You Don't Know What You Have... Until

June 27, 2004 at 04:59 AM · I had a close encounter last Wendsday (June 23) involving my violin. Note that every event in this story is true.

My parents, siblings and I headed off to Wendsday night church as usual. I was planning to meet up and practice a piece with a pianist friend after the service in one of the church's music rooms. We were in a bit of a rush though; so, as my dad shooed us out to the car. I wasn't completly ready to go. I had my books, shoes, socks, and violin in my arms.

In order to avoid dropping anything while opening the car door, I put my violin (in the case) on top of the Honda Civic before throwing everything else in the car and getting in.

I was amazed at how long the violin stayed on top of the car. It wasn't until we had made a left turn onto a local highway that we all heard the thud of the violin case hitting the trunk of the car and then the road.

Of course I stayed completley calm (screamed like a college girl in a horror flick.) Moments later my dad does a loop off of the east bound half of the highway with a 55 mile/hour speed limit; going into, and out of the grassy dividing median and back onto the emergency lane of the highway facing the oncoming traffic. I run out and save my precious instrument that was sitting in one lane as two eighteen-wheelers pass me by in the adjacent lane. The drivers probably didn't know weather or not to laugh or yell at this barefoot boy with his shirt untucked and belt unbuckled practically diving to save what appeared to them as nothing more than a black case.

My instrument is not exactly a strad; in fact, it's just a chinese made violin that costs probably less than what many of you make in a weeks salary. But I didn't realize how much I cherished it until I almost lost it. Sure, it's cheap. But on a good day, and after a lil practice, we can make some decent music. I'm not saying I'd want that whole scenario to happen again, but it certainly made this cheap box and strings a little bit more cherished and sentimental in value.

Marco :-)

Replies (46)

June 27, 2004 at 01:26 PM · LOL...and I'll bet you NEVER leave it on the roof again...


June 27, 2004 at 03:19 PM · I have an almost exact same story. I was in a hurry and was loading things into my car, putting the violin on the trunk. All that was in my mind was whether or not I had enough gas to make it to the gas station. When I got to the gas station, I realized that my violin was not in the car. I panicked, of course. I drove back to the house and looked everywhere on the ground and then my sister and I took flashlights and followed the whole distance between point a and point b. I didn't remember putting it on the trunk. I called the cops and everything, in case I had left it on the ground by my car and someone had picked it up. Called pawn shops the next morning. Put up flyers. To make a long story short, it had flown off of the trunk into the highway and some travelers saw it and picked it up. They thought it was a suitcase (???!!) and took it home. When they opened it up and found out a violin was inside, they didn't know what to do. there was not ID in the case (learned that lesson). A week later, they just happened to be going through our town again, and stopped at the gas station I'd been to and saw a flyer. I got my violin back with no damage done. Except I'd had a week of crying and thinking my life was over. But all was well:)

June 27, 2004 at 07:27 PM · i watched somebody i was working with set their violin behind the back tire of their truck and then back over it, amazingly the case held and there was no damage. I should find out what sort of case that was..

June 28, 2004 at 12:24 AM · That happened to a cellist I knew. Her cello wasn't so lucky...

June 28, 2004 at 12:34 AM · "i watched somebody i was working with set their violin behind the back tire of their truck and then back over it, amazingly the case held and there was no damage. I should find out what sort of case that was.. " Our Chamber orchestra director did that...Ruined her instrument badly... we laughed.. alot.

June 28, 2004 at 01:33 AM · well you're not very sensitive are you, i hope it wasn't anything irreplacable

June 28, 2004 at 02:03 AM · Ok... interesting stories, but what I want to know is: Who in their right mind would consciously place their instrument on the ground behind their truck's wheels??? I mean really, you'd think you'd just put it next to the driver's door or something....?

June 28, 2004 at 02:11 AM · It was just a Juzek, one of the newer ones.

June 28, 2004 at 03:38 AM · I have REPEATEDLY had to tell some of my more novice students to not put down their violin on the floor, by their feet, while writing in fingerings or bowings. It seems such a fundamental thing to me that I'm still shocked every time I see a kid look around for a place to set down the fiddle and then choose the floor.

