Fine-instrument dealer Geoffrey Fushi, co-founder of Bein and Fushi, Inc. of Chicago and of the Stradivari Society, died on Friday. He was 68.
I had the chance to have lunch with Geoff and his daughter, Suzanne Fushi, in the summer of 2010. Sitting next to him on that day, I was struck by the fact that Geoff had met scores of the finest string players of the last century, and he'd seen so many of them through a crucial trial: as they chose a partner for life, their instrument. For a musician, this decision ranks as high as picking a spouse, maybe higher. What stories Geoff could tell -- how I wish I'd put a recorder on him!
Afterwards I walked down Michigan Avenue to the Fine Arts Building, where the creaky, old-fashioned elevator took us to the 10th floor, home to Bein and Fushi, Inc.. I walked through the various rooms, with so many pictures -- even a few paintings -- of the world's greatest violinists and string players on the walls. If walls could speak! Finally we came to Geoff's office, with an enormous fish tank against one wall and a view of Lake Michigan from the window. Since they had it in the office, Geoffrey and Suzanne offered me the chance to try out the 'Vieuxtemps' Guarneri del Gesù violin, a thrill I'll never forget.
But many people won't forget the role that Geoff Fushi played in pairing them with a fine fiddle. In 1976, Geoffrey Fushi founded Bein and Fushi with his partner, Robert Bein (who died in 2007). Fushi sold instruments to Gidon Kremer, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Lynne Harrell, Josh Bell, Gil Shaham, and Anne Sophie Mutter, among many others, said his daughter, Suzanne Fushi.
Geoff Fushi also founded the Stradivari Society with Mary Galvin in 1985, at the request of the now-late Juilliard violin professor Dorothy DeLay. The Stradivari Society pairs young artists with investors who can provide them fine instruments. Some the artists who have benefitted from this arrangement over the years include Vadim Gluzman, Philippe Quint, Vadim Repin, Midori, Caroline Goulding, and Maxim Vengerov.
"Sitting behind his desk in his office, in his beloved city of Chicago, with beautiful Lake Michigan as a picturesque backdrop, Geoff painted colorful pictures of colorful people (using many, many, many colorful words…)," wrote Suzanne in a Facebook memorial to her father. "He had a story for every occasion because he lived an interesting life. A full life. A life lived without fear."
"Geoff was not your average violin dealer," Suzanne said. "He was the kind of violin dealer that was invited to the 'Chinese White House' to sit down with the president, and he was the kind of dealer who attracted crowds and TV cameras all over China. He was the kind of violin dealer who could sell a Stradivari every month. Geoff was the kind of violin dealer who loved music and art and truly loved matching the right instrument with the right musician. He was the kind of violin dealer who wanted to have fun at work and hence was the life of every party. He was the kind of violin dealer who had an infinite passion for violins and an ambitious flare for the grandiose."
Joe Bein wrote, "(Geoff) is the only person whose daily routine of 'getting dressed and going to work' encompassed no fewer than seven different countries: Putting on his Chinese Imperial shirt, American turquoise jewelry, Gold Swiss Rolex, French cufflinks, American alligator boots, and then driving his English Rolls Royce to look at antique Italian violins…He and his wife Jeannie, are two of the people who helped me the most after my father died by ensuring that Bein and Fushi remained a family environment that I had grown to love."
"His love of the violin, tenacious work ethic with my father to build Bein & Fushi into one of the world’s preeminent firms, and his beloved Stradivari Society are part of his vast professional legacy," Joe Bein said. "He had an intense desire to see the world’s finest instruments placed in the hands of those who would appreciate them the most. It has become exceedingly rare to see a soloist play that has NOT purchased, or received through the Stradivari Society, a classic instrument from Geoff, at one time or another."
And words from the young violinist Chad Hoopes speak for others, "The music world will remember the many contributions you made in helping young people strive and reach for the top… Thank you for all you did for me."
John W. Geoffrey Fushi is survived by his wife, Jean; children Alec G. Fushi and Suzanne Fushi; grandchildren Alexandra, Jessica, Noah and John; sister Debra (Mark) Helsel and brother George Fushi; and nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
And here is the music Geoff posted last on Facebook, Ruggiero Ricci playing Ernst' "Last Rose of Summer" & Tarrega/Ricci "Recuerdos de la Alhambra":
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