Getting an instrument on loan?

January 17, 2010 at 07:16 PM ·

 Hello everyone!  I haven't posted in a long time, but I have a question for you.

There is a girl in my college orchestra, Jenny, who is incredibly talented, destined to be a top-notch performer, and she is in desperate need of a violin, a good one.  Long story short, she's having family problems, and her Mom is holding Jenny's violin hostage until Jenny does what she wants!  Can you believe that?!  Anyway, Jenny is a typical poor college kid, and has no money for an instrument of her caliber (her violin is worth $20k).

I'm wondering how someone would go about asking to get a good instrument on loan, like the pros do?  We're in Michigan, U.S.

Thanks for your help,


Replies (31)

January 17, 2010 at 09:11 PM ·

Since you said you're in Michigan, my first impulse is to think of Shar.  I wonder if she couldn't work something out with them?  I'd also check with her school (as well as any other major music schools); if they don't own one, see if they can help her locate the kind of foundation or estate that has a fine instrument that they would just love to match with a player.

I've seen ads for a company that specializes in loans to purchase fine instruments, but they start at $100,000 so I don't know if that is an issue.

January 17, 2010 at 09:18 PM ·

 She can't really afford any sort of payments at all right now... :(  

I've been thinking about Shar, too.  It's right down the road from us, and we've both been customers for years. I bet they'd loan her something decent, but I've never been particularly happy with anything of theirs under $20k...

January 17, 2010 at 10:03 PM ·

I wouldn't be surprised if she can find somebody there who is sympathetic, even if she has to go to Mr. Avsharian himself, and she's as outstanding a player as you've said.  When I think of someone using an instrument that way, I'm just aghast.  It's almost like kidnapping a person and holding them for ransom (since I don't know the mother, she may reasonably think that she can repo the violin just like one would a car, and not realize just how cruel it is).

Which brings me to this thought: maybe an option is to try to raise enough funds for her to go to court, though I am sure that is an experience everyone would rather avoid if possible. 

January 18, 2010 at 05:53 AM ·

Yeah, I think we'll be calling Shar this week...

We're throwing around the idea of going to court, but honestly, that would cost as much as the violin.  The sentimental value is tremendous, though...

Isn't it just an awful situation?  I'm flabbergasted. 

January 18, 2010 at 06:59 AM ·

 Hi Tasha,

That's a terrible situation, I'm very sorry about your friend. If she's a really outstanding player, then she should speak with her teacher first and foremost. Many musicians have several instruments, and I think there would have to be somebody around to lend her a decent instrument. Keep in mind, however, that her goal should be to either resolve her family situation, or ultimately raise the money to purchase a good instrument by herself. If she needs a violin as a sort of long-term "loaner" in order to continue to study, then it might not be a truly great instrument, or something you're terribly happy with, but she can continue to play, right? A well set up violin might not make as much of your playing as a Del Gesu, but it won't necessarily hinder your development either. I've had several "loan" instruments of various levels, and just keep in mind that you don't need a strad to sound amazing, you just need something that has a good sound. If you can perform regularly, and try to spread word around, you might just get offers from people (or shops which need instruments to stay "played in") to "upgrade" your loaner. 

That said (and this has NO implication as to your friend), she probably needs a very good reputation as a reliable, mature, and responsible person in order to get an instrument on loan in this kind of situation. If her teacher can vouch for her, then that will help a lot, but could understandably put some strain on their relationship. Also, make sure that the instrument is insured, because liability needs to be understood when you accept an instrument on loan, whether it's work 5k or 5 million, you're responsible for a LOT of money. If you've got a reputation as a bit of a flake, or approach things in any way that can seem shady, it might be a lot harder to find an instrument. 

I really, really hope that your friend finds a solution! Check local shops, let local freelancing musicians know what you're looking for, and keep your standards realistic!




Also, just a little edit! Orchestras often will buy instruments for musicians, or offer low/no interest loans on their behalf. Likewise, many companies will buy instruments as investments, and loan them to artists. High-end shops will often do the same thing. If you want to get that caliber instrument on loan, you need to play for as many people as possible, and really develop as something of a star. There is a HUGE demand for the top instruments, as *most* of them are owned privately or by a corporation, and are on loan, or played by their owners already. 

Good luck again!