June 28, 2004 at 04:00 AM · hmm, whats wrong with holding it?

June 28, 2004 at 04:51 AM · Greetings,

Emil I see that all the time. Last week one of my most attractive students (not sure of the relevance of adjective) who has a four year old kid brought the latter to a rehearsal. The kid ran towrads her mother , treading on the neck and snapping it off in the process. Not the mother`s , the violin.

The other two things that make me neurotic are leaving violins and bows on chairs in breaks and -hanging- violins off the stand by the scroll. How much effort does it take to put an instrument in a case while you go for a coffee?

aaargh prunes,


June 28, 2004 at 04:53 AM · I put mine on the floor beside my chair when I take a computer ME I'M A NOVICE!!!. Or just lazy. Mental note....Case only! Will I remember that? no.


June 28, 2004 at 05:02 AM · Well, my violin had a near death experiance earlier this year durring an orchestra rehersal, of all places. I had my case sitting on my lap and I was getting my violin out, when someone hit my chair from behind, and jolted my violin to the floor. The case fell on top of my baby and there was an aweful noise!!!! I was so scared that the sound post might have gone through the front of the violin, but luckly it didnt. There were a few bad cracks, and some dents, but there was no permenant damage luckily!! I have no idea who hit me...but man, I think that they are lucky that I don't know who it was! Thank god for insurance...


June 28, 2004 at 05:25 AM · Jen, I keep trying to get across the idea that the violin is ALIVE. She's a LADY. Would you offer a lady a seat on the floor? (Unless you're Ali Baba or something, I mean.)

June 28, 2004 at 05:42 AM · Greetings,

exactly. The story about Auer telling a student not to put a violin on the floor -in its case- was an example of indirect teaching. Attitude is everything.



June 28, 2004 at 04:26 PM · Don't even put it down by the drivers side door. I did that ONCE and never again. I was telling myself..."OK, Preston you have too much in your hands...put the violin case down next to the car and put everything in...just don't forget the violin....DON'T FORGET THE VIOLIN!!!".... I almost drove away without my violin. Luckly, I was backing out of the lot so I saw it sitting there all forelorn. I felt as though I had betrayed it or something! I felt really bad!!


June 28, 2004 at 04:34 PM · I will more violin on the floor for me. I feel like a new person. I want a pendant or something. A one year anniversary. Maybe my violin will love me more now.


June 28, 2004 at 05:40 PM · oh, dont put your violin in the space between the back seats and the front, down on the floor ever. That is the area that tends to crush if you get rear ended, i know somebody who lost a gagliano that way, and the violin on the seat above it didnt even go out of tune.

June 28, 2004 at 09:24 PM · I'm 52 years old and everytime I have to put my violin down during a lesson, my teacher looks at me and says, "Is it safe?" Years of teaching children has made it a habit for her. I appreciate it because now at home whenever I'm practicing and need to put the violin down to tend to something I hear her say, "Is it safe?" It always make me think twice.

June 28, 2004 at 11:42 PM · Greetings,

funny, I cook dinner for my wife everyday and she often seems to be muttering `Is it safe?`



June 29, 2004 at 12:39 AM · Buri, with your prune obsession, I'd have to ask if it is safe, as well!!


June 30, 2004 at 02:24 PM · How about the amazing return of the Strad Cello stolen from the porch of the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Symphony by a bicyclist and its almost demise into a CD holder...

June 30, 2004 at 09:28 PM · I remember being told off for unthinkingly jumping over a cello (head in the clouds) when I was a kid. Could never be that casual now.

July 2, 2004 at 09:16 AM · I dunno how far this story was true, but this was related to me by a violin teacher. A student's violin had a rib separation so she contaced what she thought was a luthier in Singapore who assured her that the violin can be fixed. So the violin was duly sent and was returned with the body reattached to the ribs .... with STEEL CARPENTER'S NAILS!!!! So much for a "luthier". AAAARRRGGHH!!!!


