First time buyer need help.

January 20, 2009 at 08:52 PM ·

A little background about me. I just started lookin into learning to play the violin. I am In the US Army, in an infantry unit, stationed over in Iraq. I am 28 years old and married.  I think it is funny that you told me not to go with an violin. I had started looking there first. I am currently looking at a few shops in England that ship worldwide and have internet catalogues. My wife is hesitant on letting me spend more than 200 dollars on an instrument and I realize that I get what I pay for, though on a military paycheck money doesn't go a long way. I also realize that quality sometimes does not reflect price, sometimes on both sides of the spectrum, so any input would be appreciated. I am mainly looking for a decent starter set that is "all inclusive" and has everything from rosin, bow, case, and preferably extra parts, ie. extra bow, strings, tail piece, extra bridge, already set up, ect. I am not looking for a baroque violin. I understand that the best way to learn the violin is through an instructor, though with my current duties to the US Army there is no way I could make it to one. I have found more than a few online resources that show technique and fingering, so until I am able to get to a teacher I will just have to "fake the funk" and try not to pick up any bad habits. The weather here in my part of Iraq ranges from low 30s during the winter to upper 150s in the summer. Humidity runs from 50% in winter to 5% in summer. There is also the sand... Um, about the sand, it really isn't sand. It is FINE. Super fine. I shine the tarnish off of the silver ring I wear with it and it leaves no scratch. It is close to powdered sugar in consistancy.  How would this kind of climate affect a violin?

Replies (98)

January 20, 2009 at 08:01 PM ·

oops. sorry i forgot to erase some of the things i had written to someone that never answered me.  ha ha

January 20, 2009 at 09:06 PM ·

Hey Timothy,

No matter how much you spend on a violin, the only way to really test quality is to try it out.  For you, I would suggest looking at a Chinese instrument.  They will give you the most "bang for your buck."

Try checking out Shar music:

They are an online group and have a very nice selection of instruments for all price ranges.  What would be nice about them for your situation is that they do mail in repairs.

Violins do not depreciate in value.  So you can easily trade up for a nicer violin sometime down the road and get the full value that you paid for the instrument.

Investing in a humidifier for your case or violin will probably take care of most of the weather problems.  It will keep the case temperature relatively consistant.  Just make sure you store the instrument in as stable an enviroment as possible.  Cooler, damper areas are best.  Don't leave it outside =)

January 20, 2009 at 10:50 PM ·

"Violins do not depreciate in value.  So you can easily trade up for a nicer violin sometime down the road and get the full value that you paid for the instrument."

I know several people who work at violin shops who would not necessarily agree with this statement. Re-stocking fees are common (assuming the violin is worth re-stocking)---shops have to make any needed repairs, replace strings, etc, and this costs money. If you're buying from the same shop that sold you the first instrument, sometimes they will waive the re-stocking fee, so it depends.

I'm not a luthier, but those environmental conditions sound pretty ominous to me. The heat and all that dry air would have me scared of cracks forming, and I can imagine the sand sticking to the rosin on your bow. Violins are such finicky instruments, even in the best conditions. Have you considered a mandolin? They're tuned GDAE the same as violins, and are much sturdier.

Best of luck to you, though, and thank you for being so brave for us out there.

January 20, 2009 at 11:07 PM ·

Hi Timothy,

I regret I don't have any information to assist you in pursuit of a new violin for yourself, but I wanted to wish you all the best of luck in finding one that suits your needs and is of good quality.  I'm happy to hear you've decided to take up playing!  Recently, a few people (including those on gave me wonderful encouragement to play again.  I felt motivated in ways I haven't helped in years - this is a great community.  I have not played since age 13!  But, there's no such thing as being too old, etc..  I often battle with that, as I feel "old" to start playing again.  But let's face it - I may not be playing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante...but I will love playing nonetheless.  It's a journey, not a destination, no?  :)

Thank you for serving in Iraq.  I hope you will be able to come home soon.  I'll be wishing you my best for safety and good health.:)

Good to see you here.  I'm a new member also.

Cheers, Valerie :)

January 20, 2009 at 11:15 PM ·

Too bad you weren't over there at the same time as Geoffrey Allison, who got some news coverage for making violins while stationed in Iraq. ;-)

For that environment, I'd try to stay with something cheap.

Hey buddy, I'll kick in 50 bucks, maybe a few other people will too, and maybe a shop will step up to put the money toward sending you a violin outfit at their cost or a little less.


January 20, 2009 at 11:30 PM ·

Mr. Burgess -

What a lovely idea. :)

As an addendum to your suggestion, I wonder if that sort of thing (donations of instruments/monetary contributions toward an instrument, etc.) has been done in the past for soldiers learning to play stringed instruments while abroad, and continuing to pursue upon their return?  It would be worth researching. I'll try to take a look and see what's out there, if anything - never know!

January 21, 2009 at 12:55 AM ·

I'll be in for $20. David, you make violins---what happens to a violin in that kind of heat? Does the varnish or the glue melt? And wouldn't he need a good case as well?

January 21, 2009 at 02:21 AM ·

Thanks Valerie and Shailee.

Shailee, the violin may not make it through the ordeal, but it could still be money well spent.

I'm Vietnam era. Some of my friends didn't come back. Those who saw combat were changed, and most of them went involuntarily.

Infantry isn't generally a cushy job during a war. Is anyone else willing to help give this man a sense of home, and something to look forward to during his days of who knows what?

