Ethan Brossard, a high school senior at the Academy of Charlemont, has been spending time in the shop with me on recent Saturdays learning about the craft of violin making. Ethan is a woodworker and cellist who plays in a string quartet. These interests gave rise to a curiosity about luthiery and his selection of this topic for his senior project. A neighbor and family friend made the introduction that led to this project.
Ethan tells me he has always been interested in learning more about how string instruments are made. I’m doing my best to give him an overview of basic concepts in instrument making, answer his questions, and provide him with hands-on experience with forms, shapes, and functions. We have spent several enjoyable hours together as he applies this new knowledge in making a violin back and top alongside me as I work on my own projects.
We’ve also discussed issues that come up in instrument making. Why do some instruments sound better than others? This is a question I’ve tried to understand over the years myself, and Ethan is very curious about the many factors that can affect the sonic outcome when creating an instrument.
Ethan has found it surprising that I use a combination of modern and historic processes in my work. He has been researching the history of luthiery and how violin making has evolved over time. He also did not expect to learn that I use so much locally grown wood in building my instruments.
I enjoy sharing what I know with others who are eager to learn. I look forward to seeing Ethan’s finished project reflecting back what he has absorbed in our sessions this spring.