July 4, 2004 at 05:49 AM · Wooowww I just wanted to mention... apparently the Musofia cases can keep the violin safe even while a truck runs over it. They are super expensive though.... But they look really nice.

July 4, 2004 at 03:56 PM · I have purchased Musafia ( ) cases for all my violins! They are the best. Some of the models also float, and protect agains heat.


July 4, 2004 at 04:39 PM · Once when a friend of mine got home from music camp very late at night, she put her violin down on her driveway (behind the car) while unloading her stuff. She said she was so tired she forgot about it, and the next day when her mom was backing out of the driveway...

July 5, 2004 at 10:12 AM · ARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! NEVER NEVER EVER put your violin on your driveway!!!! I will never treat a violin, even a cheap skylark, by putting it in harm's way. I can't imagine the sickening crunch the violin would have made. One must treat a violin like he/she treats a hapless baby. I mean, would you ever put your baby on the driveway behind the car??????? - AARON

July 5, 2004 at 11:12 PM · If I have an armload of things including my violin and I'm in a rush to go somewhere, the violin always goes in the car first. Who cares if I forget to bring my music to a lesson? My teacher sure as hell has the music too haha.

July 5, 2004 at 11:34 PM · I had a bad experience with my violin when I was young as well. I was playing on a student model Glaesel violin that I think cost all of 600 dollars, but it was the only violin I had at the time (I was still very much a beginner). I lived in Alexandria, VA at the time, where the temperature is fairly temperate throughout most of the year, but I spent one New Years at my aunt's and uncle's in Potsdam, NY. My dad told me he'd bring the violin in from the car, and of course I was young and didn't realize that I should check on it anyway, seeing as it was really my responsibility. The next morning we went to pack to come home and I realized my violin wasn't in the house. We had left it in the trunk in -12 degree (farenheight) weather! Luckily, we didn't open the case right away and let it warm in the case as we went home. Needless to say, I still have that violin (I don't play on it) but it still has probably about 25 very shallow cracks throughout the violin! I'm just glad I learned my lesson early...

July 6, 2004 at 10:36 AM ·

July 6, 2004 at 05:52 PM · William, I experienced a number of horrified shudders as I read your casual description of what would certainly constitute abuse and battery, if your violin were a human being. It's not a question of treating the violin as though it were a sacred relic; you wouldn't treat a child that way either. But if a child needed surgery, an unawed and un-touchy approach would still not entitle a parent with no medical training to perform an appendectomy. You took it "to bits" and modified it? With what, Elmer's glue and a pocketknife?

It doesn't matter how good or bad the violin you have might be. It is indeed a tool and, as I've said in other discussions, a work of art. As the latter, it certainly deserves more respect and ginger handling than a cricket bat or bike ballast. But as the former, as a PRECISION tool, and an incredibly delicate one, it deserves at least the avoidance of rough handling. You don't have to be terribly formal about it to not use a laptop computer (a delicate precision tool) in lieu of a welcome mat in front of your door. Nor do you have to walk on tiptoe with your violin, but what you describe amounts to sadism, not informality.

Yes, the violin is a tool of our trade. But part and parcel of that trade is loving the music we play and the instruments on which we play it. I'd be hard pressed to call someone a colleague who hates music. I'd be almost as hard-pressed to call someone a colleague who claims to love their violin but treats it as though neglect and abuse could ever be the same as love.

July 6, 2004 at 06:48 PM · Emil, I second that!

...and with so many kids who wish they had a violin to play and learn...

It's sad...


July 7, 2004 at 08:46 AM ·

July 7, 2004 at 11:51 AM · "The many incidents/accidents/occurences that have befallen the violin over my years with it are like the rings of a tree or the threads of a tapestry. In much the same way the violin has affected me and contributed to my own "rings", in the music we make and the places we go.

It is a matter of synergy, the violin as a whole being incomprehensibly more than the sum of its parts but also nothing without me to play it."