January 21, 2009 at 03:30 AM ·


We have a violin lying around that no one uses. The label says "The Lewis/ made in Germany/ William Lewis and son." We don't know how playable it is. I believe it's brand new. It comes in a Freistat case with a Glasser bow.  We are happy to give it up should you decide it will fit the bill.

January 21, 2009 at 02:45 AM ·

I was a Military Policeman in Vietnam.We [15 of us MP's] lived with the infantry in the vicinity of Quang Tri...Oh Jesus,what a terrible war 1968...We had a guitar player that played anti-war pieces constantly and he was well loved by all of us.He gave us respite in a time that was quite brutal and nasty to everyone,but we were young so we all retained a well balanced sense of humor in the circumstances...I can still see him playing Peter Paul & Mary songs and this was a great relief and helped to further my interest in music...

Count me in for a 10 spot....I live on $614 per month,else I'd give more......

January 21, 2009 at 02:50 AM ·

Well, it looks like we're going to get this man a violin. Cool! I'm just worried about whether he'll have something that will be playable when it finally gets to him, and that climate isn't very violin-friendly. I mean, if the violin is free, I'll still volunteer to help get him a mandolin, just so he has something that might hold up better. And then maybe he can get one of his buddies to learn with him and they can have jam sessions!

January 21, 2009 at 04:26 AM ·

Count me in for $20.  If I still have a job in the next few weeks, you can count me in for a bit more.

My first thought from Timothy's blog was either a good solid German student viola (I have a German student viola that survived un-airconditioned Borneo just fine), or one of those carbon-fiber violins. 

I wonder if the makers of the Louis and Clark CF violins would be interested in a match or donation?

I'll ask...

January 21, 2009 at 04:33 AM ·

Hi Timothy;

Count me in to help you get a violin outfit. Here is an interesting article about an Iraqi orchestra and local school info.

Surely there might be someone who could asist you locally. Hands on, especially at the very beginning is essential. If all else fails, i have started teaching a bit via webcam (as back up for the ambitious wanting a second lesson during the week) and be happy to give you some pointers.

Keep this group posted. We all care!


January 21, 2009 at 06:32 AM ·

Count me in too; I'm not sure when the collection plate will go around, but i'll commit to at least $20.

One other idea for lessons; you say it is not possible in your deployment, but is there anyone else in your group that plays? I wonder if we may be able to get together enough for a pair of violins, so you can try a duet; it will help keep you in practice.

You can also try some on-line resources for learning; I know some were posted on Violinist in the past, but I can't recall where.
Here are a couple
and for fiddle lessons.....

January 21, 2009 at 02:27 PM ·

I would be more than honored to provide a violin outfit for Timothy.

I will put up a paypal Donate  button on my website and names of any person who donated funds. If the funds go over my wholesale cost, I will put it in a fund for future donations to service persons who wish to play violin in Iraq, or Afganastan or other military stations and are Members of the US services.

Better yet if someone like Lori would like to handle the donations that would be much better for me and I would just provide the violins and setup.

The set up is going to be important if it is going to work in that environment.


January 21, 2009 at 02:39 PM ·

Looks like this is coming together.

Ihnsouk, I've been told that the Lewis violin is "built like a tank", so it might be the perfect choice.

A local luthier and former Marine, Peter Lynch, has offered to donate any work it needs, such as setup, spare bridge, etc. Our expenses might come down to parts for setup including some spares, a few sets of strings, possibly a bow or a rehair, shipping and insurance, and a few other things like rosin that doesn't melt. ;-)

Here's what I propose:

Ihnsouk, can you send the violin to me?

Others, can you send checks? If we have a surplus, what should I do with it? I could return money on a pro-rated basis, or I could donate it to something like Other suggestions? Music programs for needy kids?

Timothy Weston, I need to have you "message" me with enough military info so we can verify your situation. Hope you understand...... too much fraud on the internet. 

January 21, 2009 at 02:46 PM ·

It is very inspiring to see the readership here going into action! I will look for that link to send a little towards the transport, too.  A Lewis is a sturdy student model that may stand up to the climate there, and if doesn't, it doesn't. Keeping the violin inside a cloth sack and inside the sealed case whenever not in use will help. My friend Al Justice, who used to contribute here quite a bit has a website that might be useful. It is called Good luck! with your deployment and your violin-playing.  Sue 

January 21, 2009 at 03:11 PM ·


Perhaps you could donate any excess monies to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) which is a Veterans Service Organization



January 21, 2009 at 03:25 PM ·

I like the PayPal idea---makes it much easier to donate. If someone sets up a PayPal account, please let us know the number/name or whatever identifier we will need.

I also think if there are extra funds, it would be a good idea to spring for a sturdy case---I hear those military transports can be brutal. Think a gorilla jumping on a Samsonite suitcase.

January 21, 2009 at 05:07 PM ·

It does look like a tank. It was given to us on rental credit almost for free. Shall I send it to the address on your website? If you have tips on packing, let me know. The Freistat case does not have a secring strap to fix the violin to the case. I'll have to think up something to tie it down. I'll send you an email when it's on the way. Hopefully tomorrow or by Friday at the latest. Thank you for organizing.

January 21, 2009 at 05:21 PM ·

Ah Ken, I didn't see your post before mine went up. Thanks for the offer.

Do you think we should use one of your commercial violins, or can we stretch the money a little further by using the donated one? We could still have you take the money in, and have Peter L. do the work.....

The case upgrade could also be a good idea.

Ihnsouk, could you hold off for just a bit till we get this sorted out, and verify that the serviceman is legit? Yes, the address on my web site.

