A selection of letters The Strad receives each month from its readers around the world: December 2022 issue
In 1968 I joined the violin making class run by Juliet Barker (1934–2022), which took place on Wednesday evenings at the Cambridge Tech. At the time my day job was with a Cambridge firm of solicitors. On Friday evenings, by way of contrast, I did motor mechanics. I was privileged to know luthier Roland Gentle as well, both at the Tech and later in Juliet’s new workshop, There, I was also taught by all the expert violin makers mentioned in the tribute to Juliet by Christopher Beament (bit.ly/3g9ufFn). I also made three bows under the eagle eye of Richard Wilson. Juliet was very keen on smaller instruments probably because a lot of amateur makers wanted to make instruments for their children or grandchildren.
Having made my first instrument, which was a success, I was hooked and decided that I would go to the Newark School of Violin Making (NSVM) when I retired, for the full professional training. Following a health problem when I was 52 years old I retired earlier than expected. But having recovered my health at 58, I went to NSVM.
Apart from violins and violas I made two small cellos in Juliet’s workshop and, as my grandchildren showed no interest in stringed instruments, I gave them both to the Benslow Loan Scheme. One of them featured in The Strad, in a photograph of a new building being opened at Benslow.
In his tribute, Christopher mentioned the Rowan Armour-Brown Trust, which counted Juliet and Wilfred Saunders among its founder trustees. This trust has helped many violin making students with tools, money, and workshop placements. I was delighted to work with Juliet while I was treasurer of the Trust for 18 years. Juliet started a lifelong interest in the violin making world and now, at the age of 80, I am still involved. She literally changed my life.
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