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Brian Hong

The need for a quality, protective instrument case

December 23, 2011 at 1:57 PM

Let’s face it, folks, most non-musicians have absolutely no idea about the value of musical instruments, both economic and sentimental – it is fully unfathomable to them why people like us carry around equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars. To them, it is a pretentious waste of money to have such “frivolities” like an expensive violin or two lessons a week, and it is rather sad to realize this.

Now, you may be wondering why I am having such morbid, cynical thoughts about humanity? Well, yesterday, to put two days’ worth of strife and worry in a nutshell, an acquaintance of mine at school decided to be a jokester and intentionally knocked my instrument case off my shoulder as I was walking down the hallway to perform Bach’s Ciaconna for my calculus class. My dart-shaped Musafia case made a sickening thud as it hit the concrete floor, and much like Arnold Steinhardt’s reaction in “Violin Dreams” to his priceless Storioni falling when he tripped in a subway station, I knew something had gone wrong. It was ironic that this had happened now, especially when I just got it back last week from Staten Island for a $1500, 5-day surgery and set-up. My first reaction was to run to class and check on my 110 year old Neapolitan violin. When I opened up my case, the bridge had popped off my newly renovated instrument, and there was a nasty-looking surface crack in the ribs.

At first, the boy who knocked the case off my shoulder was incredibly apologetic and assured me that he and his family would pay for any damage. However, he changed his tune when he found out the price of the instrument, and, as I thought he would, he and his parents started vehemently denying any involvement and blamed the incident on my own negligence as a student; their opinion was that even if he himself caused the case to fall, the fact that it belonged to me and that it was on my shoulder therefore made the incident my doing.

Despite the drama and idiocy, I took a day off from school to rush the instrument back to Staten Island to get it checked out. Thankfully, Bill Monical found absolutely nothing wrong besides the surface crack and the knocked-off bridge, and we got the instrument back in working order and sounding beautifully in less than an hour. The damage could have been far worse, but the Musafia case did its job, providing the air-cushion needed to prevent any serious long term and devaluing damage to my instrument.

It seemed like such an inconsequential moment to that boy at school – he merely stuck out his arm and in the next second the violin case was on the floor. However, such a quick moment could have cost both parties tens of thousands of dollars. I feel sincerely lucky that my instrument is safe and sound, and I have Mr. Musafia and his Master Series case to thank for it.

So, folks, you never know what might happen to your precious equipment, and where it might occur. In my opinion, it is fully worth investing in a fine case like a Musafia that provides optimal protection (besides also looking beautiful!), because it is never quite clear when someone else’s negligence will cost you a good chunk of green.

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From Eloise Garland
Posted on December 23, 2011 at 3:28 PM
What an idiot that boy was! Not long ago, someone threw my violin case across the bus in school but luckily the violin was undamaged. It wasn't an expensive violin either so it was okay. But the inconsiderate nature of some people is just unbelievable.

I have currently got a 110 year old French violin on trial. If I decide to invest in it, I am sure I'll be considering a case like a Musafia to go along with it. One of the great things about being in a music school for me is that everyone has a high respect for one another's instruments and music - much better than my old school!

From Evelyn Woodhead
Posted on December 23, 2011 at 4:01 PM
Some people just need their erse kicked. Plain and simple.

From Patrick Lengkong
Posted on December 23, 2011 at 6:37 PM
Hmmm at least didn't have ( this is a mouthful, here goes!)The exterior of your case soggy, and lost $1,500 worth of music, a fallen bridge, a moved soundpost, a broken D string, and 32 nicks in 2 hours. People don't understand the value of instruments, I use a lock on my case to keep it from any prying fingers. Oh yeah, I upgraded my case so it's rainproof.
From Dimitri Musafia
Posted on December 23, 2011 at 8:15 PM
Wow, Brian, I'm happy to see that my efforts have had some good results! And many thanks for bringing up an issue - instrument safety - that so often is neglected. So many people don't realize that a violin can be damaged with disastrous results in even a small mishap, in an improper case.

That said, I really feel that I must make a disclaimer. It's true that I have spent years, or indeed - my life, trying to make progress in the field of instrument safety. However, no instrument is 100% safe in any case, not in mine, not in others. It's like saying that airbags and crumple zones will protect you from harm if you drive head-on against a Mack truck. Certainly safety features are important, but they can't guarantee 100% survival in every situation.

In my opinion, the point is to try to make progress in the direction of instrument protection, to consider it a must, and to make ALL case makers concentrate on this. Only in this fashion can the great instruments of the past hope to survive for the enjoyment of future generations of players and listeners.