January 21, 2009 at 05:55 PM ·

Last night after reading this thread as it developed, I recalled an article from the December 2005 issue of The Strad.  It's called "Violinist At War," pp. 65-66.  This article is actually an excerpt from a longer article about Jascha Heifetz's "war years" as he traveled and played for soldiers during WWII.  I found this piece to be amazing - I did not know this about him until recently.  

I found a link to the full article in PDF format.  Very inspirational, I thought this thread would be a nice place to add it.  Enjoy!

I hope that works - a wonderful article! 


January 21, 2009 at 09:56 PM ·

David, Sure.  Let us know when the coast(?) is clear. 

January 21, 2009 at 10:00 PM ·

Ihnsouk, I was just contacted by Timothy through a military email address, so things are shaping up enough to go ahead and send the violin here.


We'll work on the violin anyway, so might as well remove the strings, bridge and tailpiece, wrap them in some padding, tape the padding closed, and put this up by the scroll. Make sure the pegs are pushed in securely so they won't come out and bang around in the case

You'll want to put some foam padding between the top of the violin and the lid of the case to keep the top of the violin from impacting the lid or the bow. If you feel very slight pressure when closing the case, that should be about right. Use other padding as necessary to make the violin "snug" in the case.

If you can float the case in a cardboard box with some padding all around, that would be ideal. Any other questions, phone is 734 668-7803. Thanks for doing this.

Ken McKay, go ahead and put the PayPal button on your web site for donations, and post a link here when it's up. Drop ship me a suspension case too. Tougher is better, so choose that over price. Those who can't pay by PayPal can send a check or cash (please include a note saying what it's for) to:

David Burgess

1510 Glen Leven

Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Also, if you don't want your name included on a list of donors, please put that in the note as well.

We can take a vote here on what to do with any excess money later.

January 21, 2009 at 10:12 PM ·

You all are amazing people. I never expected to be recieved this well. Words escape me as to how, what you all have said, makes me feel. I am in awe of your willingness to help me out. I never expected a "collection plate" or a donation instrument by any means. I thought it would be a list of "check this luthier out" posts. The world could do with more people like those found in this community. To have the generosity to help some random guy out is uplifting to my spirits. You have all made me feel more welcome in an on/offline community than I have ever felt before. I would like to thank you ALL for the support that you have shown me. It is a true testament to the humanity that is still in the world, which can be hard, at times, to see over here.

January 21, 2009 at 10:23 PM ·

David (and others), I can't stand the thought of the Glasser bow. If you don't have a decent bow already, I'll be happy to donate one for the cause. I'll even rehair it with extra length so that the dry desert air won't shrink the hair too much. Unless I hear otherwise, I'll send it to you David.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker

January 21, 2009 at 11:13 PM ·

wow, good work, people.

david,  count me in,,,in addition, would you, or timothy, also care for some "pre-enjoyed"  basic violin books to start,,,my kid used them some time ago,,,have to check out the names in the morning,,,some could be pretty beat up already?

timothy, just so you know, now is probably too late to back out :)  you have no idea what you are getting into!

January 21, 2009 at 11:18 PM · I think all you guys who donated time and money to this cause should get medals. I was in Vietnam in the 60's, we all wish we had this kind of support, but are glad the guys over there are getting it. We could keep this ball rolling if any other troops want fiddles. I would be happy to do repairs and setup for free for a couple of them myself, anybody want to donate? I can also find a few instruments from my collection that could be donated. All we need is someone to organize this and keep it moving.

January 21, 2009 at 11:34 PM ·

Josh, we were thinking about getting a different bow, so that fits the bill nicely. What do you think for his situation? Would carbon fiber be best?

Timothy, violin is one of the tougher instruments to learn, so I'm including some ear plugs for your buddies. You won't sound too good at first, and this way you-all can still remain friends. LOL

No fair playing the violin to torture information out of insurgents. ;-)

Yeah Rick, the 60s were kind of messed up.

January 21, 2009 at 11:54 PM ·

I realize that the violin is one of the harder instruments to learn. I have never been easy on myself and tend to make things as difficult as possible. Forget the earplugs. Most of these guys are half neanderthal and probably wouldn't notice the difference between a bird chirping and me practicing. Plus with the way they run around with tasers it is the least I can do to get them back. Ha ha. Al Ku, I would appreciate the books, any help is appreciated. I have found sites like violin online dot com and violin masterclass dot com. There are also 9600 hits on youtube on how to play the violin, and seperating the chaff from the wheat i will probably get a half hour of instruction on how to play. lol

January 22, 2009 at 01:30 AM ·

Count me in--I'd be happy to provide extra set of strings (Evah)(new), Salchow rosin  ( New) and Kun Shoulder rest. (Used but once, since it never suit me.). let me know where to send them.

More power to all of you who are helping and  saying your prayers to all man and woman who are serving and who served those, and these wars.

God Bless you all!


January 22, 2009 at 01:52 AM ·

hi timothy,,,i will send over the Wohlfahrt Book 1 and 2 tomorrow to david, assuming the legend has a real mortal address.  (cannot locate those suzuki books anymore).  you will be the judge whether they are appropriate to your level, but if anything, go slow,,,,no timeline soldier,,,the slower you take it in,  the less a violin teacher needs to go over again when you come back:). 

i will also include copies of score to the following, so you have a chance to listen and read the score at the same time,,,to see how it may be done:)

1. beethoven spring sonata, allegro

2. bach concerto 1

 3. massenet meditation thais

4  this one you can serenade to your wife:)

for your sightreading,,,we have silent night and frosty the snowman!