January 18, 2010 at 12:39 PM ·

two sides to this

  • a $20,000 fiddle isn't good enough??? One had better be a real cracker jack player with some notoriety before thinking some organization or individual is going to take you under wing and hand you the likes of a Strad
  • fiddle being held hostage? This is not a situation for a third party to stick her nose in. You will ultimately become the "bad guy". This ALWAYS happens

January 18, 2010 at 02:38 PM ·

Edit: I don't realistically expect a strad (although it'd be nice) but we need something better than she's been borrowing.  I'm also not saying a $20k violin isn't good enough, but that Shar doesn't have many.  Psarianos does, but I don't think they'll loan instruments.

The Mom got me involved by getting my number off of Jenny's cell phone and trying to enlist my aid to manipulate her daughter.  I am not being nosey, and I do everything with Jenny's knowledge and permission.  I'm not the bad guy.  She's never posted on here, so I thought I would.  Jenny is also moving in with me until she can afford her own place.

I realize getting a really good instrument is a long shot, but she has connections with major players as her teacher, she's won a couple competitions, and I figured it was worth a shot.

January 18, 2010 at 03:00 PM ·


Adding to the story a bit, Jenny's Mom enlisted my aid by stealing my phone number from Jenny's phone, calling me, and asking me to meet with her to discuss her concerns about Jenny's relationship.  I told Jenny about it, and we decided I'd meet with her to get on her good side, and attempt to negotiate peace.  I had some progress, before things just stopped working.  I can honestly say that the Mom's beliefs (she's Taiwanese) combined with years of abuse from her husband (Jenny's Dad) has made her sanity questionable, if not doubtful.  There is no way at this point to find a compromise for peace.  Jenny either does everything the Mom wants, or her Mom will not budge.

It is such a sad situation.  Peace is the ultimate goal, but not at all likely.

January 18, 2010 at 05:38 PM ·

 Tasha, that sounds like a terrible situation, and it's good of you to help your friend so much. She should really take the initiative to talk to her teacher about instruments, that's probably the best starting point. As far as getting on her feet, she should look for some teaching work, and see about some gigs, etc. Maybe your school has an administrative position she could work at (admissions office, scheduling, call center)? You're a great friend, but she needs to take care of this herself as much as possible. Has she been looking around for instruments, or jobs, or anything of the sort?


January 18, 2010 at 05:57 PM ·

 Hi, Chris.  She already has a few students of her own, and is the orchestra equipment manager at our university.  Our university unfortunately isn't  the sort to have an instrument for her.  She's doing everything she can think of, and I'm just trying to help out however I'm able.  Our teacher doesn't have an instrument for her, or he would have gone so already.  He's aware of the situation.

January 18, 2010 at 07:14 PM ·

you mention that she has some good connections & perhaps you've already done this but aren't they the ones who should be contacted for an appeal like this? People who know her & may be in a position to help out?

Also, who paid for Jenny's violin, her or her mother/parents? As sad as the situation is, if the mother is the legal owner of the violin it doesn't sound as though there are grounds for any kind of legal action.

January 18, 2010 at 09:09 PM ·

Christina, thank you for your input.  The contacts are (obviously) very busy people (Perlman, Zukerman, etc.) and we don't want to get them involved if we don't have to.  That would be awkward to say the least, lol.

As for the violin, her Mom bought it for her when she was 11 years old (the woman is a money tree) and gave it to her.  Now the Mom claims she is the owner, and she loans it to her daughter.  Sick. 

January 18, 2010 at 11:17 PM ·


If you and/or your friend have contacts like Perlman and/or Zukerman why not check with them?  I know Pinkie loaned someone (no, I will not name the artist) a very fine fiddle a number of years ago when that person had an upcoming recital in NYC.  With any loan situation you and/or your friend need to be ready to cough up the liability premiums as well as make other commitments since this is standard protocol with every instrument loan I have ever heard of (e.g. Stradivari Society as well as instruments I currently have and have had on loan).  At the risk of seeming blunt, if as you say, your friend can not afford payments of any kind then she certainly can not afford the liability premiums for a Strad or del Gesu.

I sent you a note regarding the Amati Foundation off-line but have not heard back, so not sure if you got it.  I don't know what the Amati Foundation's status is these days, but did you check with Bill  Townsend (the founder) and/or Joseph Curtin (who is in your area and who I understand made a violin for the organization)?

