V.com weekend vote: Have you ever inherited (or gifted) an instrument?

March 27, 2021, 6:23 PM · After discovering a fiddler on the roof next door last week, I started thinking a lot about the power of legacy, when it comes to the violin.

legacy violin

My new friend Jonny has just begun his violin journey, having inherited a violin from his late grandfather. That connection to his grandfather and to the past has been a compelling part of his motivation. His story made me reminisce about my own family connections with the violin - I thought I didn't really have any family connections to music, but then as it turned out, I did.

The violin is a small and portable instrument, and for that reason it is the kind of object that people can keep for many generations, even if they move across the globe. If the instrument has been kept and is not being played, its owner often will want to find someone who will make it sing again: a young relative, a friend, or just someone who is very interested.

When a person decides to play the violin or other stringed instrument, often there is a family story: a sibling who played the instrument, a distant relative who played the instrument or was a musician in some way, or even a whole family culture of playing instruments for many generations.

While I started on a school violin, I did inherit a violin from my grandmother, and I played the instrument for many years. It definitely gave me a feeling of connection to a part of my family that I never really knew in person.

Have you ever inherited an instrument? How did you feel about it? Did you wind up using it? Did you feel connected to its previous owner or owners? Have you ever actually given a violin to a relative, friend or student? What made you compelled to do so? Do you plan to do so in the future? Please answer the vote and then tell us about your experiences with violins, instruments and legacy.

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March 27, 2021 at 11:41 PM · I voted that I had inherited an instrument from a teacher or friend, but the truth is that it was a stranger who had specified in her will that her violin be placed in the hands of a professional violinist. The story of how I became that professional violinist recipient is long and not really relevant here, but the violin is beautiful.

Editing to add that I also have possession of my father’s just-over-half-size violin which he played on as a child until the loss of his right arm and leg in an accident put a stop to the violin lessons. I played on it as a child myself, as did all three of my children before one by one they gave up the violin in favor of other instruments.

March 27, 2021 at 11:53 PM · At the moment, I am the custodian of my mother's violin, made in the 1930's. I also have some of her music from the early 1940's, when she was a young woman. I played this violin when I was nine years old, but it was too big for me . My youngest sister took up violin and played the instrument for several years. Once she quit in the late 1960's, the violin sat unused, and in poor condition for decades. I found it in a closet and had it repaired. Still, nobody played it and it sat around until mom died at 90 years old in 2016. My sister took the violin to Florida, where it sat unused. Then, when she learned I started to play a violin in 2017, she took it out of her closet, and sent it here to Oregon for my 70th birthday. I had it set up, and it is back in business. Indeed, the violin is alive and well, and about two feet from where I am typing this. Still, I don't consider it to be my violin. Since I have another violin, I feel like I'm simply taking care of mom's violin for the foreseeable future. I'm the custodian. I'll keep it in good shape, play it now and then, and if any of the grandchildren show an interest in violin, I'll pass it on to them. On a second note, when I upgraded from an intermediate instrument to my current "main fiddle", I gave the intermediate instrument to a youth orchestra here in Portland, named Bravo. Violins should never just sit in closets.

March 28, 2021 at 12:39 AM · I inherited a few instruments that had been made or played by my ancestors. One violin in particular enthralled me from early childhood and inspired me to become a player and eventually a luthier.

The story about it is discussed in this podcast episode.

I fully intend to pass a few things on to my children and hope that they will experience the excitement and inspiration I did when they hold them.

March 28, 2021 at 12:45 AM · Never inherited one but did pass along my first 4/4-size fiddle to my second nephew when he was about 11 y/o and big enough to handle it. Although piano is his main instrument, he was getting pretty good on the fiddle in those early years. He had a good musical ear and a decent tone -- and he was quick to assimilate new material.

March 28, 2021 at 01:34 AM · I was given a 14 inch viola which is a nice one. When I can no longer play I intend to donate it to a local organization that provides instruments for young students. It's only right since it was a gift to me that I give it to someone else.

