Departments of JSI: CHV Office

Departments of JSI

Departments of JSI has returned! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

The Carriage House office staff are the people you see at the reception desks when you walk in. They handle everything from paperwork to organization, and do a lot of work behind the scenes. We asked them to answer some questions about themselves and their jobs:

What is your position at Carriage House Violins?

Ariel Chu: I am an administrative assistant for Carriage House Violins.

Sarah Rogers: Administrative Assistant and Recital Hall Coordinator

Eva Walsh: I am a part-time administrative assistant at CHV.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Ariel: A typical day at work involves greeting customers as they enter, creating both sales and workshop repair appointments, and answering phone/online questions. Working at the reception desk, we are the connection between the customers and the different departments of JSI.

Sarah: For the administrative part of my job, I am the first (smiling) face you see upon entering Carriage House Violins! My colleagues and I are here to make sure our customers are directed to the right department, whether they are looking to buy a new instrument, need their instrument repaired, or they just have general questions about the small world of music. I also coordinate events in our recital hall.

Eva: Our typical day is simple, yet complicated. We do whatever is needed to keep the office running, whether it’s organizing our repaired instruments, communicating between the office and our customers, preparing documents, giving tours, answering questions or even just getting up on a ladder to replace a light bulb. Any number of things end up being in our wheelhouse.

What is your main instrument?

Ariel: My main instrument is the viola.

Sarah: Violin

Eva. My main instrument is the violin, but I play on a 5-string viola made by our workshop manager John Dailey. My other main instrument is my voice and I perform just as much as a vocalist now as I do on the violin.

Did you go to school for music?

Ariel: I graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in February 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in music education. I hold a Massachusetts teaching license for music grades K-12.

Sarah: Yes! I studied violin performance at the Eastman School of Music.

Eva: I went to Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music for Violin Performance in Nashville, TN. I loved school, and I loved the opportunities I was offered through the school. Being in Music City did have a huge effect on me though, and it turned me into a folk musician rather than a classical violinist.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Ariel: I enjoy speaking to all of the different people who enjoy music, from new players getting their first instruments all the way up to professional musicians. There is something to learn from every person.

Sarah: I love being surrounded by musicians all day. Working here has opened up a lot of doors for me and has given me several performance opportunities. Playing all of the violins I can get my hands on is also a pretty fun perk of working in a string instrument shop.

Eva: My favorite part of my job is doing good work and making a positive difference in a customer’s day. At the front desk we can see that everyone has their own special situation or set of circumstances, and we see people as individuals, not just customers. We always do our best and we truly care about helping them with whatever they need. The best reward is making our customers happy.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Welcome, In Kyu Hwang!

Photo credit: Cydney Scott

Photo credit: Cydney Scott

In Kyu Hwang is the newest luthier in our workshop at Carriage House Violins of Johnson String Instrument. Hailing from Korea, In Kyu studied in Mittenwald, Germany and holds the Geigenbau Meister (Master Craftsman) certification. He joined us here at Carriage House in October of 2015. We asked him to talk to us about what inspired him to become a luthier, what prompted him to join our company, and what advice he has for aspiring luthiers: 

As a small child I always enjoyed making models, carving things from soap, that sort of thing. When I saw a documentary about the violin making school in Mirecourt, France, that was really a moment of culture shock because at the time I didn’t know such a thing existed in the world. I was very jealous because the individual featured in the documentary was a fourteen-year-old Korean boy. was a fourteen year old Korean boy! But–a foreign country, a foreign language–for me it seemed impossible. So I forgot about it.

When I was nearing the end of high school I realized I didn’t want to do the usual things like go to college and get a regular job. A classmate of mine (now my wife) who played the violin introduced me to a local violin maker who had trained in Japan. He asked me, why did I want to do this job? I would be so poor. He was quite poor actually. But I couldn’t listen to him. I had such a passion to do this. So he accepted me to work with him building an instrument in his shop. After half a year I had to mandatory two year Korean military service. I never finished that violin, but he encouraged me to go to Germany and study at the school in Mittenwald when I finished my military obligation.

As a non English-speaking foreigner, negotiating the school’s entrance process was its own story. Eventually after fulfilling the two year requirement of violin lessons (among many other things) I finally gained admittance in 2003. It was a three and a half year course of study in the heart of Bavaria.

I began official German language studies as soon as I arrived in Germany, but due to a death in my family had to stop after only two months. I was able to continue learning the language with the help of two German families who tutored me privately. I call them my angels. My success would not have been possible without their help and encouragement.