From Joshua De Anda
Posted on December 23, 2011 at 8:57 PM
I would totally have sued that student! People these days are so ignorant! When practicing at school, students from the band or other of my classes ask to see my $10,000 instrument! I think to myself; " how dare you even think about holding my instrument, knowing you can barely play yours". I now have an article to show my mom another reason to buy a Musafia Momentum Z. Yet, it still is quite a stretch after purchasing this instrument.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on December 23, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Yikes, what a story (and so well written/told)! So glad there was a happy ending to it all.
From lee junming
Posted on December 24, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Looks like another pelican case
From Ray Randall
Posted on December 24, 2011 at 5:57 AM
A I wrote Mr. Musafia a few years ago my wonderful violin in its Musafia case took a nasty tumble in the back seat of mty car. Driving at 40 mph after rehearsal on a rural road I braked very hard to avoid a head on with a big deer. The case went flying from the back seat to land hard upside down on the front seat floor.
Panic time. Turned the inside lights on and with trembling hands and bated breath opened the case. Everything inside was absolutely fine. No damage anywhere. The company wrote me back offering to check over the case for free, nice folks. Had it looked at here and everything was as it should be. The case did its job very well.
From Chin Kim
Posted on December 24, 2011 at 7:04 AM
While I am glad that your case prevented much damage, if the damage was substantial, and you had it insured, the insurance company would have gone after the boy. In the very least, I would have brought the boy to the attention of the school administration especially that he changed his tune. Truly the boy will grow up to be a menace to the society if you let it go.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 24, 2011 at 8:06 AM
Wow! That is an amazing story! I got sick when I read about the crack, but I'm glad it wasn't as serious as it could have been. I hope the boy is able to foot the bill. Make him follow through with that, and I'm certain he will gain a little more respect for other people's property.

I have to admit, I think about the safety of my violin when traveling at high speeds in my car more than I do my own. In a symbolic way, it's my child, since I have none of my own. I try to remember though, it's just stuff. People are most important. Make sure you are reimbursed for the accident, but also do your best to make amends and forgive his foolishness.

From Brian Hong
Posted on December 24, 2011 at 3:55 PM
Thanks for the responses!

To Mr. Kim, and also those who were wondering, yes my instrument is insured, and yes we did pursue this with the school administration. Not that they were able to do much but we were able to get third party statements, and the school will file a report.

However, the damage is literally zero cost to repair...Mr. Monical was so kind to cover up the nicks and the crack for free, plus do another full adjustment.

To Mr. Musafia, you bring up a great point; no case will protect a violin 100%. However, your cases protect 99% :)

I'm still saving up for an Enigma ;)

From Sevde Guzel
Posted on December 25, 2011 at 3:38 AM
My breathing and my heart stopped when I read that your case and violin fell.
So glad everything was able to get fixed.
From Jim Hastings
Posted on December 25, 2011 at 4:18 AM
What a relief that this turned out so well.

There's only one way I will carry my instruments and cases -- right in my hand, with a firm grip on the case handle. This way, the lower edge of the case is only about 15 inches from the ground -- I just measured. I recommend we all consider doing it this way.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Joshua wrote: "People these days are so ignorant!"

Yes, some of them are -- but not just these days. It's an old story, part of the human condition. That's why we have moms and dads to train us. From what Brian says about the jokester's parents, I sense that they are falling down on the job.

I might well have turned out like the jokester myself. Fortunately, I was never big for my age -- that, in itself, was a good deterrent; but the main factor was that my parents wouldn't allow it.

From Royce Faina
Posted on December 25, 2011 at 3:24 PM
Hello maestro Brian!

Sam sent me the link to your post here and 1st. I am sorry to hear about all this. Sam and I wonder, with lessons learned... what are your thoughts as to how you will carry your violin case from now on? Basically... what preventitive action(s) could you or any of us do to avoid having this happen? Like when driving, keeping an eye out for others stupidity that will cost "us" dearly.

Always your friend,

From Brian Hong
Posted on December 25, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Royce, I plan to do exactly what Mr. Hastings said - have a firm grip on the handle! No more shoulder straps.
From Royce Faina
Posted on December 26, 2011 at 1:09 PM
Brian- I have alowed myself to become "strap dependant" and this experience that you shared taught me a lesson! I'm going to follow the advice given also! Again I am sorry it happpened but now your blog will save other violinists violins/violas in the future. A curse turned into a blessing! :)

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