I don't see any relation to "rings of a tree" or "threads of a tapestry". That's just plain abusing the violin! Damaging the violin doesn't do it any good, and those metaphors you quoted have positive connotations, in contrast to wrecking what might be a very good instrument that other people could get a lot of joy out of.

Nothing without YOU to play it!? There are many other people who would probably gladly play it, and would certainly not abuse it in any way! Sounds almost like those abusive husbands you hear of, who batter their wives and tell them that they are nothing without them!

You are perfectly right when you say "the period for which it is in my care is really not ownership but tenure", and as such you should do your very best to try to preserve the violin for future generations. There will no doubt be somebody in 20, 50 or even 100 years time cursing you for ruining what for all you know could be a master instrument!

I think that the least you could do is take the best care of your violin now that you possibly can, probably take it to a properly trained luthier to fix it up (or at least check that the work you have done is of a satisfactory standard). It might cost some money, but I think it's the least you can do to repay the debt to future owners of the violin. Sorry if I've been a bit harsh and critical, but I feel quite strongly about this.

July 7, 2004 at 02:08 PM · Greetings,

Here is my personal quote:

I am my violins violinist, its player, one of many this past 300 years and when I die, someone else will have a chace to enjoy it's beauty and magic"


July 7, 2004 at 02:53 PM · Wow's like that old ad for American Case Company in the old Shar catalogs...SCARY!!

My story is quite famous in the annals of Peabody history...I know Igor remembers... My sophomore year at Peabody we were playing the Firebird Suite by Stravinsky. I was sitting second stand outside first violin where everyone can see me. You know the last line in finale where the big high note tremelo is and the brass have their big chorale? Well I wasn't using a shoulder rest at the time and me and my stand partner were sort of screwing off and we had our chins off of our rests and my bow somehow hit the e-string...the violin (an Otello Bignami, Bologna Italy, 1959...)flies off of my shoulder in the air and lands on my girlfriends foot behind me. It was like slow motion. You know in those movies where everything goes real slow? I was like (in the real slow motion style - low pitched voice) "NO!!!" Everyone in the audience saw it - including the Deans and the Director of the school!! Orchestra members thought they were hallucinating...I mean when was the last time you saw a VIOLIN pop up in the AIR?!! RIGHT?! Anyways, the violin was actually ok, just a few scratches and a slight need for a sound post adjustment...that is one solid fiddle...

July 8, 2004 at 12:39 AM · William, no matter how you say it, abusing a violin IS abusing a violin. One should know better that to treat a precision instrument like you treat a football or what have you.

After all I'm sure you don't treat your wristwatch as a hammer, nor do you (as someone said) use your notebook computer as your doormat.

Nor does one usually use the Mona Lisa painting as a table cloth, no matter what the excuse is.

And if you do get ill (I hope not), I'm sure you don't think of yourself as your own doctor and try to cure yourself.

And if you really want to learn how to repair a violin, get an apprenticeship under a master luthier. There you can learn how to fix as many violins as you want. In the right way and manner too. Often somethings are not worth experimenting on by yourself nor are they worth saving pennies from.

I'm not sorry to say this but... Grow up, man!


July 8, 2004 at 09:12 AM ·

July 9, 2004 at 06:09 AM · William made some interesting points- he doesn't deliberately abuse his violin, it's an extention of his persona. The places he goes are thus enriched with his music. The "fancy folks" with the $$$ violins decline to "subject" themselves or their "worshipped" instruments to less than perfect conditions. Alas!

I do quite understand the horror of seeing a violin damaged, and some of the above stories had me on the edge of my seat! But,don't you wish we could get a film clip of Kevin's Flying Violin? ~AB

July 20, 2004 at 12:33 AM · Just had to add my close-call violin story...

When I finally grew into a full-size violin (having played violin since I was 4 or 5) my parents didn't have enough money to buy me a violin. However, we had in our possesion a decent (more than decent, a pretty darn good) violin that has been in my dad's family for a few generations. We're not sure how old it is or how much it's worth or anything, but it's a good little instrument. Anyway, my brother had taken that with him to college, even though he didn't play much anymore and I played like a maniac. My younger sister has always been a little bigger than me, but because I was older, on my 13th birthday, my parents bought me some cheap chinese student violin (probably cost south of $300). I used this violin for a while, and shared it with my sister, until we brought the old family violin back from my brother.