March 28, 2021 at 03:46 AM · My violin, the only one I have ever owned, is inherited from a great-uncle who passed away some years before I was born. My great-uncle was an avid amateur violinist, and had a good German workshop instrument that was made in the early 1950s. (No date, just labeled as a Strad copy, but he bought it brand-new in 1954.) He must have been a serious player; I imagine that it would have been rather hard to get a violin of that quality in Taiwan at that time. After his death, the violin went to my uncle, who played guitar and was the only other musician of any kind in the family. But my uncle never got around to learning the violin, and it sat on a shelf in his house for more than 20 years. Eventually, when I started to show interest in learning, he brought it over the next time he visited.

I definitely plan to pass my violin to a younger family member if possible. With my viola, I'm less certain: because of its quality I want it to go to a good home, and whether that home is in my family will depend on whether there are string players in the family who would be interested in having it. I do not want my viola left at risk of sitting unplayed for decades.

March 28, 2021 at 04:11 AM · I inherited one from a friend. She knew I was interested in teaching, and she was under the impression it was a 3/4 size. It isn't, its a full size. This doesn't matter as her intentions were solid, but I now use it as my violin. The sound and ease of playing were a lot better than the 2 other violins I had at that point, espefially considering it hsd been sat gathering dust for 25+ years

March 28, 2021 at 06:42 AM · A few months ago I gifted my first violin and my first two upgrade instruments to a local program that provides instruments and classical music lessons free to underprivileged children; it was very rewarding and made me happy to think they’ll be used for a good cause and passed along to those that want to learn but wouldn’t be able to afford even a student level instrument.

March 28, 2021 at 01:45 PM · I have never inherited an instrument but there are two buts:

But number one: My violin was in fact inherited--by a family from a relative who had played it most of his life. They did not know what to do with it and they left it lying around for about two years until they decided to act. Somehow they knew that my father had a son who played the violin and they brought it to him to see if he was interested. He brought it home and I wiped the dust off it and installed a new set of strings. It took about two weeks for it to "wake up" (or for me to get used to it). It was a great improvement over my existing instrument (which was a very decent student violin); it was great actually; my teacher, when he heard it, asked immediately where I got it from and recommended to hang on to it if possible. My parents were very generous and bought it for me. I will never need a better violin.

But number two: I do intend to leave it to someone who will love it and play it when I can't play any more. Any tips on how to go about that are welcome.

March 28, 2021 at 02:12 PM · I inherited violins from both my parents, both fine professional players. I have frequently gifted instruments to students. Twice a year I take students to instrument auction previews to educate them about how to evaluate an instrument, and I often buy undervalued instruments at auctions and get them professionally set up before gifting them to students. My teachers were so wonderful to me, and I want to pay it forward.

March 28, 2021 at 02:45 PM · Violin is not in my family; I was the first family member in living memory to play it, on either side. My parents bought me my violin when I was about 12 and upgraded to a full-size instrument. It is pretty and it has a nice sound on the A and E strings, but it is thin-sounding on the D and G, and when I started playing again back in 2006 I upgraded to my current violin after a few years. I gave my old violin to my daughter when I upgraded. She's in college now and doesn't play the violin currently, so I have it back. I am a high school biology teacher, and when we were teaching in person I would sometimes help out the music teacher with the string players. I took my old violin into school and left it there so I would have something to play. Next year when we go back in person I will probably do that again. Unless my daughter picks up the violin again later in life, like I did, I will probably eventually leave my violins and viola to a school program or a charity.