After graduating, I was able to find work at the shop of Anton Pilar in Berlin where I worked for three years before moving to Los Angeles to work for Georg Ettinger, head of the Hans Weisshaar shop.

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

What was your most memorable project?

I remember my first major restoration project. It was a massive undertaking on a Thomas Dodd cello. It required EVERYTHING and I thought, “Will I be able to do all of this?” But it went quite well and I continued [at Hans Weisshaar] working on many fine instruments, memorably a J.B. Vuillaume, Joseph Guarnerius, and another very large restoration on a Dominique Busan viola. I really enjoy such undertakings.

What drew you to Carriage House Violins?

Many different things drew me to work for Johnson String Instrument’s fine instrument division at CHV like the depth and variety of Boston’s arts and cultural scene, the history of the city itself, and the landscape of New England generally. Walking in Cambridge, seeing all the old buildings, I love it.

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

Photo Credit: Cydney Scott

What advice do you have for aspiring luthiers?

I might quote my first teacher in Korea: “Why do you want to work so hard and be so poor?” You must really really love this work.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Departments of JSI: Rental Workshop

Departments of JSI is back! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

If you have ever rented an instrument from JSI, you’ve reaped the benefits of our in-house rental workshop.  Our head luthier, Sef Gray, agreed to answer some questions about what he does:

How did you become a luthier?

I played violin growing up and when it became time to go to college I was looking at woodworking/sculpture. My violin teacher’s husband made her violin and he helped me find a bunch of local luthiers to talk to. They all seemed like they did the sort of work I could see myself doing. I decided to I wanted to make/repair instruments because of the hands on nature of the craft and I also found it very interesting to do work that would support musicians. I applied to 2 violin making schools and went to North Bennet Street School. While studying at NBSS I built 8 instruments and learned some repair techniques.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I find it rewarding that the work I do helps musicians do their job and bring music to their communities. I build instruments outside of my job at JSI and I am always amazed that I can make a tool for musicians to play. It is so exciting to hear an instrument for the first time after all the work you have put into it.

What advice would you give to someone looking into becoming a luthier?

I would encourage someone  interested in becoming a luthier to reach out to local makers or repair people to see what the work environment is like and what the work is like. It is challenging work and takes a long time to get comfortable working with the level of detail and patience that is required to be a luthier. Go to a violin making school and take a tour.

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Departments of JSI: Carriage House Violins Workshop

This is the first post of a new series called Departments of JSI. We’re able to run such a large company through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

If you brought in an instrument or bow you own for repairs, you probably worked with our CHV workshop.  A few of our luthiers agreed to answer some questions about what they do:

How did you become a luthier? 

Adam Kology: I come from a family of woodworkers and artists, so craftsmanship has been at the center of my life since I was very small. I obtained my BFA in sculpture and painting in 2006. During this time I began repair instruments as a side job. By 2009 this had evolved into a home business. In 2012 I took a full time position in the rental department at JSI. Shortly thereafter I moved over to Carriage House Violins where I find myself today.

Jess Fox: I started playing violin at the age of six, studied art and art history in college, and took a job woodworking after college in a high-end picture framing shop. Going to the North Bennet Street School violin making program in 2003 was my way to combine all of the things I love doing into one career.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Jess: On a typical day, I float between hands-on bench work, talking to customers to help diagnose repairs, and occasionally doing adjustments for the sales department.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Adam: Definitely customer reactions to simple repair jobs that I take entirely for granted. The times when I am handed an instrument and moments later I know I made a significant difference in someone’s playing.

Jess: I really enjoy solving problems with customers, helping their instruments to sound and feel better.

What is the most interesting project/instrument you have worked on?

Jess: I have had some unusual instruments come across my bench: five string violins, electric violins and cellos, hardanger fiddles, a rebab, and (less unusual) baroque instruments. I like the challenges that come along with working on unique and non-standard instruments.

What is your main instrument?

Adam: Violin. I play traditional American fiddle music for the most part. I can be found playing at festivals and pubs all over the eastern USA.

Jess: I play the “fiddle,” and also the baritone saxophone.

What advice would you give to someone looking into becoming a luthier?

Adam: Prepare to spend a lot of time reading and researching, throw your ego away, go cut a few thousand bridges, and spend all your extra money on the best tools you can find.

Jess: In my opinion, in order to be a good luthier you need dedication to the craft, an eye for detail, and sure and steady hands. If you have an interest, I would suggest talking to a few of us in the field, taking a short course or even a basic hand tool course to get a feel and see if you have an aptitude for the work, and be well aware of your employment and income prospects on the other end.

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons