Cristian Fatu Demonstrates 35 Modern American Violins at Metzler Violin Shop (Plus Viola and Cello Demos)

March 23, 2023, 11:21 PM · Looking for a new violin or bow? Or are you happy with what you have, but always willing to see what else is out there?

Glendale, Calif. violin dealer Thomas Metzler this week hosted a demonstration of dozens of violins, violas, cellos and bows made by 60 American makers - and the instruments will remain at Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale, Calif. for the next three months. If you are in the market for a violin for yourself, your child, or a student, modern is a great way to go for sound, prize, artistry and durability! (Plus you often can meet the maker!)

On Wednesday evening, I attended a demonstration in which violinist Cristian Fatu played 12 violin bows and 35 violins. About a dozen makers were also on hand to see their own instruments played!

Cristian, Laurie, Tom
Cristian Fatu, Laurie Niles and Tom Metzler

Scroll farther down for the cello demonstration, given on Tuesday by Robert deMaine, and viola demonstration given Thursday by Che-Yen (Brian) Chen. And below that are some of my personal thoughts on the violins that I heard and then later tried out.


On Tuesday, Romanian violinist Cristian Fatu, an LA-based musician who is a veteran of the competition scene and who has also served as a Tone Judge for Violin Society of America competitions, demonstrated 12 violin bows and 35 violins.

Violin bows

16:00 Jesse Berndt bow
17:39 Chris Dickson bow
19:09 Thomas Dignan bow
20:35 Eric Gagne bow
21:55 Thomas Goering bow
23:45 Lee Guthrie bow
24:58 Andre Lavoye bow
26:22 Kanghyun Paul Lee bow
27:53 David Samuels bow
29:31 Shahrokh Tumari bow
30:42 Michael Yeats bow
31:53 David Russell Young bow


Charles Arsenault
Kenneth Beckmann
Sam Billings
Peter Bingen (sold)
Andrew Carruthers
David Chrapkiewicz
Douglas Cox
Michael Daddona
Heather Deyette
Anton Domozhyrov
Fernando Fagundes
Rogerio Fagundes Neto
Michael Fischer
Andranik Gaybaryan
Todd Goldenberg
Jeffrey Haas
Pauline Kotlarz
Jeff Manthos
Steve McCann
Ray Melanson
John Osnes
Ernesto Ramirez
Alkis Rappas
Shahram & Saeid Rezvani
Antonio Rizzo
James Ropp
Steve Rossow
Carrie Scoggins
William Scott
Darryn Smalley
Bob Spetz
Christopher White
Isabelle Wilbaux
Stella Eunbyul Yoo
George Yu (sold)


On Tuesday, Los Angeles Philharmonic Principal Cellist Robert deMaine demonstrated eight cello bows and 10 cellos:

Link to watch the cello demonstration, on Facebook.

Cello bows
9:34 Thomas Dignan bow
11:37 Eric Gagne bow
14:32 Lee Guthrie bow
15:58 Andre Lavoye bow
17:35 Kanghyun Paul Lee bow
19:27 David Samuels bow
21:02 David Russell Young bow
23:02 Thomas Goering bow

27:15 Kenneth Beckmann cello
30:01 Andrew Carruthers cello
32:11 Michael Fischer cello
34:58 Carlos Funes cello
37:49 Joseph Grubaugh & Sigrun Seifert cello
40:56 Helmuth Keller & Son cello
44:22 Madison Moran cello
47:15 John Osnes cello
50:41 Jason Starkie cello
53:53 James Wimmer cello


On Thursday, Formosa Quartet founding member and UCLA Professor Che-Yen (Brian) Chen demonstrated 23 violas, and six viola bows.

Link to watch the viola demonstration, on Facebook.

violin makers
Violin makers! L-R: Shahram Rezvani, Stella Yoo, Bill Scott, Saeid Rezvani, Sofia Vettori, Laurie Niles, Dr. William Sloan, Michael Fischer and Peter Bingen.

Here is a digital program with bios of the makers. And here are Metzler's listings for all the exhibit instruments.

My Personal Favorites

Throughout the evening, I took copious notes (as anyone who has ever had to sit by me at the symphony or a master class knows I do....!) By the end of the evening I had made stars next to the bows and violins that stood out to me on a really instinctual level, and I tried a few and came up with one I liked quite a lot, which was the 2021 violin by Bob Spetz.

Metzler was allowing people to use their trial rooms to test out the instruments, and the one I kept wanting to play was the Spetz. Here's why: the violin had a voice I liked very much, and it was extremely articulate, when it came to playing faster passages. I'd describe that as a kind of "sizzle" or "pop." Basically, I found the instrument to be very responsive.

Since I'm highlighting this violin, here is a bit more about it: the price tag was $9,500 - extremely reasonable for a bench-made violin. The range at this exhibit was from $6,000 to $44,000, with a little more than 20 percent of them at $10,000 or below. The fingerboard is made of a sustainable wood called "tetul," which the maker describes as follows: "Tetul is the heartwood of the tamarind tree, it’s hard and light, and is well suited for violin fittings."

The maker, Bob Spetz, studied violin-making at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, where he made this violin. He also plays Scottish fiddle and bagpipes!

I'll share my notes on the other bows and violins that stood out for me, but do keep in mind that there were a dozen other people trying out completely different violins in other rooms, so this is all extremely subjective! If you were here, you would likely have your own set of preferences.

That said, here are all the bows and fiddles that got stars from me. They included bows by Eric Gagne ("clear and strong" - I did get to play this one later, it was indeed very nice), Lee Guthrie ("nimble and responsive"), David Samuels ("clear, bounces well"), and David Russell Young (quite bounce, fine motions, nimble). I also particularly enjoyed violins by Andrew Carruthers ("rich sounds, has its own voice"); Fernando Fagundes ("sound pours out so easily"); Michael Fischer ("lots of volume, very nice sound, Cristian seems to enjoy playing it"); Todd Goldenberg ("very even, looks easy to play"); Alkis Rappas ("easy sound, can get into quieter sound, pure"); Carrie Scoggins ("responsive, each slurred note pops, pretty back); William Scott (nice ring and volume, easy, can take strong playing without breaking") and Bob Spetz ("clear and articulate, separate notes are separate").

If you ever get the chance, I strongly urge you to go seek out some modern instruments for yourself - listen, play, and make some of your own notes!

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March 24, 2023 at 07:46 PM · How does a luthier get his or her violin into this program?

March 24, 2023 at 08:56 PM · I'm not sure if I'd call it a program, but it's an exhibit that Tom Metzler holds at his violin shop almost every year. If I were a luthier, I'd start by contacting him.

March 24, 2023 at 11:47 PM · Sorry "program" is just the first word that popped into my head. :)

March 25, 2023 at 08:35 PM · It is a lot like a program, every year it gets even bigger and better!

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