Lutherie in the US: An American Dream

Becker workshop

Violin making in the US was built on the aspirations of a few woodworkers with talent – and in two centuries it has evolved into a multimillion-dollar industry. Ahead of the publication of a new book, The American Violin, co-author Philip Kass traces the advancement of American lutherie and shows ...

Many countries regard themselves as being, in one way or another, exceptional. The United States of America has ample justification for making such a claim. From its very origins it has been a ‘land of opportunity’, a place where anyone could make a fresh start and lead the lives they chose without the restrictions of their native lands. The vast majority of Americans are immigrants or their descendants, and they are drawn from every corner of the planet.

They brought with them their habits and customs from their homelands and then adapted them to their new surroundings, creating something familiar but also often remarkably different. Music was important to the early settlers, and they soon started importing both music and instruments. The newspapers of every port city carried numerous advertisements for music teachers and concerts, and a steady stream of merchant ships arrived from London and elsewhere, carrying in their manifests musical instruments and supplies. It did not take long before violin makers began to appear. They too were immigrants, and often not from traditions of lutherie. In the Northeast, there was James Juhan, a French-born violinist and composer who was recorded as having made the instruments used in the concerts he promoted during the 1760s. None of his instruments are known today.

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Subscribe to continue reading…

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. For a limited period, you can try an online subscription to The Strad completely free of charge.

  • Free 7-day trial

    Not sure about subscribing? Sign up now to read this article in full and you’ll also receive unlimited access to premium online content, including the digital edition and online archive for 7 days.

    No strings attached – we won’t ask for your card details

  • Subscribe 

    No more paywalls. To enjoy the best in-depth features and analysis from The Strad’s latest and past issues, upgrade to a subscription now. You’ll also enjoy regular issues and special supplements* and access to an online archive of issues back to 2010.


* Issues and supplements are available as both print and digital editions. Online subscribers will only receive access to the digital versions.