This seems very long, but you have to understand how hard it has been for my parents to provide us with quality instruments. So, finally, during the spring of my 11th grade year, my parents decided they could afford to buy me a /really/ good violin. Not a super expensive one, but at least one that would compliment the technique and skill I'd been working at for so many years on a crap instrument. So my violin teacher found us a good Maggini copy that had really good tone and sound and depth. Not the best instrument, but certainly an improvement on both of the full size instruments we currently owned. My mom scraped every penny she had together to buy me this instrument. Needless to say, my violin went in the case every time it was put down, and most of the time it was strapped in and zipped up, even if I was just leaving the room for a moment (I've since become a little more lax, which is not necessarily a good thing).

During an orchestra rehearsal at school this spring, we were reading a bunch of movie music (as such was the theme of our spring concert). We were practicing with the winds as well, so there were somewhere close to 120 people in the room. I was sitting second stand and concentrating fully on what we were playing. As we finished a piece, I'm still not quite sure what happened, but I lost hold of my violin, and if flipped backwards off my shoulder. My stand partner and I both grabbed for it, but the sickening twange and banging of violin against chair was unstoppable. The whole room was silent, and everyone was staring at us. Our conductor said "That didn't sound good." The violin had finished it's fall and was laying face down in between my stand partner's chair and mine. I was in too much shock to even touch it - my thoughts were "If it's broken, I'm going to lay down right now and die."

My stand partner gingerly lifted my violin, and almost dropped it again when the fingerboard slid out. At the time, niether of us knew that having your fingerboard fall off is not a horribly bad things, it happens when the glue gets dry and old. But at the time, I was convinced that my violin was ruined and that I was going to die. So as I sit here bawling my eyes out, thinking that it's the end of the world, my conductor comes over and asks to see the instrument. It took him a while but he finally convinced me that it could easily be glued back on for 30 dollars or so, no big deal.

I don't think I ever realized how important my instrument was to me until I dropped it that day. And the thing that shocked me the most was that I was not being careless - I was intently reading music, trying my hardest to get the notes and dynamics right as we read.

Anyway, I know how you feel, Marco, and I don't think that we realize how important things are to us until it looks like they're about to be taken away from us.


July 20, 2004 at 01:55 AM · Frequent are the occasions when I arrive to teach in school, and find my young students' violins in a state of disrepair: and the stories the students come out with when I ask! 'Oh, my brother came home from university and got drunk and had a go...' 'My baby brother trod on it...' 'My dad was stirring the soup with it...' etc. etc. - it's enough to make your hair curl. One of my own dear relatives (adult, I should add) used to keep his new violin unprotected on the living room floor as a matter of course.

I think the attitude you're brought up with counts for everything: I remember once accidentally leaving my violin at school after orchestra (I was nine years old). My father made me return to school that evening (it was winter and dark, and my school was in the forest...) and ask the caretaker to open up the school so I could retrieve it. Let's just say I never left my violin at school - or anywhere else - again. I once finished with a guy I was dating because he left my violin unattended in a supermarket trolley; I considered it an act of gross disrespect.

July 20, 2004 at 12:24 PM · It sounds like William treats his violin just like the old gypsy players of europe. They didn't have cases, carried their fiddles around on their backs through all seasons and a lot of them were incredible players! (My 2 cents)

At orchestra just a few weeks ago one of the cellists put his instrument down for the break (lay it down on its side, bow on top) and as he stepped over the cello, kicked his $1300 bow off and snapped it into about 6 pieces. Ouch. Similar thing happened with $5000 bow left on a stand a couple of years ago. Oh, and my favourite is of an extremely well respected violinist who was going to leave his (verrrry valuable) violin behind at the (locked) concert hall because they had just had an evening rehersal and they had one in the morning. Anyway, he decided he'd take it home 'just in case' and the next day when they arrived at the hall it had burned down in the night. What a near miss.

