran

The Violin Society of America 2013 Scholarship recipients

Violin Making School of America, Salt Lake City, Utah

Stephen Sherman: Stephen Sherman grew up in Wildwood, Missouri, and started playing the violin at a young age. He began studing woodworking in high school. "Out of my very large family of 8, I am the only one who has stayed musically inclined."

Stephen started at the VMSA in September of 2010 and is looking forward to beginning his graduation work. He is on track to graduate in May of 2014.

"The VSA scholarship has helped to finish the final portion of my school work and has relieved some stress in the process. For that I am very thankful. I love what the school has given me and I’m now ready to use it in the real world. Thanks to all who support the VSA!"

Andrew Moore: Andrew Moore is from McKinney, Texas and started school in March 2011. He is currently working on his last violin, and will soon begin varnish and setup, and is expected to graduate in May of 2014.

"Growing up in music was a one of the most central and enriching parts of life. I've participated in orchestras and chamber groups playing cello; recorded and performed in a band on guitar; and worked as a Audio Engineer. I now look forward to putting music into peoples hands through the craft of instrument making. My father has been essential in providing this opportunity for me." Since beginning school he has developed two separate types of cancer. This scholarship helps with the financial difficulties that have arisen. I greatly appreciate the VSA for the scholarship as I am working towards to finishing the school program."

"To the Violin Society of America, thank you for your support and generosity. Your commitment to the development of craftsmanship and the growing community of makers is greatly appreciated."

Elizabeth Clarke: Elizabeth Clarke started school at the Violin Making School of America at the beginning of October 2011.  Now a second year student, she soon will be closing the box on her fourth violin.

"I started playing the violin when I was 4 years old and have loved it ever since. I first became interested in violinmaking in my first year of college. I've loved every second of the learning the process of violinmaking. My dream is to repair violins as a career. This scholarship has been a big help in aquiring some of the much needed (and expensive) tools of the profession, and I'm very grateful to my wonderful teachers and the Violin Society of America."

Dustin Fagg: Dustin Fagg started at VMSA in March of 2012. Originally from Deltona, FL, Dustin  previously worked in construction. The skills learned as a tradesman have not only helped in his studies, but also helped with improvements around the school, which included assembling VMSA's massive new light box.

"I’m currently working on my cello rib structure and will graduate in May of 2014. I am immensely grateful for the scholarship. It has allowed me to attend summer classes and purchase much needed tools."

Melissa Collins: Melissa Collins proudly hails from Portland Oregon and started at VMSA in October 2010. Currently finishing last violin and beginning varnish, she is expected to graduate May 2014.

"Thank you so much for the scholarship this year. It helps so much and is allowing me to make final tool purchases as I prepare to complete my graduation work. Thank you for your continued support of violin making students."

Chicago School of Violin Making, Skokie, IL

Greg Jablonski: A retired National Park Service employee and avid Irish music fan, Greg is currently in his second year at CSVM and hails from Franklin, Wisconsin.

Drew Harding: Drew, from Aurora, Illinois, completed the violin repair program at Minnesota State College Southeast Technical, and is currently in his second year at CSVM.  He continues guitar/violin repair and making in his free time.

Michael Jackson: Michael, originally from Wyoming, traveled extensively before beginning his studies at CSVM.  He will graduate in 2013.

Scott Albert: Scott is a retired Air Force First Sargeant who is currently completing his final year of study at CSVM.  A VSA judge's scribe in 2012, Scott also attended the recent Oberlin Violin Making workshop as an intern.

Michael Fazio: Michael is an accomplished musician originally from Washington state.  He is currently in his second year at CSVM and is working on his first cello.

North Bennett Street School, Boston, MA

Ryan Fini: (See 2014 Winner)
Armand Aromin:

Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical, Red Wing, MN

Stefan Rieck: Studying under Lisbeth Butler, John Reed and Ute Zahn, Stephen Rieck graduated in 2013 with high honors from the violin repair and construction course at Southeast Technical in Red Wing, Minnesota.  After leaving Minnesota he moved back to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to start work in an established luthier shop, String Theory Luthiery.

Stefan has a lifelong passion for wood working, and was steered toward luthiery with help from his brother Josh Rieck, also a graduate of the Southeast Technical program in Red Wing. Stefan’s desire to repair and create long lasting, beautiful instruments drives him to succeed in his new found career.

Stefan would like to express his thanks to the VSA for the generous scholarship.

Brandi Oviedo 
is a 2013 graduate of the Violin Repair Program at Southeast Technical in Red Wing, MN.  In addition to the completing the Violin Repair Diploma, she took an additional class in Violin Construction, where she built a violin by hand – “mostly by hand, the old-fashioned way.”

Since 2009, Brandi has worked at Ray's Midbell Music in Sioux City, Iowa teaching piano, violin, cello, and guitar. Following graduation, she will now be responsible for maintaining and servicing orchestra instruments rented and sold by Ray's Midbell Music.

Brandi holds a B.M. degree in music education and a B.S. in psychology from the University of South Dakota, where she studied cello with Richard Rognstad, Nick Curry, and Marie-Elaine Gagnon. She performs with many area groups including the Sioux City Symphony, Sioux City's Rockestra, Wayne State College Orchestra, and the Rose Quartet.

Sarah Bystrom is from Ellsworth, Wisconsin and first began playing classical violin when she was 10.  “At the age of 12, I had the opportunity take lesson from John Reed, who opened my eyes to Celtic and bluegrass fiddling, and I loved it!” she says.  She began building her first violin at the age of 14, working in John Reed’s studio. By the age of 18, Sarah had already completed two violins under his consistent and encouraging teaching efforts.  She had also earned the Violin Repair Diploma from Southeast Technical, crediting the help of her college instructors, Lisbeth Nelson Butler and John Reed.

Three weeks after graduating, Sarah moved to Nashville, TN where she now works as the bow specialist at Williams Fine Violins as well as in instrument repair and set-up.  She is excited to continue learning and growing in her violin building interests with the help of shop owner Dustin Williams.