January 22, 2009 at 02:23 AM ·

OK David, I'll call your $50.  Unless you post otherwise, I am sending a check to the address posted on your web site.

I would recommend contacting Shar music (or other large violin distributor) and see if they will match our contribution.  For example, let's say we raise $300, then maybe they will throw in another $300 to make it a $600 value.

Timothy, good luck learning the violin and thank you for your service to our great nation.


January 22, 2009 at 03:03 AM ·


Some one should get in touch with Geoffrey.  He is a recent vet  whowas at the Oberlin makers workshop last summer...this would be a cause close to his heart.  I can't find his email, but Chris G. would have it.


January 22, 2009 at 03:14 AM ·

Timothy, Todd Ehle has an excellent set of videos on YouTube:

They start right at the beginning, even showing you how to tune the instrument. Best of luck to you---let us know when you get the violin and then how you like playing it! We'll definitely be around for encouragement and playing tips---there are some very fine teachers on this site. 

January 22, 2009 at 03:26 AM ·

Since you don't play already, and your environment is far, far from violin-friendly, you might luck into one of Mario Maccaferri's plastic violins. A Strad it ain't, but it has a couple things going for it; the humidity will not affect it or ruin its tone (which is not to say it has much to start with), and, if you can find one, it'll be cheap. Last one I saw was around a hundred bucks. The problem will be finding one. (By the way, they're pink plastic. I hope you're tough enough to stand the kidding).

Couple that with a fair carbon fiber bow and you're ready to start irritating the enemy big time.

January 22, 2009 at 07:28 AM ·

Timothy, Ben Chan on You Tube (ben chan violin) also has really good learning stuff -  he's wheat.

January 22, 2009 at 11:19 AM ·

Hi Joe.

Allison (the soldier who was making violins in Iraq) also volunteered as a judges assistant at the most recent VSA competition, and that's where I met him. Thursday is volunteer work day for me, so I'm tight on time. If you could take care of contacting him, that would be great. The VSA office should be another source of contact information for him.

A Washington Post article on Allison is here:

Bob, that pink violin gives me an image of a "Barbie" violin. LOL  Makes me think of that song about the father who named his son "Sue" so he'd grow up tough. :-)

I want to mention that there have been a number of people working on this project behind the scenes without being credited yet here, such as those who have advised me on whether this violin would be appropriate, and the violinist/military wife (her husband is in Iraq) who verified Timothy's service information,  advised me on the best way to ship, and has offered to sew a silk bag for the violin.

Thanks for all the other offers of sheet music, accessories, bow, etc. Get 'em here (address is earlier in the thread, also on my web site) and I'll include them.

I see that Ken McKay hasn't responded yet with a link to a PayPal method for donations, so I'll call him this morning. Non-Paypal donations can be sent here. I'll keep track of the money trail in case anyone wants to audit it.

Re: suggestions to make this an on-going thing with matching contributions from vendors etc.

Let me get this one in the "done" pile, and then we can see what's next. Violin making is rather labor intensive, so I might want to pass a continuing project on to someone else.


January 22, 2009 at 02:47 PM ·

Thank you for letting me be part of this project especially David, but all of the contributors and wellwishers also.

I will get a case to David downstate ASAP. I will hold off on sending any rosin since others have kindly stated their intentions to send it to David. I was thinking that a set of Helicor (steel core0 strings would be good in that environment, what do you think?

I put up a Donate button on Go to the bottom of the page. I will keep track of all contributors and we can decide where they will be published (or not).

January 22, 2009 at 05:23 PM ·

It just occurred to me that my old student instrument is collecting dust in my basement.  Last year, I spent about $200 on a new bridge and sound post for it (just before I upgraded to a more expensive instrument).  I think the instrument might fetch $500-$1000 in a violin shop, but I would get a fraction of that on a trade in.  It is not a professional grade instrument by any means, but it got me through the Mendelssohn violin concerto and classes at the Peabody music conservatory.  I also have a bow for it.

How about instead of sending $50 to you David; I'll donate my violin, then we can use the proceeds from others to invest in a decent case, tuner, shoulder rest, rosin, sheet music, etc to get Timothy everything he needs to get started.  Let me know.


January 22, 2009 at 06:16 PM ·

I just noticed that Insouk has already volunteered her violin.  For now, I'll hold off on sending mine.  But if a future need arises, I would love to find a good home for it.


January 22, 2009 at 10:47 PM ·

Progress report:  We have gotten a few donations so far, but just in case you are wondering, we are not inundated with them. I have a really nice suspensionair case going to David. I will report again later.

January 22, 2009 at 11:16 PM ·

As this thread advances, I am so grateful to this community - an awe-inspiring collaborative effort on behalf of Timothy.  So many thoughts, coordination, goodness!  I realize it's quite an undertaking to outfit Timothy with everything needed to pursue his endeavor with the violin. 

This is so very encouraging, and truly rings close to my heart - I realize I'm waxing a bit sappy...simply amazing to see this community pull together on behalf of a deployed service member.  I am truly proud and honored to be a member here. 

A quote running alongside this effort came to mind:

"Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Every man has to seek in his own way to realize his true worth. You must give some time to your fellow man. For remember, you don't live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here too."

– Albert Schweitzer

A couple of questions/thoughts:

1.  Some have shared their service history in this thread.  May I request, if you have been in the service and don't mind sharing, please post here?

