Making Matters: How I set up a violin making workshop during the pandemic

Group discussion about bass bar measurements, density and placement

Ian McWilliams explains how he set up a summer violin making workshop near the German capital

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In 2020, during the first of the many Covid-19 lockdowns, a plan began to form in my head. For a long time I had thought there should be an event for violin makers in Europe to compare with the intensive two-week Oberlin Summer Workshops in the US. Taking place every June, the workshop brings 60 makers from all over the world to Oberlin, Ohio, to share ideas and work on various projects. Would it be possible to create something similar over here?

Lying 50 miles west of Berlin, the historic city of Brandenburg an der Havel was once the centre and most important city in the region until the Reformation, though it now has only 70,000 inhabitants. I give you this brief history because it helps explain why the town is lucky enough to have so many beautiful churches. A few have been renovated as exhibition spaces and conference venues, which was one reason why I thought this would be an ideal location for a violin and bow making workshop. Brandenburg is small, with not too many distractions, but large enough to have everything we need – even some (very important) freshly brewed coffee. Because of its proximity to Berlin, we benefit from all the transport links there. After a few early consultations with colleagues I could see there was enough interest to test this European social experiment…

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