March 28, 2021 at 08:36 PM · On Palm Sunday from Carrier of Heifetz-Milstein Legacy of Violin Playing/Teaching {#12}

Will Reply another day as I just lost my Reply here whilst writing the final sentence ~

~ Sincere Regrets on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021, for now ~

Accept warmest Palm Sunday & Passover Greetings to All Violinist.com Readers and Editor, Laurie Niles and Family ~

Elisabeth Matesky



March 29, 2021 at 02:01 AM · I didn't actually inherit the violin...my mother gave it to me when I was in 7th grade and wanted to learn to play (I'm in my 60's now). My mother played it when she was little, but didn't stay with it for long. She told me that she thought the violin had belonged to one of her uncles.

The violin shows its age, with scratch marks and wear marks, and at one point the neck had been broken off and repaired. A luthier told me that it isn't particularly valuable, but is a decent violin with a sweet tone. It's special to me because of the family connection.

I've since purchased a new German violin, spending about $2,000, thinking that I needed to upgrade. I think I still prefer my old friend, however!

March 29, 2021 at 10:52 AM · My mother's old head teacher, knowing that our family was musical, left me her violin (which I fell off a stage with. Nemes senior's minimal repair, which left it with its beautiful tone, was dependent on our not moving the sound post. We forgot his warnings, the belly sank, and the repairer in whose hands I put the violin was not the best - if they'd known about the hot sand treatment, they might have got it back to what I had before, putting the sound post where it should have been left - breaking and replacing the bass bar, and the exquisite G-string tone has gone). Details of my other dealings, re inheritance, donations and intended but thwarted donation, are not of interest.

March 29, 2021 at 01:37 PM · These are all wonderful stories. My response was "neither gifted nor have given an instrument" but after reading the responses, I remembered that I have a couple woodwind instruments that I intend to give to the local school music program. And we gave our digital piano to my niece after my children stopped using it and I sadly admitted that I will never play it again. (Too busy with my viola.) This is probably silly but I have been reluctant to upgrade my viola because I don't have anyone to pass a very good one on to. Some day circumstances may change, but for now my current viola is fine.

March 29, 2021 at 01:45 PM · My first violin was acquired by my father when he was stationed in Japan as part of the bombing survey after World War II. While on leave, he visited some relatives who lived not far from where he was working. Knowing that he'd played violin in school, his uncle gave him a violin that was in his possession - no idea how it got there! Some 20 years later, when I wanted to take public school violin lessons as a 9-year-old, this violin was unearthed from his parents' house in Hawaii and sent to me. Amazingly, it hadn't been eaten by termites during the intervening years. Although initially too large for me, I played it until I graduated from high school and then off and on over the years until I bought my 7/8 about 10 years ago.

March 29, 2021 at 04:49 PM · My #1 violin was loaned to me when I was about 12 by my violin teacher, a wonderful man who was like a grandfather to me. (I still have his picture framed and displayed in my room.) It was made in Germany in the early twentieth century and had a gorgeous varnish and a luscious tone. The more I played it, the more I loved it. One day I told my father that I would be really sad when I had to give it back. We had little money and could never have afforded to buy it. My father told me, “You don’t have to give it back. It’s yours now.” He had been paying for it with a little bit of money every week for years until it was mine. It was, in many ways, the best gift I ever received.

March 29, 2021 at 07:25 PM · A friend of mine found among her late father's belongings an old violin she remembered having seen at her grandparents decades ago.

As nobody in the family plays or plans to learn the violin, she put it in my hands to find out what would be best to do, repair it as a decoration item, as a playable instrument, wathever.

I took it to a luthier to get it restored (back was unglued, bridge broken, microtuners unusable)and now I'm the violin's custodian until somebody in her family shows any interest in playing the violin.

Is a Jacob Steiner copy, ca.100-110 years old. I cannot get from it the full sound my teacher showed me, but it has a nice round sound.

March 31, 2021 at 02:47 PM · Yes, I've inherited an instrument from a relative:

I have a violin that my grandfather made. I am the current custodian, as my Aunt does not play.

March 31, 2021 at 09:05 PM · Re ~ An Inherited or Gifted Violin ...