2.  Might there be other items Timothy could use as he's learning, playing and practicing, e.g. composition pad/notebook, supplies, etc.?  Putting yourself in his boots - what else might you need?  This would be of help to me as I plan the ways I'd like to donate, and perhaps assist others as well. 

Thank you in advance,


January 23, 2009 at 12:43 AM ·

Just sent my donation---had lots of distractions today. Thanks Ken and David and the others who helped arrange all this---Timothy will have everything he needs!

January 23, 2009 at 02:25 AM ·

How wonderful of everyone to respond in this way to this man's query.  After seeing some nasty comments go flying back and forth in other threads, when it really counts, everyone comes together! This is truly a beautiful community.  I've just sent in my contribution.

January 23, 2009 at 03:44 PM ·

Progress report: As I wrote yesterday, the case is on its way to David Burgess and you can see it here scroll to the bottom of the page. It is a very nice case for Tim and should be durable and it includes a digital hygrometer and thermometer but not a "sandometer" ;-).

Thanks to all who have donated so far if anyone would still like to contribute, that would be nice, otherwise I will cover the balance.

And most of all, Tim you absolutely deserve this, it is the least we can do for you. You are a good man.

...and Valerie, I printed the article, all 13 pages and was fascinated! Thank you.

January 23, 2009 at 04:02 PM ·

Ken, I got you into this, so don't worry about it. I'll cover any shortages.

I just paid my $50 pledge on your PayPal link, so it's documented.

With things as tough as they are in Detroit (21% unemployment according to the news), and difficulties in the Middle East, I just feel fortunate to have a job and not have anybody shooting at me.

January 23, 2009 at 05:50 PM ·

Well it's about time I chime in.....

I've always known this community was incredibly supportive, and here is one more example of it. This whole thing snowballed without me really being aware of it, until Timothy e-mailed. Then I spoke with David, and wow, I'm really impressed that so many people are cooperating and pitching in. Many thanks to David Burgess, Ken McKay, and the many people who have joined this thread and this effort. Not least, thanks to Timothy for his service to his country, which is also my country.

Once Timothy has received his violin, I will write about this whole effort, just to give everyone on the site, and whoever else in the world's reading, an idea of what happened and why. Keep me posted!

January 23, 2009 at 06:27 PM ·

Your donation site is blocked from my office and I forgot to last night.  Hopefully I will remember to donate tonight.

Thanks for doing this.


January 23, 2009 at 10:19 PM ·

For clarification -

If we mail a check to David, or donate via Ken's PayPal, does it all go to the same effort?  Which way is best?  I was going to mail a check to David, but please advise whether one is better over another, or if it does not matter - either way?

Thank you in advance!

January 23, 2009 at 10:50 PM ·

Either way is fine. PayPal takes a little money off the top as a fee. The only reason I put my contribution through PayPal is so I could show that I kept my end of the deal, if anyone wants to check up on me. I'm trying to keep this whole thing above reproach.

Or maybe I could have just written a check to myself........ ;-)

Oh, and PayPal will automatically email you a receipt, if that's important to you.

January 25, 2009 at 02:29 AM ·

OK, finally submitted my $50.

It doesn't hurt to ask...  can you also send him a C-string just in case Timothy would like to turn to the "dark side"?  I know from experience that a violin can be stringed up as a viola for beginning students ;)

It is amazing on what the folks on this site is doing for one of our military personnel.  Several months ago I opened my home to foster two cats for a lady in the military, and it has been such a rewarding experience.  Elvis & Priscilla have adapted nicely and no longer run away from the viola :)  I am thrilled to support our troops in another way that has some very real personal meaning.

January 26, 2009 at 09:57 PM ·

Progress report Jan 26, 2009:

I have received quite a few donations through the paypal button on my site. This is a very generous community indeed. I am in contact with David Burgess who is making sure the instruments and bows are suitable and set up properly. We want to do this right, so to all who have contributed, thanks and rest assured that this is proceeding as planned.

January 27, 2009 at 01:49 AM ·

On Saturday, I received a carbon fiber bow from Josh Henry.

Today (Monday), I received the case, a $10 anonymous cash donation, and a package from  Elinor Estepa which included a Kun shoulder rest, Salchow rosin, a set of Evah Pirazzi strings, the book "Essential Elements for Strings", and a practice mute. Maybe we won't need to send ear plugs after all.  ;-)

Considering information sent to me from Ken on PayPal donations, I think we'll be fine on the money unless there are any surprises when the violin arrives.

We've had a request that one donation go towards a copy of Simon Fischer's
Basics. Since that donation isn't quite enough to cover it, is there agreement that this is a worthwhile expenditure?

Timothy, I know it's going slowly, but hang in there. Your original budget was $200, which wouldn't have gotten you much. With donations of the violin, bow, accessories, labor,  and money plus our trade discounts, it looks like you'll be getting at least $500 to $1000 worth of stuff.

With all this effort, if you don't come back, we're gonna be pissed, so keep that in mind.  ;-)


January 27, 2009 at 07:20 AM ·

I have Simon Fischer's Basics.  As a beginner to intermediate I don't find it useful - there is just TOO MUCH in it, and without a teacher its impossible to know where to start.  
And with a teacher, you don't need to use the book anyway since they are guiding you.  I have had the book for three years and I'm not even sure I know where to lay my hands on it at present.

I think the money could be better spent - some masterclass dvds or the Suzuki CD's or something that could be used by a new learner immediately, and without too much guidance. 

My $AUS .02 which isn't much, to be sure, but its all the currency I can trade in. 

