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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Has your instrument ever gone missing for more than a day, either because it was lost or stolen?

April 12, 2013 at 8:40 PM

About five years ago we talked about forgetting your fiddle somewhere. But have you ever had your instrument go missing for more than a day, either because it was lost or stolen?

I imagine this is pretty rare, but extremely distressing.

This week one of our members from Sweden, Bertil Ottertun, wrote a blog called Using Technology to Fight Violin Loss and Theft, which advocates the creation of a worldwide registry for valuable instruments that would allow for electronic tracking of instruments. He also suggested that it should be accessible to all, with something like a smart phone app. Such a system would not only be a major deterrent to thieves, but it also would help people who simply lose their instrument due to human blunder: leaving it in a taxi or on the train, leaving it in a restaurant, etc.

It seems to me that for a registry and tracking system to be effective, it would need to be something that is not designed for profit, but is designed for public good and available either for free or for a very small fee so that the one registry is widely used by all. That way, every dealer and luthier (maybe even every pawn shop) could easily check their inventory, every player could track his or her own instrument, every police department could easily jump onto the system for investigations, etc. How would it be funded, developed, etc.? That's the big question! I welcome your ideas!

Here's our vote, and if you have any ideas about technology and tracking fiddles, please chime in!

From Michael Divino
Posted on April 12, 2013 at 9:22 PM
NO, thank goodness!
From Ben Lea
Posted on April 12, 2013 at 9:59 PM
Some of my colleagues (not only violinists) are using the iPhone app for exactly this purpose. Most people have updated their smart phones and it is not uncommon for people to store their old phones with the "find my iPhone" app activated in their cases. Of course this is only useful for the human blunder situation as a stolen instrument would probably be stripped of such a device. I most certainly think there is a market for a small GPS tracking device that could perhaps be integrated into the chin rest or some other part of the instrument that does not so directly affect the sound. This would be the most important consideration because even the smallest foreign object glued to the body of the instrument could cause acoustic problems....
From Kevin Keating
Posted on April 12, 2013 at 10:34 PM
No, thank God! I'd probably stroke out if it were stolen. I'm super protective of all my instruments.
From Maurice Gatewood
Posted on April 13, 2013 at 4:45 AM
It's 12:45 AM and I literally just woke from a dream of leaving my violin on the subway!The Metro Police weren't very helpful but my friend Elise, a cellist, showed me where lost and stolen violins are usually sold which happened to be directly across and down the hill from my house (I don't live on a hill or in a house).Still it wasn't there but there was a nice stone fiddle that was missing the scroll that I rather liked but Elise thought it was junk, what do cellists know anyway?!! Very,very distressing would have rather have been getting chased by or fighting monsters or had one of those show up in public in my underwear dreams. In my awake life I always have my violin strapped to my back when I'm on the subway or on the floor between my feet when I'm in a restaurant but I sometimes keep it on my back even when I eat it depends on the type of chairs. Gotta get back to sleep, monsters beware! -M
From Arashi Lilith
Posted on April 13, 2013 at 7:37 AM
I once left my violin at a BART stop after getting distracted by a creepy guy making eyes at me while I was waiting for a transfer train with my boyfriend at 11:30pm. I noticed within a stop or two, called BART police, and spent the frantic trip back to the stop rocking and crying and muttering and generally freaking out like a mother missing her kid. Thankfully, they found it on the platform after I called the BART cops and had it at the ticket booth.
I ride public transit with my instrument constantly. I'm very paranoid especially after all that noise over forgetting it at the stop, but I don't trust that to protect me. I try to put it where it will obstruct me if I try to leave without it when I'm out and it's not on my back. I refuse to leave it in a car alone, even just to run into the store for a minute. Kinda like always wiping my violin after use, I gotta build the good habit 'til I instantly feel weird whenever I can't feel it's weight on my back or have it in reach.
From Benedict Gomez
Posted on April 13, 2013 at 4:18 PM
I agree that were this free it would be the most useful database, because violin registry would increase dramatically. That said, please keep in mind "profit" and "public good" are not mutually exclusive concepts.

The difficulty of this I would imagine, is that I dont understand how this would work unless it's open source, like Wikipedia, and if it's open source like Wikipedia, it could easily be tampered with.

If it's not open source, then the reliability of data would be sound and useful, but costs for maintenance would greatly increase, and I dont think it could then be "free", which would numerically decrease violin registry.

From marjory lange
Posted on April 13, 2013 at 5:58 PM
My viola was stolen 33 years ago. Never found. I still hear it in my sleep some nights. One doesn't forget.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 13, 2013 at 9:11 PM
Oh Margory, I'm so sorry!
From Dimitri Musafia
Posted on April 14, 2013 at 6:47 AM
I would imagine that funding could be provided by a consortium of instrument insurers. They would have the incentive to provide the service as cheaply and as user friendly as possible, in order to minimize payouts.

For example, my auto insurer offered to put a tracking device in my car, that would be useful not only if it were stolen, but also in case of accident by helping determine whose fault it was. The cost? € 70 a year (about $90).

(No, I didn't get it, but only because I almost never park the car on the street and I drive it less than 3,000 miles a year)

My feeling though is that sooner or later such a device (in the car) will be required by law, most likely sponsored by the insurance companies.

From marjory lange
Posted on April 14, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Dmitri, you may be right, but I imagine there would be a lot of resistance to a device that could tell anyone (insurers, police, criminals) where a car is/has been. It could be seen as an immense invasion of privacy. That mobile phones provide the same service (when on)is a matter of some controversy in this country.

From Benedict Gomez
Posted on April 14, 2013 at 5:24 PM
marjory lange

imagine there would be a lot of resistance to a device that could tell anyone (insurers, police, criminals) where a car is/has been. It could be seen as an immense invasion of privacy.

Scares the crap out of me.

From Dimitri Musafia
Posted on April 14, 2013 at 5:28 PM
Marjory and Benedict: you are absolutely right.

Some ideas start with good intentions, but you never know where they will end up. There is in fact a certain road paved with them...

From Steve Wyrick
Posted on April 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM
My violin was stolen from a house I was renting some years ago. I filed a police report but didn't hear any more. About 9 months later I walked into a music store across town and saw it hanging on their wall! The shop owner gave it back to me as soon as I explained it was stolen and threatened to call the police (I also pointed out some almost hidden markings inside, and some minor repairs that they'd done). I never got the case or the 2 bows that were with it but was very happy to have my violin back. It isn't a very expensive instrument but was my student violin so meant a lot to me.

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