Violin Making and Repair

North Bennet Street School teaches the time-honored skills, ideas and values of fine craftsmanship through intensive hands-on training. Established in 1984, the NBSS Violin Making and Repair program is one of the few full-time instrument making programs in the United States.

AlanDiPesaviolin.gif
Violin by third-year student Alan DiPesa. 

Curriculum

The Violin Making and Repair curriculum provides a solid foundation in instrument making and an introduction to the art and science of stringed instrument restoration. Over the course of the program, each student builds five violins, a viola and a bowed instrument of the student's choice. The three-year, hands-on program teaches the fundamental skills and knowledge for the repair, restoration and set-up of stringed instruments in accordance with the highest standards of the craft and the needs of expert musicians.

  • Develop woodworking and hand-tool skills.
  • Gain a solid understanding of the classical construction of instruments of the violin family.
  • Acquire technical drawing skills.
  • Make varnishes and develop finishing techniques.
  • Complete a series of repairs to instruments in the violin family.  

On their first instrument, students learn the basic procedures and techniques of violin construction. The principal objective of the first year is to have students learn the proper use and care of hand tools, the properties of wood and critical specifications of traditional instrument patterns. First year students make two violins.

During the second and third years of the program, students develop varnishing and set-up skills, including cutting bridges, fitting sound posts, planing fingerboards and the proper use of glues and clamps. Students make a viola, a bowed instrument of the student's choice and additional violins in the second and third years.

Throughout the course, accomplished violin and bow makers are invited to serve as guest instructors, exposing students to various approaches to violin making. Students explore Boston’s well-established luthier community and typically take field trips to local violin shops, attend previews of stringed instrument auctions at Skinners Fine Auction and visit the musical instrument collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The PBS show, Craft in America, visited the NBSS Violin Making and Repair Program. An excerpt of the visit is below.  


Facilities

As with all of the traditional trades taught a North Bennet Street School, violin making and repair is learned through hands-on work. The bench rooms are well equipped and include a library and drawing area.

“NBSS challenges you to work at the highest level of craftsmanship and gives you the supporting tools to do it — excellent instruction, a well-structured program, and access to Boston’s world-class professional violin makers, restorers, experts, and musicians.”

Peter Bingen ’06
Violin Maker
Portland, Oregon

Faculty

Roman Barnas

Roman was born in Zakopane, Poland. At age 14, he entered the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Zakopane and began making his first violins. Roman attended the Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznan, Poland, where he studied music and violin making for five more years. He received Master of Fine Arts Diploma graduating with honors. During his school years and after graduating, Roman had visited a number of famous violin-making workshops inEuropewhere the owners and employees shared their wealth of knowledge with him.

Roman came to the U.S. in 1996 to work at Psarianos Violins in Troy, Michigan where he worked for over nine years specializing in violin restoration and set up of violins, violas and cellos. Roman has also studied violin making with Boyd Poulsen and violin restoration with Hans Nebel and regulary participates in the Oberlin Violin Making Workshop. He plays violin, accordion, and double bass.

Roman continues to make instruments and enjoys playing his own violin after before it is presented for sale. Among his past commissions was a late Nathan Gordon, former Concertmaster of Detroit Symphony Orchestra and great violin and viola virtuoso, who after his retirement decided to give up his ownership of beautiful Gaspar da Salo viola and had commissioned a large viola model made by Roman Barnas to replace his previous instrument. At the October 2010 Violin Society of America violin making competition, Roman received certificate of merit for tone for his violin.

David Hawthorne

David is a maker of bows for stringed instruments and a frequent guest teacher in the violin department. His shop is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He began bow making with William Salchow and later studied with Stephane Thomachot in Paris. He headed the bow department at Reuning and Sons in Boston for eight years. His formal education includes a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music, and two Masters of Music (Jazz Guitar and Composition) from New England Conservatory. He is a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers and the Violin Society of America. His work on both modern and baroque bows has received numerous awards and praise from internationally acclaimed musicians. David is a regular guest instructor in the Violin program and leads bowmaking workshops at North Bennet Street School. His website is http://www.violinbows.net/.

Read all NBSS faculty profiles here. 

Employment

Graduates of the NBSS Violin Making and Repair program are well prepared to start work in the stringed instrument field as violin makers or repair technicians. Since the inception of the program graduates have found employment in shops all over the world. As their work experience and technique develops, many NBSS alumni pursue careers in instrument building and restoration, working in renowned shops. Others launch their own businesses as luthiers. Read more about violin making and repair careers here.

Click here for the school's gainful employment report [pdf].

Admissions

NBSS offers rolling admissions and accepts qualified applicants throughout the year. Violin Making and Repair offers enrollment in both the Fall and Spring. Since the program is extremely competitive and fills quickly, it is to your advantage to plan ahead and apply early. Successful applicants display woodworking skills and a devotion to the craft. Learn more about the admissions process.

Hours of Instruction, Tuition, Tool and Materials

  • Classes meet 8:00 am- 3:00 pm, Monday - Friday, September through June.
  • The course length is three, ten-month academic years (40 weeks per year, 120 weeks or 3900 class hours***).
  • Students are admitted in September and February.
  • The maximum course size is 12 students. 
  • The tuition is $23,680* yearly totaling $71,040** and may be paid in 30 monthly installments of $2,368.
  • The estimated cost of hand tools is $2,100.
  • The estimated cost of materials for violins is $1,000 per year billed in monthly installments of $100.
  • Students who complete the program receive a Diploma of Violin Making and Repair.

*The tuition rate is for students entering North Bennet Street School between September 2014 and June 2015.

**North Bennet Street School reserves the right to increase tuition in the second and subsequent years of a course. If the school does increase tuition for a course in subsequent years, that increase will not exceed 7.5% of the previous year’s tuition. Should the school exercise its right to increase tuition, the school must give the student a minimum of ninety (90) days written notice prior to the effective date of the increase and a new enrollment agreement will be executed.

*** Class hours equals clock hours.


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Third-year violin student Corey Swan is building a bass. Read the story.

2009 Clip from The Patriot Ledger of Violin student Greg Allison (2:10 minutes)