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Scenes from the American String Teachers Association 2015

Laurie Niles

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Published: March 21, 2015 at 9:14 PM [UTC]

The American String Teachers Association (ASTA) annual conference attracts teachers, performers, students and vendors from all over America -- even all over the world! Here are some scenes from the conference, which Is taking place this week in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City is home to one of the most important violin-making schools in the U.S. and arguably in the world, the Violin Making School of America. While walking around the ASTA exhibit floor, I was happy to spot luthier Peter Prier, founder of that school. I also tested out one of his instruments, made in 1971 and based on a 1741 Guarneri model -- smooth-playing and sweet-toned.

Peter Prier Editor Laurie Niles talks with luthier Peter Prier. She is holding a violin he made in 1971.

During the conference, I kept seeing large groups of high school kids -- that's because 16 orchestras came from all over the country to participate in the National Orchestra Festival. On Friday morning I saw Grandview High School Orchestra, directed by Alison Reifscheider, which had come from Aurora, Colorado to play. (The school belongs to the Cherry Creek School District, where I started violin in the public schools!)

Grandview High School orchestra, from Aurora, Colo.

The students played in Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony and right next to the Convention Center. The lobby has this stunning glass sculpture:

Abravanel sculpture
Abravanel Hall lobby

Back at the exhibit hall, I found violinist and pedagogue Endre Granat at the Shar booth, then he walked me over to Schirmer's display of his editions of Sevcik exercises and Heifetz arrangements.

Endre Granat
Endre Granat and editor Laurie Niles

I was impressed with Sarah West's colorful display of Magic Rosin. Though each cake is mounted on a decorative base, the rosin itself is clear as glass because she puts no dyes, waxes or mineral oils in the mix, she said. A cellist herself, Sarah invented the rosin because she was looking for something "grippier."

Sarah West
Sarah West and her Magic Rosin

Here is Fan Tao, who invented D'Addario's "Kaplan" strings, which are meant to be powerful, projecting strings with more texture.

Fan Tao Kaplans
Fan Tao of D'Addario

CodaBow is the original carbon fiber bow, and I was pleased to meet one of its pioneers, bow designer and aerospace engineer Jeff Van Fossen. Responding to new travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. government for transporting items with elephant ivory, Madagascar ebony and certain kinds of Mother-of-Pearl, CodaBow has come up with "Global Bow" technology to use on most of their bow models, so that none will contain these restricted items. When owners send in the warranty, they will receive a "materials declaration" for the bow, which can be used when traveling.

Jeff Van Fossen
Laurie holds a CodaBow, with bow engineer Jeff Van Fossen

Late on Friday, California teachers from north and south had a "meet and greet" where we met our colleagues from across the state. Here we are:

California teachers
California ASTA teachers

Saturday morning I visited one of the busiest booths, Yamaha, where many high school students were testing Yamaha Silent Violins and other electronic instruments. Here I am with Jesús Florido and the Yamaha team:

Yamaha team
The Yamaha team

I also dropped by the Southwest Strings booth, and I was tickled to find out that both of the gentlemen at the booth, Joaquin Tellez and Adam Rico, play in a Mariachi band!

Southwest Strings
The Southwest Strings booth, with Joaquin Tellez and Adam Rico

Bohdan Warchal, maker of Warchal Strings, came to ASTA from Slovakia, and here is his family, running the booth.

The Warchal family, of Warchal Strings

Luthier Dalton Potter was kind enough to take a look at my violin, which was getting a little quiet lately. I now know why: it's sick with a split in its center seam. Potter Violins was showing its violins, both full-size and fractional.

Dalton Potter
Luthier Dalton Potter of Potter Violins

And finally, a gathering of the media: Associate Publisher for The Strad, Alison Campbell; me; and Cindi Kazarian, Sales Director at Strings Magazine.
Alison Campbell, Laurie Niles and Cindi Kazarian

NEXT WEEK: Look on for more stories about the ASTA Conference pedagogy sessions!

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From Paul Deck
Posted on March 22, 2015 at 3:36 AM
The glass sculpture is immediately recognizable as a Chihuly.

I was interested in magic rosin being colorless because of "no dyes or mineral oil". First of all mineral oil is colorless, and second, why would anyone put a dye in rosin? All of the natural rosin that I have seen is amber or brown in color. Having said that, my young daughter (8 YO, cello) got a "magic rosin" and loves it because it is purple.

From Gene Wie
Posted on March 22, 2015 at 6:59 AM
Ahhhhh! I can't believe I missed you at ASTA! :P

I came with a student to demo for Sonation/Cadenza at the Shar Booth on Friday!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 22, 2015 at 8:34 PM
Dalton Potter is my luthier, and he is always able to solve my problems. Glad he solved yours.
From Paul Deck
Posted on March 23, 2015 at 1:04 AM
Dalton Potter is a very good luthier and a real no-BS kind of guy. He runs a square outfit. The younger luthiers that work with him are following in his footsteps.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 23, 2015 at 3:23 AM
Oh no, Gene, sorry to miss you! Yes, I'm so grateful to Dalton and the other two luthiers at his booth, who really found some things that no one else had diagnosed in my fiddle!

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