January 27, 2009 at 07:24 AM ·

Or, could the extra be better spent on a choice of chinrests / shoulder rests so that he can work out how to get comfortable.  I'm sure that someone on this site would be able to enter into a regualr exchange, get some photo's to check his posture etc and make recommendations.  If the range could go over with the outfit, it would save a lot of hassle in ordering and waiting for shipment later. 

January 27, 2009 at 09:00 PM ·

The violin arrived this morning.
It's had one major repair, but it's still a "go".  At some point, the neck was broken out, and reglued at too low an angle. However, the repair appears to be secure (though not pretty), doesn't interfere with proper function, and the violin is very robust otherwise and super easy to play. This will get even better when we reshape the fingerboard and the upper nut, make a couple of new bridges, and do a few other things.

The Glasser bow that came with it actually plays surprisingly well, so Timothy will have a couple of bows to work with.

Peter Lynch, the former Marine who is donating the labor on the violin, came by this afternoon to pick it up. Looks like we might be able to get it shipped out around the beginning of next week.

Also received the music books, sheet music, and $50 from Al Ku. He better not give me a hard time on the forum any more, because now I know where he lives!  ;-)


January 27, 2009 at 10:05 PM ·

Have our efforts been to no avail ?     Is Timothy Weston appreciative of his gift of a violin ?      I would want a bit of feedback from Timothy; what are the answers to these questions ?

Has this been an Internet hoax ?    Someone tell me----has anyone attained any internet feedback from Timothy ?      Just what is the situation ??????????


January 27, 2009 at 10:18 PM ·

Joe, calm down. Timothy is probably busy. He has a few things to attend to over there, you know.

January 27, 2009 at 10:33 PM ·


Sharelle and I will have to agree to differ over the value of Basics but I definitley concur with her that it is not a beginners book and that there are better options at this stage.



January 27, 2009 at 11:30 PM ·

Glad that you could use the violin. I didn't know the neck had been broken. It sounds to me pretty substantial reworking on it. If you still decide that this is the way to go, I am happy to pick up part of the repair cost. Peter Lynch probably didn't know he was volunteering for a major repair.

January 28, 2009 at 01:18 AM ·

I agree that the book Basic is not really a "must have"  for a starter like Timothy, if there is anything left of that funds, might as well, put it in beginner's books or such.


Wow! this thing are really coming together, thank's to everybody!

Laurie, thank's for putting this site, it made a huge impact to all of us.

Hat's off to everyone!

January 28, 2009 at 02:18 AM ·

Hi Joe.

I think we're in good shape. I try to treat infomation from "private messages" as confidential, but let's just say that I'm satisfied enough with the situation that if it turns out to be a scam, I will personally reimburse everyone out of pocket. The worst case scenario is that someone at a Forward Operating Base near Baghdad will be getting a violin, because that's where it will be sent. Timothy put up a post of appreciation here on the 21st.

Ihnsouk, I apologize if my former message conveyed any lack of gratitude. I normally deal with high-end fiddles, so I have a tendency to focus on minutia. In consultation with Mr. Lynch, we've decided to leave the neck repair alone, so no special effort will be required other than obtaining a different model of bridge. As I mentioned, the violin is very (uncommonly) easy to play, and this is coming from a "violin snob". It's very well suited for the purpose.

When Timothy enters a music conservatory, or gets to the point where he can reasonably contemplate using his playing to seduce women, he may want to hit us up for a better violin.  ;-)

January 28, 2009 at 03:17 AM ·

Gratitude? We should thank YOU for organizing the effort and bringing it to a highly successful closure. I wish Timothy the best and sign off from this thread.

January 28, 2009 at 03:43 AM ·

Closure will come, only when the violin is in the hands of the recipient.

January 28, 2009 at 06:23 PM ·

I have an extra Muller Rusch Book 1 -- an oldie but goodie, I think it will work well for an adult. (The book itself is new) Is anyone planning to send that? I can just send it from here if y'all can e-mail me the address.

January 28, 2009 at 06:27 PM ·

Hey, how about we send him Mel Bay's Easiest Fiddling book, with the CD? I have an extra one of those. So I'll send these two things, David, if you can send me the address?

January 28, 2009 at 06:29 PM ·

Also, Joe, just a thought: this is about our gratitude to Timothy, for serving his country. And if you read above, he's been extremely gracious.

January 28, 2009 at 07:19 PM ·

Yoo Hoo, David...

As for Tim using his violin playing for seducing women, uh, he did mention his wife in his original post...


January 28, 2009 at 08:37 PM ·

What? Are you telling me that it actually works?

Oh, to think of all the money I've frittered away on Magic Gorilla Pheromone Extract, when I could have just been practicing!  :-(

January 28, 2009 at 09:04 PM ·

David - DON'T practise!  Timothy scored his betrothed BEFORE he learnt to play. Put the instrument down, David.

January 28, 2009 at 10:39 PM ·

Ah ha! I can see right through that one.

Admit it, you Australian gals really like "eau de Gorilla", don't you?  ;-)

January 28, 2009 at 10:43 PM ·

This is great! Haven't been back in a few days, so just wanted to luk that my check is on its way. If the money totals go over what is needed, you guys who are spearheading this can make an appropriate choice, maybe in the same vein/spirit of support for our troops. Sue

January 28, 2009 at 11:28 PM ·

All I can say is wow. I still can't believe this post took the turn that it has. I just can't wait to get back stateside and pull out the violin in front of my friends. ha ha. A little more back ground about me. I am really influenced by all kinds of music, though mainly punk rock. I used to have an eight inch mohawk and cruise down the street, blairing Mozart with my windows down and people would just stare. he he.