January 18, 2010 at 11:22 PM ·

I guess we'd rather not involve Perlman or Zukerman unless it's absolutely necessary.

Hi, Karl. Thanks for all the info, the email, and the tips.  I forwarded your email on to Jenny, and we will definitely be giving local luthiers (Gregory Alf (sp?), Joseph Curtin, etc.) a call to see if they would like some serious PR in loaning her an instrument...


January 19, 2010 at 02:52 AM ·

if you were to post jenny's mom's address here, maybe the violin would somehow just show up at your mom's house.


January 19, 2010 at 03:41 AM ·

 What do you mean, Calvin?  I don't get it... LOL.

January 19, 2010 at 12:45 PM ·

Tasha, since you've mentioned that your friend is a really talented player, as a preliminary step, how about having her post a YouTube video demonstrating her playing, and put a link to it here? I know of one or two collectors who have at least talked about lending instruments, but I don't think I've ever met any who would be interested without first hearing how someone plays. I know, it sounds a little snobby, but that's just the way these things seem to work.

A playing demo might also spark interest from a private owner with a spare violin who reads here, or allow them to pass the information on to someone else they know with an extra violin.

January 19, 2010 at 12:51 PM ·

 That's a GREAT idea, Mr. Burgess!  I'll have her do that ASAP and post the link when she's done it.

January 19, 2010 at 02:12 PM ·


If I were to take this to court, I would not go with the return-of-property argument -- which I agree is probably a losing battle -- but I would try to argue that the deprivation of a proper instrument was crippling my education.  Especially if the violin is of no other use to the mother (i.e. she is not a violinist or doesn't have other violinist children, then there is no question the violin was intended for Jenny in order to further her education) and one could demonstrate hardship in getting another violin, which seems to be the case.  I am not a lawyer so I don't know if there is any precedent, but that would be my strategy and I think it could be pulled off convincingly.

Edit: with few exceptions, I am sure, parents do not loan their children instruments for study.  First of all, minors can't make contracts.  Second, I know the term 'loan' is used freely in informal situations, but technically the term implies an expectation of repayment (often with interest to boot).  This is the case for actual instrument lenders, who not only expect their instrument back, but as Karl pointed out, expect the player to help shoulder the liability.  If there was never any agreement for Jenny to return or repay the cost of the instrument, until now when it is suddenly convenient, the term 'loan' is completely inappropriate.

January 19, 2010 at 02:54 PM ·

Hi Tasha!

I'm a bit confused, could you perhaps tell more precisely the details? Two questions: in which way is the violin kidnapped? (Does Jenny have access to the instrument or not?) What is the condition her mother puts up? (If Jenny wants to sell the instrument and keep the money, I would although understand the mothers reaction of kidnapping it.)

I'm also confused about when you say she is a typical poor college girl. If her mum could pay 20 000 dollars for an instrument, the family must be quite rich.

I will tell you a small story. When I grew up, my parents bought me a 250 dollars violin (Stradivarius copy), that was the first violin I had (10 months ago he got a competitor). Since I came from a family that not even could pay for private lessons (but as a child I went for classes in the local music school, 20-30/minutes per week), I had to learn getting the nicest possible tone from the instrument I had, and on my own. When I (before going into academic studies) played on concerts, the other students all envied the instrument and started speculating whether the nice tone actually was because my violin was a real Strad. Teachers also often reacted after hearing me playing on this instrument, and wondered what sort of instrument it was. 

I have now upgraded to a new instrument with totally different properties (400 dollars instrument), that suddenly allowed me to do dynamics (but unfortunately less vibrato since it is so wide). Still, the upgrade was not necessary, but I just needed an extra violin in case of travelling. I would dare to say, that I belong to a tiny group of top amateur violinists at my University. The more funny thing about it, is that all the other amateurs in orchestras have much more expensive equipment than me (instrument prices ranging from 3000 - 25 000 dollars). Many persons also try to improve the quality by their playing by constantly upgrading into better models. I never reveal my secret (except to the closest friends) of the true cost of my violin. But I can play on it, and I can express every emotion through it, even though it requires sometimes much work to figure out how I should do a certain phrase sounding excellent. The same problems that would be easily overcome on a more expensive instrument, teaches me a lot about musicality and challenges me to improve both as a musician and technically on my cheap violin.

