Upgrading cello for a teenager
My niece is 14 and her parents are considering a substantial upgrade on her cello, and have asked for my advice. She is in an elite private school for the arts in Seoul and dedicated to a future as a cellist. While she needs an upgrade, the amount being considered for the new cello (up to fifty thousand dollars) seems extreme for a teenager, who is not a prodigy or fully grown physically. Critical auditions and concerts are upcoming in the next years, but it seems to me that there is too much an element of "keeping up with the Joneses." I am trying to gauge a price range of cello that would make sense for a teenage player who will be keeping this instrument through college until, hopefully, she advances to professional level. I would very much appreciate insight and advice from teachers and professionals. Thank you in advance.
It is best to get advice from her teacher(s). Her teacher will know what she will need from her her next cello and can help avoid the pitfalls that often befall insufficiently-informed buyers (I know - having been one more than once).
I am not a teacher or pro, but I recently bought my daughter who's younger than her a cello like they're considering. She's a good player not a prodigy; since she's had this she's won two significant state level competitions.
I agree with Andrew about asking the teacher what to look for in her next cello. That said, price does not completely correspond with sound quality, playability, or feel. Try a bunch of affordable cellos and see what you think. Then, make further decisions. Make sure you involve the teacher in the process, and allow the teacher to look at the cellos you're trying.
The teacher should definitely be involved. We got good advice on where to shop from her teacher and symphony colleagues; once we'd played everything locally and talked with makers and traveled some and narrowed things down, her teacher and the other two principals put final candidates through a pretty serious workout in a larger space. Having a great luthier to consult with will also be a big help.
It doesn't matter if she's not fully grown, as long as she can use a full-sized instrument.
Thank you all very much for your input. I will relay all of your responses to her parents. I truly appreciate your time and insight. Thanks again.
What currency are we talking in? $50K USD is quite a bit of money. Can you afford that?
Yes, $50K USD, my concern exactly, as it is a lot of money, but per Lydia and Stan, it is not an unheard of sum. The price of instruments all being relative, I am trying to gauge a price range or at least a point of reference.
At least $10K USD, and perhaps $30K max. Don't go broke!
Duly noted. Thanks much, Ella.
Some very approximate ranges for new instruments here: good Chinese cello like Jay Haide runs $5-10K. Excellent eastern European maker like Jan Szlachtowski maybe 12-18K. Higher end German workshop instrument like Bernd Dimbath 15-25K. Younger and less established US and European makers still making excellent cellos maybe 25-35K. Well known makers $35-50K+ (averaging maybe 40-45K) for commissions. For a good bow almost everyone wants $5500-6500 for silver.
OK, speaking as someone who is actually involved in this, real world, as a place that sells this stuff, to real people in this situation: most of what we sell to serious students who will enter college in music school, with the intent of becoming professionals is in the 50 to 100K range. I don't personally know of many cellos under 35K or 40K or so that would reliably hold up to scrutiny as a professional instrument, and I haven't seen very many that I would personally own, if I were still actively playing. Such things do come up once in a while, but in actual fact, they are mostly the mythical creation of people who aren't faced with finding one, and certainly not recently, haven't tried to buy a good cello, and probably, on forums, don't play the cello, anyway :-).
Listen to Michael.
Ok, I get the picture. So $100K is not crazy. I needed the confirmation. Thank you all so much.
The buyer should be very careful spending 50-100K on a cello for a 14 year old (unless money is no object). I have played around 100 cellos in this range and very few stand out even so, and how will a 14 year old know which is the one even with a teacher's assistance if their time is limited? I have encountered 2 cellos in a reasonable range of $16K and $25K that were worth playing (after a year of searching), but less expensive, well setup instruments of the right dimensions and build have worked well for dedicated students for a long time. A hard working teenage student can excel on a decent student instrument while spending a few years developing their preferences for a finer cello, provided that they have wealthy family to buy it for them. Only two contemporary cello makers stand out in my opinion, being William Whedbee and Michael Fischer. Best wishes.
at least they can know that their investment will only gain value provided it isn't stolen or damaged.
Ji, I actually do think 100K is crazy for a kid :-). My daughter's teacher has a beautiful Degani that might sell somewhere in that range, and I just don't think you need that kind of instrument in conservatory or as an early professional. One of my daughter's teacher's colleagues told a story though about a kid at school with her with a real Strad whose dad ran an international shipping company, my point being that what the family can comfortably write a check for should determine what to spend. And I agree with J S, you have to play a bunch of cellos over a period of time, because regardless of what you decide to spend, even 100s of thousands of dollars, most will not be her sound or fit her comfortably.
I certainly do agree about Will Whedbee. . . . but those are close to $40,000. He was part of the reason I drew my line at that point.
We just bought a gorgeous cello made by Haide Lin for $30k. It won an award at a recent VSA competition. Jonah Kim plays a similar Haide Lin with a customized bass bar (he also plays a Vuillaume). Other cellos that we tried in this range were much less interesting but I think it's possible to find something good for under $50k. $100k sounds like a lot to me but I guess it depends on the student (and available inventory).
Thanks Lydia. I had a feeling that cellos were more expensive, but didn't think the price jump was so big. I was just worried that money would be a problem, even though it sounds like they're a wealthy family. Most of us are pretty modest to my mind.
Michael, point taken, I haven't shopped seriously for antique cellos, noted that two of Degani's violins sold at Tarisio in the 30s and 40s a few weeks ago, but hadn't seen a cello sold recently.
Katie, your husband got a cello! Yay! (Weren't you asking about this a few months ago?)
There are really three reasons to buy the best instrument that you can afford for your pre-professional kid.
Supporting Lydia; the best reason I have seen for involving teachers in selecting instruments is that a student will unavoidably pick an instrument that they can understand and be comfortable with at that moment. A teacher will hopefully pick the instrument based on where the student will be going in the future--the instrument that will provide the things the teacher is hoping to teach that the student will be able to eventually utilize, but which the student isn't currently aware of, and therefore wouldn't know to want in the instrument they are buying.
I don't think of any new instrument as an investment though, rather as a really good tool. 30 or 50K will get you a nice investment bow though :-).
The business would be better, I think, if dealers were more truthful about it. A new instrument is not an investment until the maker dies and his long-term value shakes out, then you find out. Up to that point, it's just a commodity of unlimited supply. At best, if you buy it from a dealer, he will take it back in trade on something better, allowing you your purchase price. Not if you got it somewhere else, though (from the maker, for instance, and that's why virtually every violin I have sold has been through a dealer--for the customer's ultimate benefit) because it's a service to take it back, not a profit.
Okay, thank you everyone. Going back to my original question, I think I can surmise that a cello up to $50,000 is not excessive. $50,000 is a large amount of money and a big investment for us, which is why I asked in the first place. I am trying get some idea of price range. I will advise her parents to consider all the points that were brought up here. I appreciate everyone's time and advice. Thank you much.
If I were you, I would advise her parents to only consider the more knowledgeable points of view on this thread. ;-)