My wife is writing a letter that I am going to post as soon as she is done writing it. She would post herself though she only has yahoo, so the duty falls to me, and she is writing it as I type this post and is going to IM me on yahoo with the contents of the letter.

Joe, I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have. To answer the two that you have posted: your efforts have not been for no reason, I am super excited and ready to "terrorize" my platoon mates. he he. I am very appreciative of ALL of the dontations from the youtube links to the violin/extra bow/case/strings/hand sewn silk bag/rosin/books/monies for fixing/extra parts. Wow I kinda went slash crazy there. ha ha. This is not a hoax. I have emailed both David and Laurie from my email address that i check once a week. I emailed David my mailing address and I emailed Laurie asking that the people that donated somehow get recognized on the site for their time, money, and effort spent in order to gift me a violin outfit.

I apologize if it sounded like I was being a &*%$, it has been a long day and nearing 0230 local time and I just keep drinking the energy drinks. Buzz!!!

January 28, 2009 at 11:43 PM ·

With Sue's check, let's bring money contributions to a close. We're getting everything either free or at wholesale, so the money will go a long ways. The biggest single expense will be 4 or 5 extra sets of strings, with maybe some extra Es. Our wholesale cost on strings is pretty close to what the discount retailers charge, so there's not much of a break there. Second will be the case, and third will probably be shipping.

Ken (who took the PayPal payments) is eager to post the contributions. If you don't want your name attached to a contribution, please "message" him and let him know. If you've sent money to me and don't want your name listed, please do the same. I got $10 from someone who gave no name, and there was no return address, but I'm pretty sure I know who it was. :-) You better contact me too if you don't want your name to go up.

I'll put it in bold below so people who skim can catch it:

Please don't send any more money!

Thanks, everyone.


January 28, 2009 at 11:40 PM ·

Hello everyone, my name is Carissa Weston.
I know that you all have been extremely supportive and helpful with (Tim) my husband's request of help in the desire to play the violin.I have been so touched by your generosity and encouragement that I am truly at a loss for words. I hope you know how important you all are.

I would do anything in my power to get Tim what he wants especially while he is deployed. I can't imagine what he and his fellow soldiers go through without all the "comforts" of home and I had no idea how they have the courage and love for us all. I am extremely proud of him and beginning to understand where that courage and love comes from. It is a simple thing to say "do onto others as they would do onto you" and a much harder thing to actually do it. I just want to say THANK YOU with all my heart. What you all are doing is amazing and I will be sure to pay it forward one day.
Thank you,
Carissa Weston

January 29, 2009 at 03:56 AM ·

 Ha, wait until he gets home and drives her crazy practicing at all hours of the day and night!

Tim, please tell your wife we admire her as much as we do you. These last few years have been very hard on military families, and she's almost as heroic as you are, in my opinion.

And when you get the violin, try to be as patient as you can be. I remember when I first started, I was usually happy if I had any improvement at all every week, even if it was just a little, because it all adds up. Oh, and practice every day, even if it's just for 15 minutes, because your brain needs time to be able to build from day to day, and it will forget if you leave it too long between practices. And have fun!

January 29, 2009 at 02:09 PM ·

Tim, there's something entertaining about people's reactions to incongruency, like a Mohawk and Mozart. I was on the verge of doing a conservative Mohawk myself a couple of months ago. Violin makers can get away with being weird. In fact, people almost expect it, so why be normal?

Wifey, on the other hand, works in the corporate world where people need to look and dress a certain way, and think it means something. I was told, "Do what you want", but it was in that admonishing  tone of voice that all men recognize and fear. ;-)  Maybe I'll stick with "faux-hillbilly-redneck" for a while longer.  Poor gal, I know she's embarrassed about me sometimes.  :-(

January 29, 2009 at 02:20 PM ·

Well then David, I have the perfect solution for you

And you can still ride with your lady to those corporate funtions,

Its all about the image man, ..all about the image.

"We just want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man"


January 29, 2009 at 06:43 PM ·

I would  like to acknowledge the contributors and announce that a total of $560.00 was collected via paypal button on my website and a fee of $25.24 went to them for a subtotal of $534.76. I am listing them here:

Anonymous $100.00

Robert MacPherson $10.00

Kevin Kelly $50.00

Francis Roux $50.00

Smiley Hsu $50.00

Ann Miller $50.00

Christopher Norton $20.00

Conrad Thomas $30.00

Joseph Fisher $10.00

Laura Zmolk $20.00

David Burgess $50.00

Rea-ann Heinrich $10.00

Gabrien Schaff $20.00

Sharon Katzmann $20.00

Sharelle Taylor $20.00

Bart Meijer $20.00

Anonymous $30.00

They all wish to pass on to you, Timothy, their appreciation of your service.

I am sending the balance of the paypal money minus my wholesale cost of the case to David Burgess. He will list any other contributions in a separate post.

If I left out anyone  or any mistake I have made, please let me know by email at and I will edit it appropriately.

Thanks for letting me be a part of this project.

January 29, 2009 at 07:07 PM ·

TImothy, if you can send me a picture of you with the fiddle, when you get it, I'll put it up on the home page and make sure it gets seen, and I'll assemble people's comments (including yours and your wife's) in a way in which people will be able to read it as a story. :)

January 29, 2009 at 07:51 PM ·

Hi Timothy,

I wish you all the best with your violin. It was really fun to contribute to this thread which would qualify for "The thread of the year 2009". So thank you for initiating it.