July 20, 2004 at 04:00 PM · Just make sure that you close the case(which I'm sure you do)when putting your violin in. My teacher had told me a story about an adult student (beginner) had to put it down somewhere (I forgot why, I think she had to do something with the music) and she chose to put it on the floor. Well, knowing what would happen my violin teacher told her to put it in the case or it might get stepped on. So she put it in the case. After she was done with whatever she was doing, she decided to move back a little, forgetting that her violin was right behind her. But, she looked back right before she stepped on it, thinking that she had saved it. Well, she would have if she hadn't stepped on her shoulder rest. Yeah so she tripped and really stepped on it. And keep in mind, it was in the case.

Oh, and to make it even more devestating, she didn't have one of those cheapy beginner violins. Nope, she had a sixty-two year old violin that her grandfather had given her, and it was pretty expensive (around $10,000) when it was first purchased, so it was probably worth about twice as much as it was then, if not that.


November 9, 2004 at 09:50 PM · I was in Portugal early October of this year, playing for a festival, which happened to be at the same hotel I was staying in. The festivites were in the late morning so we would have all day to sight see and shop and tour basically. I'ts almost midnight, I plop down on my bed after playing a game of pool with friends, exhausted from the day, and fall into a light sleep for about five minutes. Then a thought hits me, from out of no where - Where's my violin? I lift my head and crane my neck a bit to see where I usually set it down, just to make sure it's there. It's not. It's not there. I'm awake now, sitting up, frowning, looking in all corners of my hotel bedroom trying to see my violin. I had to have brought it in.

It's not there.

I throw the covers off and begin rushing around the suite, getting more frantic every second, as I can't find my violin that my insurance only covers half of because I won't be 18 for another two months now.

It's really not here!

So I grab my keys, throw on my flip flops, and run out the door in an almost complete frenzy now, because I don't even have a vague idea where it could be; all I know is that it's midnight, I can't remember having it since around 2 that day, and IT'S NOT IN MY ROOM!

The festival coordinator sees me in the lobby, and I explain to him that I don't know where my violin is, and it slowly dawns on me while I'm talking that it could still be in the room I designated the "warm up room" that was in the hall we used for the festival. So, mentioning this also to him, we walk to the room and he unlocks the door.

And... there it is, my case. Perfectly fine. Right where I left it.

Thank God the door was locked. I don't think I could ever be so careless again, knowing the utter terror (and consequences I could have suffered!) that I went through then.

November 10, 2004 at 01:37 PM · Several years ago when I played with the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra, we were getting ready for a concert. I was going down the stairs, which were all metal and cement. I was carrying my violin, an older German instrument. Not expensive at all, but I had just purchased it not even 6 months before. I slipped (damn dress shoes), went backwards, hit my head on the metal rail, fell sideways and smacked my violin against the rail and the wall. The violin then flew out of my hands, banged against the wall one more time and fell down about 4 cement steps. It was all in slow motion and I'll never forget the sounds that I heard during my violin's hard fall to the ground.

I bawled.

We had about 5 minutes until I had to get onstage for the concert, luckily I didn't have a concussion or anything, but I can't say the same for my precious violin. The soundpost needed readjusted and it had a nice, long, thick crack going from the endbutton to halfway up the violin on the right side of the fingerboard.

Thankfully, one of the orchestra directors had come from a rehearsal with another group and had her violin with her. I was able to play it for the concert. It was a very nice violin, the only problem was, I couldn't enjoy playing it b/c I was so upset about my violin!

I took it into the shop and had to pay a couple hundred dollars to get it fixed. I've been extremely anal about making sure my violin is safe ever since then. I traded that violin in for a different instrument a few years ago, but will never forget how lost and scared I was at the thought of losing my violin!

Of course, I was luckier than the girl who had her violin stepped on when she sat it in an open case during a retreat rehearsal. About 250 kids were there (combined retreat for 3 youth orhcestras) and we were on break. I heard the sickening crunch...that violin was destryed completely.

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