David Bromberg to Sell 263 American Violins to Library of Congress

August 8, 2016, 5:37 PM · Violin maker and guitarist David Bromberg will sell his collection of 263 violins by American makers to the Library of Congress, NPR News reported today.

The Library of Congress plans to raise $1.5 million for the purchase, which will be part of a new center for the study of the American violin, NPR said. Some of the makers represented in Bromberg's collection, acquired during his travels over the last 50 years, include George Gemünder, Simone Fernando Saconi, and Walter Solon Goss.

David Bromberg
David Bromberg.

Bromberg, 70, is a musician known for his eclectic style and versatility, playing guitar, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, pedal steel guitar and vocals. He's performed with famous musicians such as Willie Nelson, Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan, and he co-wrote The Holdup with George Harrison.

Bromberg also is a trained luthier who has run a fine violin shop for more than 10 years. According to his website, Bromberg grew exhausted of logistics of the music business and "I decided to change the direction of my life." In 1980, he moved to Chicago and attended the Kenneth Warren School of Violin Making (now the Chicago School of Violin Making), and in 2002 he and his wife, Nancy Josephson, moved to Wilmington, Del., where they established David Bromberg Fine Violins, a retail store and repair shop for fine instruments. Many of the violins in the collection are in a vault there, and others are displayed in his Wilmington home.

Bromberg's latest album, Only Slightly Mad is a mix of blues, bluegrass, gospel, folk, Irish fiddle tunes, pop and English drinking songs that he recorded in 2013.

As for his violin collection, "The fact that there will be all of them in the Library of Congress — they'll all still be together, they'll all be available for study," he told NPR. "It's the only memorial that hundreds of American violin-makers are going to have."

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August 9, 2016 at 02:15 AM · Too bad. That's 263 American violins that will never be played or cherished by an owner. If you want to promote American violins, fix them up and get them in the hands of good players. Those violins were made to be played not "memorialized." They aren't dead! Ironically, they will be once they reach the LOC.

August 9, 2016 at 10:17 AM · Perhaps they will be loaned out...perhaps thirty at a time for a six month period or something similar ? It does seem silly to just store them in a glass case for people to look at.

August 9, 2016 at 01:31 PM · Won't even be in a glass case. The vast majority will be in a warehouse, maybe looked at once a year.

August 9, 2016 at 04:16 PM · At first glance, I don't see the point. Take Gemunder, for example: a good instrument, but not so great that it must be locked away forever. This is the type of instrument suitable for a young professional who can't afford an old Italian. I could understand some historic instrument, but not this tier. A better idea would be to donate them to conservatories for good students who can't afford a fine instrument.

August 10, 2016 at 02:58 PM · What a nice thing to do! At least there will be a comprehensive collection of instruments for reference and future research.

It will be great, down the road, not to hear; "Well, in hindsight, someone should have put instruments away for future generations to study from".

August 10, 2016 at 05:04 PM · This is an excellent plan to preserve our cultural heritage for the future. For those who bemoan the loss of these instruments to young professional players I say buy an instrument by a contemporary maker and keep this tradition alive.

August 10, 2016 at 05:30 PM · I heard this story the other day, and I didn't get how everyone was so concerned that these violins might get to the market, or that the whole collection might not make it to the Smithsonian.

They said it best in Indiana Jones

"That belongs in a museum!"

"So do you!"

By which I mean, this just adds to the idea that violins are abstract art objects, which is just absurd. Do luthiers really not have enough good violins to research?

If you ask me, he chose....poorly.

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