What to consider when loaning a violin to a student

April 7, 2010 at 03:00 PM ·

I have the recent misfortune(?) to have won splendidly at ebay; I was shopping for a violin, and I ended up with two instead. After trying both to see which I wanted to get rid of, I decided that neither one was a bad enough instrument to deserve being 'fired'. I do not play enough to keep all three of my violins in practice!
So, I came up with the idea of loaning one to a local high school to a 'deserving' student (no charge, but the school assumes responsibility for keeping the violin from damage). It would be a loan for the school year, and I would renew each year if it works out. Summers may also be an option, but I want the school as part of the process, not direct with me and the student.

What should be the criteria, skill or need?
What should I be concerned about in the agreement with the student/school/parent?
What am I missing?

Replies (20)

April 7, 2010 at 03:35 PM ·

You should just donate it, less stress and you'll feel great. J

April 7, 2010 at 04:40 PM ·

First, you cannot make a contract with anyone under 18 years of age...Judge Judy taught me that one

2) what if it is damaged? Do you really need the headache of battling that out?

I understand you are trying to be a "nice guy" but we all know where they finish up...LAST

April 7, 2010 at 05:14 PM ·

First, go look at the instruments they already have- is this what you wish for your loaner?  I currently volunteer one day a week in a middle school string program, and I'm constantly amazed and horrified at the new and inventive damages visited on the instruments in one short week.

You might want to do it through a private teacher, or at least make sure the kid who uses your instrument is as well vetted as possible.  It could be a real lift for a kid to have access to a nicer instrument, but you want to be able to make this offer to other kids other years, too, and not have the violin destroyed in six months.

April 7, 2010 at 05:27 PM ·

I know you want to do a good deed here, but in order to avoid the trouble that is likely to follow, perhaps consider selling said instrument at a lower/affordable cost to a promising student? I don't think it's too off base to generalize that the average teenager isn't going to take nearly as much care of a rented instrument vs his/her own instrument.

April 7, 2010 at 05:44 PM ·

Just my two cents, I would not lend an instrument I like in a public school... My experiences with high school bands when I played in them were that students couldn't care less about the instruments and harmed them intentionally or sometimes without even realizing it.  They didn't relly like music and took this course to "fool". I believe a student who takes lessons is, in general, more dedicated to his instrument. While some could tell there are exceptions with the public school thing, I would say it's certainly true but it would take much time to find them out and not everyone wants to spend that time.   If you lend it to a teacher, he/she will be able to find much easier students who deserve this loan (for many reasons) and you'll be even more sure that no dammage will be done to it!  And students in "need" are also to be found with private teachers contrarely to the popular belief. Some are talented and just have the money to pay the lessons period and would really benefit from a better instrument. 

It's also true that it can become touchy to go see the principals and explain them your definition of dammge...  As it will be faster with a teacher in addition that the other students of that teacher will maybe not even know it and it won't creat jealousy.  Which can be a problem with a bunch of teens! 

But just my two cents.

Yes, it's very kind of you!

In addition, the quality of the player and care influence how well your instrument will age...  Such things as always playing out of tune or always bow superficially without beeing able to get out a full resonant sound can harm the instrument. (according to makers who see the "before/after" effects)    But if it's just for charity, I think any cautious player would be find!

Good luck!


April 7, 2010 at 06:24 PM ·

 If I were you I'd try to find a specific student who needs a violin and cares enough to take care of it first.  If you hand it over to the school they may just give it to any student and some of those do horrific things to their instruments.  But not all, if you find a student who is deserving, then your generosity won't go to waste.  

April 7, 2010 at 08:57 PM ·

Thanks for all the feedback!

I think it would be very uncomfortable for me to put this violin into a situation of significant abuse. That leaves donation to the school or putting it into a general population of 'school instruments' out of the choices I am now using.

I had already thought through the issue about a contract with a minor, and I had envisioned my primary arrangement through the school, who would be responsible for the behavior of the student. I am now thinking from a different viewpoint; I would hate this violin to be mistreated; the whole reason I am not selling it is because it looks beautiful and plays too well; it doesn't deserve to be 'fired'. It also deserves more playing time than I can give it.

So, I think I may sell it, or I may see how to arrange something with a local violin or string instructor.

April 7, 2010 at 09:10 PM ·

By selling it you aren't "firing" it.  You are "liberating" it so that someone may reap the benefits of playing and owning a very nice instrument.  There is something wonderful about owing a nice instrument and there is someone out there who is going to love it and feel very blessed. 

