A celebratory mocha latte for my troubles – a simple but weighty task accomplished. It shouldn’t have been so hard but it is: the resistance to completion. The fear of communication. The essential laziness. The shyness and sense of inadequacy in the face of all things musical.


I first tried to install my pick-up (a Fishman V-200) without assistance. It was the first weekend of 2009; I had just moved to New York, the outside temperature was about 10 degrees, and amidst the stress of my brother in Israel, the back and forth to NYC, and the most recent version of “real life’s” start, I was sick. After bailing on the Saturday night plans early in the evening, I found myself a little lonely, a little feverish, and thought to console myself with productivity: the spanking new pick-up would be installed.

But how exactly does it work? Let’s see, I have to insert the “spring” into the “wing slot” of my bridge. What “spring”? I see no small coiled wire, perhaps if I just pinch this, no, I’ll just pull it to widen it a little – and SNAP, the copper “V” lies in two delicate planes of metal, reproachfully reflecting my bedroom’s overheard light.

Two months later, repaired pickup in hand (thanks Mom), I stand outside the violin repair studio just a few blocks from Lincoln Center (gulp).

Much like entering Ken Myer’s Boston workshop: the sterile office complex dissolves when the studio door is opened. Inside: the shining hulls of the violins, in every state of complete; the cases stacked from chest to ceiling; the leather-bound books packed spine to spine. The cargo is arcane as that of an clipper ship, berth to as many specific things as you’d find on deck: shoulder rest, chin rest, fine tuners, fragile bridges and stocky pegs, strings of every dimension and coiled material, horse hair strung tight and let loose in a fan of glory. The walls, crammed with framed and signed portraits of violinists, posters of past shows, newspaper clippings.

I am greeted by a familiarly awkward young man, who is predictably named Josh. He leads me to a first Israeli violin maker who tells me one thing, which is immediately countered by another Israeli violin maker, more senior, more gray, more terrifying. I recognize his voice; I spoke to on the phone this morning. He says, it can either be done in two minutes or they don’t have the time for it. Israelis One and Two whisk away the violin, and a third Israeli Violin Maker appears in an apron, talking to an Israeli Violinist, who is dropping off his violin for the weekend.

I start up conversation with Josh – at first I can’t place him chronologically and accordingly don’t know whether to feel bashful or condescend, but I discover he is a senior in high school waiting to hear if Yale will take him to study math. Ah yes, familiar. (How condescending of me.) Conversation falters and we listen to the chubby girl in the next room who plays the first ten bars of Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in a minor (Suziki book #4) for the 27th time. Does this violin sound better? Or this one? Hmm, and there she goes again while her enormous and ruddy father listens patiently, presumably about to lay down several tho for his daughter’s budding violin career.

Israeli Violin Maker One reappears, hair framing his face with Beethoven-eqsue furor, my violin in hand. The pick-up (all intact) is nearly inserted into my bridge (all intact) and fastened over the frame of the violin (all intact). Miracle! He passes the violin to me with the brusque grace of a nurse casually accustomed to handling the most fragile of newborns. GLORY!

The violin packed up, the 27.09 paid, I bid Josh farewell and, with the closing of the door, the air is absent of rosin dust and the strains of Vivaldi. And so I take myself out to Starbucks by way of extravagant celebration. No worries, though – the drink is ordered without whip. We’ll save that for when I get my viola fixed.

[wrote this at the end of March, typically only finished editing now. Update: now have a pre-amp and a loop pedal (each a story of their own) – but the viola? Well, no whipped cream yet…]