Violin godhead Jonathan Cooper ’ s earliest musical mania was guitars. All through high school he played the guitar, bought and sold guitars, collected guitars, and upon gradation, went straight into playing music professionally, again focusing on the guitar .
then, about on a notion, he switched to playing the fiddle.
“ I took up playing the fiddle when I was 20, which was kind of strange because until then I ’ vitamin d never even thought of playing the violin, ” Cooper says. “ I mean, I knew it existed, but I knew nothing about it and I had no interest in it. ” Everything changed when a bandmate who ’ vitamin d played the viola as a child spontaneously brought his instrument to a rehearsal, and at one point a curious Cooper picked it up and squeaked out a few investigational notes. It must have made a deep impression .
“ That night I had a dream, ” he explains, “ a dream in which I was playing the violin perfectly and speaking a language I have to assume was french. The way I see it immediately, there ’ south my life before that day, and my biography after that day, because I woke up in the dawn, went downtown to a thrift store where I ’ d seen a violin for sale, bought it for like $ 7, and pretty much started teaching myself how to play it. ”
Cooper, who lives and runs Acoustic Artisans, his violin-making denounce in Portland, Maine, was living in rural New Hampshire at the time of the ambition. This was approximately 1970, and he had plenty of hours to kill between band rehearsals. therefore in addition to learning how to play, he started buying violins angstrom well, to repair and tinker with and figure out how they were constructed .
“ There were cheap violins all over the place in the early ’ 70s, ” he says. “ The nation was littered with them. They were everywhere. I grew up in New Jersey, right outside New York, and knew some people in the city I could reach out to for information, but believe it or not, it took me a pair of years to realize, ‘ Wait a minute… these violins aren ’ thyroxine all made in Germany and Italy and France. People make them here in America, excessively ! ’ ”
Cooper was delighted to find violins made in Maine and New Hampshire. “ Some of them were actually kind of nice, ” he says .
In those pre-internet days, there was very fiddling available data about violin make. There weren ’ t evening that many books on the subjugate. The lay down of violins was an art teach about entirely by skilled and feel makers to eager, hard-working novices. There was no such thing as a DIY violin maker .
“ so I started to seek people out. I met some makers. I took a summer naturally at the University of New Hampshire in 1976. All of that opened up a solid unlike global. When I got into the belated quarter of my twenties, I started thinking, ‘ I don ’ thyroxine know if I want to spend the perch of my life doing all these little gigs playing the tinker. possibly I ’ ll take a look at what the violin trade is like. ”
Today, Cooper is just about to cross the threshold of having made 500 violins.
By that degree, Cooper was making side money buy and selling string instruments. In 1979, while on a european band tour that included Italy, he took a digressive free-time travel to Cremona, where he visited several violin makers. “ I was wholly smite, ” he says. “ Being there made me so happy. Later that class, I quit playing in the band I was in, dropped everything, and moved to Cremona. ”
Cooper spent his following three years there, an experience that cemented his resoluteness to establish violin reach as his career. “ That dream literally changed my life, ” he says. “ It bit me hard and never let go. ”
today, Cooper is just about to cross the doorsill of having made 500 violins. In a shop he describes as orderly and clean, with an everything-in-its-place ocular appeal that about eclipses the sweet smell of wood and other sensational treats associated with violin make, he constructs all manner of string melodious instruments. His clients include classical musicians, family and state fiddlers, and pop and rock ‘n’ roll musicians, from novices to celebrities to superstars. That scope of necessitate is appealing to Cooper, he says, because it requires him to be elastic and imaginative .
“ These instruments—violins, violas, cellos—they are ductile, ” he says. “ They were designed to make a certain voice, but they can be changed around, the formula can be tweaked. Because the world has changed, right ? You ’ re not constantly playing in a concert anteroom, having to fill a big room. You might be playing alongside a banjo player in a small club, which means you need a unlike sound. You might be playing into a microphone in a recording studio, which means you need a different sound. ”
All of that got Cooper thinking profoundly about what the sound of violin actually is .
“ Everybody wants color in their healthy, they want the voice of their violin to match the voice of the music they are playing and the site they are playing it in, ” he says. “ I besides look at music as something that is always changing. That ’ sulfur one of things that ’ south kept the legal of the violin fresh for therefore long. ”
One of Cooper ’ s most personally gratifying projects has been the universe of the Daniel Pearl Memorial Instruments Award, named in honor of the Wall Street Journal correspondent who was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in 2002. “ When I foremost heard what happened to Daniel Pearl—you couldn ’ t avoid it because it was all over the news—at one point they showed a video of him and he ’ mho playing the tamper with what was clearly some kind of bluegrass dance band, ” Cooper says. “ I remember that this was a time when a distribute of us felt in truth helpless. What can we possibly do to make any positive contribution to what ’ s going on in the worldly concern ? ”
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ultimately, in what felt like a little but meaningful gesticulate, Cooper decided to make a violin in Pearl ’ s respect. At the prison term he was working with Mark O ’ Connor, doing fiddle-making demonstrations at his annual fiddle camp. What gradually developed, as Cooper made another violin, then a viola, then a cello—all in Daniel Pearl ’ randomness honor—was a broadcast in which each instrument would be awarded to a player from O ’ Connor ’ mho camp, who would play that musical instrument for one year .
The first violinist to receive the Daniel Pearl violin was Jeremy Kittel, in 2003. other recipients include Alex Hargreaves, Noshi Norris, Toby Conn, Olivia Thompson, and numerous other young players. “ The idea was that the players would, in turn, put on performances and talk about who Daniel Pearl was, ” Cooper says. “ We ’ re done now, having made a full quartet of instruments, but they live on, passed gloomy every year to a raw musician. That ’ randomness just an amaze honor for me. ”
Cooper believes that, for violin makers like himself, the notion that the instruments he makes will long outlive him is a duty american samoa much as it is a perk up of the profession. “ When I make a violin, I ’ thousand pretty confident that, unless it ’ second very heavily damaged along the way, it ’ sulfur going to be here 300 years from now, ” he says. “ specially these days, because we have good cases and climate-controlled buildings and all this early stuff. Clearly, past examples show us that there is no cause why things won ’ t last 300 or 400 years without any problem. I very like that. Long, long after I ’ thousand dead, some of my violins will distillery be around, making music, and hopefully, you know, still making people glad. ”