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Laurie Niles

Keep the 'Duke of Alcantara' Stradivarius!

February 13, 2006 at 8:24 AM

This rather interesting article appeared today in the LA Times, about the "Duke of Alcantara." Stradivarius.

It is the story of a Strad lost, then found, and the great "finders keepers" argument that ensued, and ultimately did not work. The law sides with the weeping loser!

In this case, the party that lost the Strad was UCLA, which had it on loan to a violinist named David Margetts. Someone found it by the roadside, the story goes, kept it under her bed for many years, and it emerged in the possession of a violinist named Teresa Salvato.

The part that caught my attention was that, despite UCLA's great efforts to recover this Strad 10 years ago, the school is considering selling it to make money for scholarships and more violins for the school. It certainly would fetch a million dollars or more.

I would argue that this is the whole unexplored crux of the story, as the rest of this happened a long time ago.

The Strad was a charitable donation given to UCLA's music department by Genevieve Vedder, whose husband, Milton, had been an oilman and had bought the instrument shortly before his death.

It seems to me that Genevieve had a noble idea, putting this instrument in the hands of an institution that would use it for teaching and performing. It can mean a great deal to a student to use such an instrument for even a few months. A fine instrument is its own teacher. The instrument tells you how to play anew; the beauty of its tone and the ease of its response opens up a whole new set of possibilities. There is no substitute for this.

You can't make a Strad. It's damned near impossible to buy a Strad. If it is anything like the few fine Italian instruments I've had the chance to play, it is an enchanted piece of wood, full of history, mystique, and some of the most compelling sound we humans are able to produce.

Keep the Strad, people! And safeguard it for the school, for its students and faculty, and for the sake of Music Itself. One Strad is worth more than a hundred lesser violins. And a month playing on a Strad is a scholarship unto itself.

Don't leave this opportunity by the roadside.

From Colleen Russo
Posted on February 13, 2006 at 12:46 PM
Wow. I agree with you!
From Patrick Wong
Posted on February 13, 2006 at 3:21 PM
There's obviously a case for keeping the Strad, but if selling it means that talented kids who would not otherwise have had the opportunity get to go to college, then how could they not?
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 13, 2006 at 4:08 PM
It just depends on what kind of program UCLA wants to be. Sure, you can dump the Strad, have more scholarships for students for a few years, buy some far lesser instruments. But the school would be losing an irreplacable asset, one that gives its music department something unique and of very high quality. Having a commitment to a Strad, or a library of manuscripts, or other things that are important to the preservation of music as a higher art, does make a difference. There is a reason why a music degree from Indiana University is different (and frankly more valued) from a music degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and it has a lot to do with the university's commitment to music and ability to leverage fine teachers, research materials, etc. So giving away a Strad is a step backwards for a music program. IMO!
From Preston Hawes
Posted on February 13, 2006 at 4:45 PM
I thin kit depends on what type of Strad it is. I've played and heard couple Strads that I wouldn't pay much more than $100,000 for in terms of sound. If it's one of those...dump it and give out some scholarships.

If it's in perfect condition and sounds like it too...dump it. Make sure a soloist has it.

If it's just one of those so-so strads with a pleasant sound, decent condition, but not particularly noteworthy or desireable, keep it and let the kids learn on it (as I'm sure it's still better than most violins with which most students come to school).

Just my 2 cents.


From Alvin Chen
Posted on February 17, 2006 at 8:42 AM
I actually used to take from Dr. David Margetts and from what I've heard, he was just relieved they knew where it was.

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