Your friend is certainly on a totally different level of playing than me. What I want to say, is that with her gift and level of playing, she can probably sound as a equally fantastic violinist as Joshua Bell even at a lot cheaper instrument than even her current one. A 20 000 dollars instrument is probably very very fantastic (I have never even touched such). I bet, that if there are things she thinks she needs a better instrument to do well/with ease now, she will develop much much much more as a musician with more individuality, if she can solve the puzzle on her current instrument, than chosing the Dark, easier side of the violin playing and just upgrading. 

January 19, 2010 at 03:16 PM ·

Her mother paid 20K for a violin. She owns the instrument.

Pity she's being nasty about it, but parents tend to take their responsibilities seriously. Whether they're correct in their actions is another matter.

Getting in the middle of a family dispute is a lose-lose situation.

Help the child find another violin she can use, and hope Mom doesn't come after it with a hammer.

January 19, 2010 at 07:01 PM ·

All I can say is what a horrible, evil woman to have as a mother...

Poor Jenny, I hope it all works out for her.  I think David's idea of doing the Youtube thing is a really sensible one, or if you didn't want to go so "public" at least to put together a DVD of her playing that could be sent out to potential interested parties.

January 20, 2010 at 12:55 AM ·

 Good news!  We find out tomorrow if Shar will allow Jenny to "play in" the instruments they have in the vault while she saves up to purchase an instrument of her own. =D

January 20, 2010 at 01:07 AM ·

Hello Tasha;

I wouldn't dream of commenting on the domestic instrument hostage situation. Probably impossible for any of us to know exactly what's going on there.

You mentioned the student was in college? Here in Michigan? Music major? Several of the colleges have school owned instruments (some are pretty decent). Has she checked with her professor? Not clear to me where you are (directing) at this point...  Eastern?  Does she study with Dan?

I'd suggest one of the foundations (Virtu or other) that have good instruments available for loan, but many are need based (financial and merit)...  and I'm not sure domestic withholding would count as "need", since an instrument has already been purchased...  it just isn't being made available it seems. Maybe a different story if the player is financially independent (paying her own living expenses, tuition, filing her own taxes, etc.).

Good luck!


January 20, 2010 at 01:32 AM ·


Hi Jeffrey,

I certainly understand why you would not want to comment in such a setting about a family matter, and believe that position to be wise.

Rosalind commented earlier (in part):

Youtube thing is a really sensible one, or if you didn't want to go so "public"...

But this matter is already on a public forum.

Unfortunately, posting the details (or perhaps "opinions") about this issue here makes a resolution of this matter less likely, and there is no one who was reached in this way who could not have been contacted privately.

All the best,


January 20, 2010 at 04:53 AM ·


Not if it was a gift; then you can't just take it back.

January 20, 2010 at 05:20 AM ·

"You can't just take it back".

Well, looks like she did.

Taking Mommy to court is not an option a sane person would adopt as a first choice, even if the child had the money to finance litigation. Only lawyers really win, everyone else bleeds cash. And Mommy has possession of the fiddle. Good luck forcing her to turn it over.

Even the police hate to intervene in domestic disputes, and one between parent and child is fraught with interest. Let the kid find a violin to borrow, and hope everyone involved grows up eventually, relatively (pun!) unscathed.

January 20, 2010 at 08:04 AM ·

 Yes, for the record, I'm not comfortable posting much more details on the "hostage situation" lol, than I already have.

Jeffrey, thanks for the suggestions.  Yes, we both study with Prof. Foster @ Eastern.  EMU does NOT have a violin to give her, unfortunately.  They all sound terrible.

I've never heard of Virtu... can you give me more information?  I think she'd qualify for anything need-based, as she can't really afford her own living expenses at this point (we're working to fix that, but it will take time).

January 20, 2010 at 02:00 PM ·

What is available varies (violin, viola, cello) depending on current scholarships (there are a limited number of instruments availavbe.

Amati foundation was mentioned earlier in this thread.  Probably good to contact them as well.

Please pass along my best wishes to Dan.

January 30, 2010 at 10:26 AM ·

Any luck?

January 30, 2010 at 06:02 PM ·

Thanks to Shar, Jenny has a wonderful violin by Patrice Rabille on loan for the rest of the semester.  She is welcome to "play in" other modern instruments of higher caliber at that time. =D

Thanks, Hans!

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