April 7, 2010 at 09:18 PM ·

You might also see if there is a local honors orchestra, youth symphony, something of that nature around.  The kids playing there would be more likely to be there for all the right reasons. It would be great to get this instrument into a pair of deserving hands.  The problem is just determining whose hands those are.  It goes beyond the student, too- Uncle Charlie can't sell the violin for drug money and the baby brother can't use the scroll for teething.

April 7, 2010 at 09:33 PM ·

There seems to be an assumption that this is a nice instrument. How do we know? Is it possible it's no better than the typical school instrument? Or even worse?

I have taught both middle and high school. Personally, if it were actually a nice instrument, I wouldn't go there. Either donate it or don't do it. Some day you may want it back, and there may be damage that wrecks the value even if repaired. Maybe damage to the finish, or a crack that will cost more than the instrument is worth to fix.

What happens when the student leaves in the car all day and it has a big crack in the top and the repair guy wants more than the instrument is worth to take the top off and fix it? Do you really expect a "deserving student" with limited resources to shell out for that? Will you shell out for an expensive repair? 

Donate it and forget it, or keep it.


ps. I can't imagine any school assuming the responsibility for any damage a student might cause. Not if they have 2 working neurons...

April 7, 2010 at 10:00 PM ·

Well, it is 'nice', in that it would be an advanced beginner instrument (Yitamusic T19), The other one is also a T19, and it opened up much faster than this one, but this one would be better than what many students start with. It is not of professional quality, and I have no illusions that I could sponsor a college student with an instrument.

April 7, 2010 at 11:03 PM ·

 I once played for a few days on a said "cheap" quasi "VSO" rated  violin (German factory made for relativly beginner's category...) that almost played as a good few K violin and surely as well as many few K normal violins.  Me and my teacher were amazed.  It had power, nice tone (not at all the typically student instrument sound), was very easy to play and made in 1968.  (maybe this is why???)

So  who knows...   some individuals can be very surprizing so you make well to protect it!



April 8, 2010 at 01:45 AM ·

I think you can get a new Yitamusic T19 for about 300 bucks on eBay...I would donate it to the chem lab so they can measure the speed at which it burns. :-)

April 8, 2010 at 03:13 AM ·

Maybe a local teacher has a student who needs an instrument and you could do a low-rent deal. I wouldn't give it out for free, though, unless it's a total donation and you don't want to ever see it again. Always charge at least something nominal.

April 8, 2010 at 04:07 AM ·

Jonathan, You're right about the cost range; but have you tried one of them? There is even a whole tread on V.com about people that like them (http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=12871)
They are hand made, rather than machine made instruments, but I'm sorry that you think cost is the only criteria of value. Although they may not be professional level, they do compare well.

Laurie, I am not interested in charging rent; I would more easily give it away, but my wife would get mad if I did that!
I do know that at some more basic levels, some students can't justify or afford something more than a VSO. This can actually play music, rather than just hit the note. If I charged rent, then I would see it as a 'rental instrument', and I don't really see it like that.

April 8, 2010 at 10:49 AM ·

I have a viola I made about 15 years ago that is in constant loan to students. A teacher friend asks this instrument to his best students and it's loaned for one year. The reason given by the teacher is giving the oportunity to students to develop their tecniche with a good instrument. All that is done by the word of mouth, no contracts. Had no problem till now. Yes, it's risky, but I don't care.


April 8, 2010 at 05:01 PM · I agree that it might be a better idea to go through a private music teacher. They will generally know their students better and may also have adult beginners who would treat an instrument better.

April 8, 2010 at 05:34 PM ·

I would suggest going with the private teacher route. I agree whole-heartedly with Anne-Marie about the fact that not all students who study with high quality teachers are able to just go out and drop the money on an excellent violin. I am an example of such a student who for the past 2 years was only just able to pay for my lessons and had to play on a very inexpensive violin until very recently when I finally saved enough to buy a better quality violin. I am sure that a student in a similar situation would be very gratful to have a better instrument to work with.

April 16, 2010 at 05:40 PM ·

I had an M19 Viola that I donated last year to a local school program (actually a program that distributes to many local school programs).  If you do that, there's no paperwork other than that to claim a tax write-off and you'll feel great about the donation.

April 17, 2010 at 06:39 AM ·

I've decided to do the private rather than public school route.
If someone is playing in some community group, then I can come up with some arrangement that will meet their preferences. Either an instrument loan (with stipulations they will continue to be involved with playing in the group for the duration of the loan), or they have the option of buying the instrument with no stipulations. The loan will not have any associated costs.

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