As from ~ Elisabeth Matesky {#20}

Yes!!! My parents gave me my first baby violin at aged 3; then gave me a great Enrico Ceruti at aged 13, which I play in my Jascha Heifetz Violin Master Class - Khachaturian, JH-7, Elisabeth Matesky {Russian vers. Library of Master Performers Film} on YT since 2011, {sold on VHS, DVD, then on Internet, & internationally ~ }

I was also given long time use of a Guarnerius del Gesu violin abroad and which I recorded on for a number of years in violin concerti of Brahms; LvB; Bruch; Sibelius; Bach E Major #2; Vivaldi Duo Concerto for Two Violins {still unreleased until tbd}, A. Glazounow VC + V/P Sonata in D Major, Vivaldi-Resphigi; Violin Partitas & Unaccompanied Bach Sonatas # 2 in a minor & g minor #1; d minor Partita No. 2 including Chaconne; & also numerous Violin & Piano Chamber Music Sonatas including Igor Stravinsky's Duo Concertante w/Grand Pianist/Teacher of Copland, Barber, and G.C. Menotti, Mme Nadia Boulanger of Paris, and much much more.

After the passing of beloved Teacher-Father, Ralph, I inherited a superb French Concert Instrument which has been more than generous in recordings of Ysaye's #3 Ballade; Lofstrom's 'Hawk! for Solo Violin w/E. Matesky Cadenza'; 12 TV Films w/ repertoire= Bach, Brahms, Barber, Franck, Faure, Schumann, Saint Saens, Bloch, Khachaturian V.C./Fiedler; Vazzana; UK's Matthias; Copland; Debussy; ^Tchaikovsky VC, Solo Bach/EM ^VMC's; Mendelssohn Trio in d {w/Nathaniel Rosen, Cello & Abraham Stokman, Piano, Live}; Brahms Trio {Dale Clevenger, Principle Horn, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Gerald Rizzer, Piano, WTTW TV Film}; Debut Shostakovich VC #1 in a minor w/Bamberg Symphony/Hermann Michael, Assoc Conductor to Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic, Sudwestdeutsche Rundfunk/13th C. Abbey recorded; BBC London/UK affiliates Radio/Televsion; WFMT Classical Radio 98.7 FM, Chicago; Radio Eire, Dublin; NBC Television, CBS/ABC/Twentieth Century Fox Big Screen Films and *Movies ~

I've many more but space limits a Full Listing of recordings on my inherited French Concert Instrument. A 'pal' shipped a rare controversial contemporary violin for 'safe keeping' years ago which I sometimes play, look after and cherish ...

It is an enormous responsibility and honour to inherit or own a Gifted to you Violin and especially so if from treasured parents, grand parents or Violin Mentor's! When one inherits or is gifted with an instrument one feels morally and spiritually beholden and honoured to do justice to a Violin & to do the best one can with whatever violin or instrument one had, has or was loaned.

As several loving respondents here have said, they feel as p.t. Guardians of Violin's handed down & have intentions to pass on a violin previously owned by a family relative or teacher and

aspire to gifting the instrument/s to those most in need who will love the instrument & music it makes under new ownership ~ This is beautiful! I would after witnessening some turns of fate and later on after Owner's of prized instruments have passed, RX caution to all to be leary of leaving a treasured violin {crazy $$$$ valuable or heartfelt valuable} to a Trustee or Group of ... I truly believe great violin's owned/played by Great Violinists 'Know' if one holding it is authentic or not and respond in kind,

either generously or with obstinance, making it difficult for a 'new' owner to play its grieving heart for a now gone previous and adored Owner ~

'less is More" so it's best to leave off ...

Wishing Violinist.com/V.com Readers a most loving Easter & Faith-filled Passover, I remain

~ Yours musically from America ~

.......... Elisabeth Matesky ..........

*See EM V.com Bio re 'Home Alone II: Lost in New York'

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

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