David! Your (my) violin is doing great by the way! I'd love to get boots like yours;)

Best regards!

January 29, 2009 at 09:18 PM ·

Good to hear from you, Francis.

Should we set up a fund to send a pair of cowboy boots to a violinist in Switzerland?  ;-)

January 29, 2009 at 10:36 PM ·

Well if they are antibiotic free they might make it through the customs! Who knows we might soon end up eating our shoes if our economy keeps collapsing. That's why we should all invest in boots 'cause there's more to eat as in shoes:) Keep these old gut strings asside just in case...

Tell me if you plan to come to Europe,

best regards,

February 2, 2009 at 08:26 PM ·

The violin has been shipped, along with everything else sent to me to date.

The fastest mailing option available was Priority, so that's what I used. No one at the Post Office could tell me when it would arrive in Iraq.

There are some things which haven't arrived here yet, including a bunch of spare parts and supplies (three extra rosins, pitch pipe, more strings etc). I decided to ship them separately rather than holding up the violin.


February 24, 2009 at 09:25 PM ·

did Timothy received the violin yet? is there anymore updates?

February 24, 2009 at 09:49 PM ·

Tim and Carissa,

I think that it is great you are interested in playing the violin and I hope you have received it.  I too am a Combat Infantryman and commanded a Infantry Company in the first Gulf War and an Infantry Battalion in Afghanistan very early in this war.  I retired in 06 after 25 years of service. I want to let you know both of you I personnaly apprecate your service and to you Carissa your courage. God speed to both of you.

Since I was young I also wanted to play the violin but my parents were not able to affored it. But in 07 my wife surprised me with a student violin and six month worth of lessons for Christmas. And now after 25 months, with much work and determination and consernation on the part of my wife and kids enduring my practices I am doing ok.  I practice on average an hour a day, one lesson a week and have joined an adult Quartet at Kansas City Strings and I love it.

If you need anything just email me. Good Luck, Keep your head down and what unit are you with

Rick Averna, LTC, US Army (Ret)

February 24, 2009 at 10:12 PM ·

It strikes me that there is a lot of good will and generosity amongst the community. Perhaps there is the potential to harness this spirit in a constructive and effective manner. Have we the potential to start a string orientated charity where musicians could provide free performances, teachers free lessons and luthiers free equipment?

The ball appears to be already rolling- if it helps maintain the momentum I'll donate a student outfit.

February 25, 2009 at 08:26 AM ·

Hello: An organization already exists that sends instruments to deployed service personnel. see more info under I read about it some time ago in readers digest, and dug up the info... so, maybe you want to join forces with them... no need to reinvent the wheel? By the way, I was impressed by how this community came together to help Tim. Way to go, guys! (Now I can image the story of that violin donation in readers digest!) 

February 26, 2009 at 01:36 PM ·

I just got a call from Carissa Weston (Wednesday evening), and spent about a half hour talking to her. What a neat lady! Timothy received the violin about a week ago, and according to her, that's mostly what he talks about!  He's had limited access to a computer lately, so that's why he hasn't posted. Carissa will be emailing some pictures of Tim, but I don't think she has any of him with the violin yet. I'll try to put them on my server, and link to them here.

Strings magazine has been following this thread, and has been in contact with me, Laurie Niles, and Carissa, and is planning to do an article on this.  One person in particular has been highly valuable in deciphering and validating military  information, and has opted to  keep a low profile so far. I hope this contribution makes it into the article. Can I have permission to pass some of this on to the journalist?

Now that I know the violin has arrived, and assuming that the second package of spare parts etc. arrives there safely, we will have a surplus of donations.  Money donations totaled about $640.00. With our trade discounts, donated items and donated labor, we spent about $411, including shipping and Paypal fees, so we'll need to figure out how to best use the surplus.

As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I think it would only be right if it was the donors who voted on how to put these excess funds to best use. We're running out of space on this thread, so personal communications are welcome.

It's been a fun and rewarding project, and a privilege to work with all who participated.

Best to all,

David Burgess

March 2, 2009 at 11:51 PM ·

Hi David,

how about a music stand  or a few vioin CDs?



ps: did you get my email?

March 4, 2009 at 04:43 AM ·


Last night I googled to learn what I need to buy to begin learning this great instrum$ent and wow, I wasn't prepared for what I just read.  If this is any indication of the caliber of dedication and character of people who participate on this site, I'm in awe, inspired and humbled.

March 20, 2009 at 09:11 PM ·

Does anyone have an update to this saga ?

March 24, 2009 at 09:53 PM ·

He has received his violin and loves it, he told me, and his wife says he talks about nothing but the fiddle! :) I'm waiting for a picture, and then I'll post it in my blog, on the home page.

December 13, 2009 at 08:33 PM ·

So a few months later...any updates or communications with Timothy? 

If anything was written/blogged on this, would you mind posting a link here?

Thanks much and happy holidays all.

:) Valerie

December 13, 2009 at 11:43 PM ·



February 19, 2010 at 04:04 PM ·

Hi, All --

It's now February of 2010.  I've only been a member of for about a month, and was "strolling" through some of the older Discussion Board posts when I found this thread.  I'd be SO interested in learning when Tim got back to the States, and how he's doing in his violin studies.  Tim, if you're still involved with, can you give us an update on how you are, and how well your violin fared in Iraq (and through the trip home!).  Thanks for your service!


November 24, 2010 at 07:00 AM ·

What is the end of this good story?

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine