Meeting Topic: The Chicago School of Violin Making Tour
Speaker Name: Fredric S. Thompson and Rebecca Elliott
Meeting Location: Skokie, IL
The September 2010 meeting of the Chicago AES Section was held at The Chicago School of Violin Making, located in Skokie, Illinois. Approximately 30 audio enthusiasts received a presentation on the history and construction of the violin and were able to openly tour the facility and interact with a few student volunteers demonstrating their construction techniques.
Mr. Thompson started his presentation by first indicating his concern that he was the only one wearing a pocket protector. He then informed us that the school was originally founded as the Kenneth Warren & Son School of Violin Making in 1975 under the direction of Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee (from the inception through today) and in December 2002 the school incorporated as a not-for-profit entity. The school offers a full-time, three-year program in violin making and repair to an international student body. Their goal is to teach the basic fundamentals in violin making based on the quality craftsmanship that was developed by the classical masters in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Mr. Thompson and Ms. Elliott presented side by side in providing a history of the violin, demonstrated the various parts of a violin by passing them around the room, and offered various insights to their program and the processes of violin making such as:
· Their violin designs have German, French, and Italian influence — even to the detail that they work in the metric system;
· They use maple for the sides, back, neck, and bridge of the violin; spruce for the top and bass bar due to its highest strength to weight ratio; and ebony for the fingerboard, pegs, and tail pieces;
· They do not use templates in order to teach the students to use their eyes ... hand-eye coordination; all their work is done by hand using hand tools;
· They do not perform acoustic measurements on their materials or products; rather they use 'tap' tones by tapping on the wood to hear the vibration modes, pitch, and quality;
After the presentation, the group was able to move freely about the facility to engage the presenters and students that were at their respective benches demonstrating their work. The audience enthusiastically asked many questions during both the presentation and during the tour. Highlights of this type of tour included the ability to touch and hold the various tools, materials, and finished violins in addition to speaking with the students and staff regarding real-time activities.
The Chicago AES Section would like to extend a special thanks to Fredric Thompson and Rebecca Elliott, Co-Directors at The Chicago School of Violin Making, for hosting this meeting.
Written By: Ken Platz