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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: So what would you do with your multi-million-dollar fine instrument?

November 11, 2012 at 1:40 AM

If you had a multi-million-dollar instrument - say, a Strad or a Guarneri -- what would you do with it? Since we're pretty much in fantasyland (at least for most of us), let's just say that you somehow inherited or were given this instrument. Also, it's in wonderful condition, with nary a crack or ding. The instrument sounds great, too.

Here are a number of options, and reasons for considering them.

First, you could simply play the instrument yourself. What could make life better, than to have a fine instrument that you can play whenever you would like? And an instrument like that is such a wonderful teacher; you would learn so much about playing, simply from being able to have that kind of response in an instrument.

Or, you could keep ownership of the instrument and lend it to a fine artist. That means that the artist would be in possession of the instrument, but it would give you a certain relationship with that artist, a fun reason to follow his or her career. It would be a generous thing to do for the arts, while still keeping a great asset.

Or, you could keep the instrument in absolutely pristine condition by putting it in a glass case and never having anyone play it. This way the world would retain a perfect specimen of this kind of fine instrument without it getting worn, as it would if it were being played. A good deal of the value of an old instrument is in its antique, limited-edition value, so it's legitimate to treat it simply as a work of art.

You also could sell the instrument, and then you could have quite a bit of money. You could spend the money to commission a good number of modern violins -- an exciting prospect. Or, of course, you could use the money for a cruise to the Caribbean, or a new house, a fancy car, etc.

So what would you do with your multi-million-dollar fine instrument?

From Lawrence Price
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 1:48 AM
I have both played my instruments and lent them to concert artists. Owning a great instrument is only just being appointed a caretaker for your lifetime and it is incumbent to both share and preserve. I have never thought of them in financial terms because they are so far beyond the practical.
From Mendy Smith
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 2:00 AM
If one has any musical ability and respect for its history, by all means play it! Otherwise, let someone who has play it. If I got a hold of an instrument of high value that I did not know how to play, I'd loan it to someone who knew how to and respect its history.
From Patrick Tinney
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 3:22 AM
Being a late starter I will never get to the point where I can make full use of something so precious.

I would sell it hoping it ends up in good hands and then give some business to a living luthier, not to mention losing some of the pressure of the kids college cost.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 3:28 AM
I voted for "sell it" for exactly the reasons Patrick lays out- kids headed to college soon, and wanting to support a living luthier for my own instruments, plus I'm afraid just the cost of insuring it would make it impossible for me to keep. BUT, you can be sure I would spend plenty of time playing it before it actually went up for sale!
From steven su
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 3:57 AM
I voted for play it myself because

1. I love violins. Don't think I could give one up so easily. Only if I actually see an artist that I approve of. However, I don't think that will happen easily....

2. I would lend one to an awesome player if I had two

3. I'd would only sell my violin if I am bankrupt. No other way would I give them up

From elise stanley
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 4:39 AM
I could not justify playing such an instrument myself and don't need the extra headache of caring for it.

So I would sell it and then at a fraction of its price by a top of the line relativel new violin for myself. The money gained? Not sure - perhaps retire so that I would have both a violin to play and the time to play it :)

From marjory lange
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 6:56 AM
I cannot imagine being in that position, even in fantasy. Certainly, I wouldn't want the responsibility of being custodian for that sort of instrument. I wouldn't want to sell it, either. But lend it?

Hard question, Laurie. I'm gonna think about it till later

LATER. Ok, I've thunk it through...I'd sell it, then donate most of the money for a fund for indigent students to buy decent instruments (after I gave myself a retirement account...)

From Sinclair Mackenzie
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 11:44 AM
In my teens, I was lucky enough to receive a nice violin on extended loan. I was so grateful because our circumstances meant I relied on a school instrument that sounded dreadful whether I practised or not. If I inherited a Strad, I'd lend it to someone who could benefit from having access to a better instrument.
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 1:29 PM
Instead of loaning privately to an individual (myself not being worthy of playing such an instrument) I would prefer to loan it to one of the major conservatoires and let them decide whom to loan it to. A condition of the loan would of course be that the conservatoire would be responsible for the insurance and upkeep of the instrument during the period of loan.
From Benedict Gomez
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 6:44 PM
I think "Sell it" would have to receive more votes if more people were taking the question completely serious. It would bring an enormous sum of money.

In my case, as well, I'm not a believer in the invincibility of these makers violins being better than all others. As such, I appreciate the historical significance of these fiddles even more than I appreciate their musical excellence. I'd be perfectly happy if a museum bought it for many to view and enjoy, and lend to a local orchestra talent from time to time to be heard and keep it in shape.

From Vanlal Hruaia
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 7:49 PM
KEEP IT TO MYSELF AND PLAY THE HECK OUT OF IT...Or... loan it to a deserving artist...
From Bart Meijer
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 9:38 PM
I would certainly take it for a spin. (Do violins spin? I don't know.) Afterwards, I'd convince myself that my old violin is really just as good, and probably lend it to a worthy artist.
From Simon Streuff
Posted on November 11, 2012 at 10:26 PM
depends on how it sounds... probably sell it and get a goot sounding vuillaume... and a nice music library.
From Dottie Case
Posted on November 12, 2012 at 1:00 AM
I would be afraid to play it much, so I would sell it, then commission brand-new violins for me and for my daughter from some excellent local luthier. I'd use a large chunk of the money to donate to the local arts school/theater where I teach. It's a historical building but we have no heat in the theater in the winter, are in desperate need of a new roof and if we don't get new electrical upgrades by summer, we may not be able to open the doors. This theater has hundreds of students in dance, music and theater, including the only strings programs that have ever been offered in this area, a great youth orchestra and also including a fully-staged opera every summer.

In this way, the violin would benefit literally thousands of people in my local community, and allow for us to continue sharing the gift of music and educating the next generation.

From Peter Kent
Posted on November 12, 2012 at 2:18 AM
First, I'd test it to see if the stratospheric
Sul G notes and harmonics in Tzigane spoke better than my present concert vln....If not, then out the door....if yes, they were easier/clearer, then I'd keep it realizing I'd no longer have an excuse for skipping certain items in the repertoire.
From David Beck
Posted on November 12, 2012 at 5:11 PM
My vote was "sell it", after, of course, having a quick trial of its capabilities. My own inadequacies would be revealed, so the sooner that process was over the better.
The problem would be, what to do with all the money.
It's said that Alfredo Campoli sold his Strad and bought 6 Roccas - unfortunately 5 turned out to be fakes.
Getting a good Vuillaume isn't a bad idea but then again, avoid fakes !! What if that Strad was really a Vuillaume all along ??
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on November 13, 2012 at 2:38 AM
I am in the same boat as Patrick, and agree with him. In fact, I've been thinking and fantasizing about this ever since Laurie's blog in which she asked "Would you rather have a great old violin or a great new one?". At the time, I opted for the old violin but I honestly think I'd get more out of the new one. But it wouldn't hurt to own a great old violin.
From Arashi Lilith
Posted on November 13, 2012 at 8:13 AM
My instrument and I have a symbiotic relationship, so playing a Strad more than once would be unappealing, honestly. I would sell it now, being in college and all, but if I were well off it's be a dream to lend it to a favorite musician.

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