March 16, 2006 "The American Violin: From Jefferson to Jazz" April 6-20

Symposium Features Lectures, Instrument Displays and Concerts

Press Contact: Trish Taylor Shuman (202) 707-1940
Contact: Visit the Web site.

The Library of Congress will host "The American Violin: From Jefferson to Jazz,” a two-week-long symposium celebrating the precision and craftsmanship of historical and modern American violin and bow making. The event, which includes lectures, instrument displays and concerts, is sponsored jointly by the Library’s Music Division and the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers Inc. It will be held April 6-20 at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street, SE, Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public.

American violin and bow making traces its origins, historical development and identity through the migration of European traditions to America. Musical instruments and bows from the Library’s collections and those of prominent makers, dealers and performers will show how the craft of violin and bow making was passed from European craftsmen to America, making the United States a preeminent repository of those traditions. The display, which will be showcased on April 6-20 in the Northwest Pavilion of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, will feature the oldest surviving violin known to have been made in the American colonies (1759); a personal, annotated manuscript belonging to violinist Thomas Jefferson; Albert Einstein's bow; pioneer female musician Maud Powell's 1880s concert violin; and the violin (1871) made by Herman Macklett of Chicago, which escaped the flames of the Chicago fire when Macklett took refuge to Lake Michigan.

The display will show through examples from the Library’s instrument collection how the work of Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari have influenced modern North American makers in replicating masterpieces of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

A series of four concerts by noted artists such as this year’s Grammy-award winning Turtle Island String Quartet and Juilliard String Quartet will be held in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium. The Turtle Island String Quartet will play on the Library’s collection of Stradivari instruments. A pre-concert lecture by acclaimed author Toby Faber, who wrote “Stradivari's Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection,” will be held before the Juilliard String Quartet concert at 6:15 p.m. on April 7, in the Whittall Pavillion. Members of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers welcome attendees to "Players Meet Makers," an opportunity to view and play modern instruments, on Saturday, April 8, from noon to 4 p.m.

Scholars and musicians will present a series of lectures and panel discussions on April 6 through 8, including Matt Glaser. Cited by the Boston Herald as “possibly America’s most versatile violinist,” Glaser is the only full-time professor of violin at the Berklee College of Music who specializes not only in classical music, but also in jazz, folk, and swing idioms.

Instrument collecting in the Library's Music Division began in the 1930s with the generosity of Mrs. Gertrude Clarke Whittall, who acquired a world-renowned collection of five instruments by Antonio Stradivari: the “Castelbarco” cello (1697); the “Cassavetti” viola (1727); and three violins, the “Ward” (1700), the Castelbarco” (1699) and the “Betts” (1704). Mrs. Whittall also provided an endowment to ensure professional in-house use of the instruments. Her gift also included funding for a pavilion to house the instruments. Completed in 1939, the Whittall Pavilion adjoins the Coolidge Auditorium.

Highlights of the symposium are attached. A complete list of events can be found at For more information, visit


Thursday, April 6, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. - Lecture Presentations/Panel Discussions in Coolidge Auditorium

Friday, April 7, 9:15 a.m. - 5 p.m. - Lecture Presentations/Panel Discussions in Coolidge Auditorium

Saturday, April 8, 9:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. - Lecture Presentations/Panel Discussions in Coolidge Auditorium

Display April 6-20

Northwest Pavilion of the Great Hall of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building

Colonial America: the first extant American made violin (1759) by John Antes.

Immigrants Coming for Freedom and Opportunity: George Gemunder’s newly discovered naturalization papers, and his 1880s concert violin used by Maud Powell.

New England and Yankee Ingenuity: Boston craftsman Frank Ball’s violin (1932) and purfling carving tool. Ball made guns by day at Smith & Wesson and violins at night.

Global Transfer of Economic Dominance to the U.S.: Tuscan-Medici Stradivari viola with 1925 Wurlitzer catalog announcing its arrival.

Passing the Torch "The Bridge to Today's Makers": violin (1936) made by Italian-born restorer-turned-New Yorker Simone Sacconi; viola (1950) by William Moennig of Philadephia, made for legendary violist William Primrose.

American Bow Making and All That Jazz: Albert Einstein’s bow (ca. 1940) made by self-taught craftsman Frank Callier of St. Louis

Players Meet Makers

The Mezzanine of the Great Hall

Saturday, April 8

Thomas Jefferson Building, noon to 4 p.m.

Library of Congress Presents Concerts

Thursday, April 6 Turtle Island String Quartet

Friday, April 7 Juilliard String Quartet

Saturday, April 8 Elmar Oliveira

Thursday, April 20 Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

All concerts will be held at 8 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. Tickets will be required for all performances except Turtle Island String Quartet, which will be on a first-come basis. Tickets will be available from Ticketmaster at (202) 397-7328, (800) 551-7328, or


PR 06-062
ISSN 0731-3527