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New World School of Violin Making allows local craftsman to pass on his passionSubmitted: 03/30/2015
Story By Mary O'Connell

New World School of Violin Making allows local craftsman to pass on his passion
PRESQUE ISLE - The art of violin making dates back hundreds of years, and Brian Derber is carrying on the tradition. He wanted to go into furniture making, but fell into instrument design after taking a class in college. In 1999, he opened The New World School of Violin Making. It's the only violin-making school in Wisconsin.


"The program itself is modeled after a German school of violin making," said New World School of Violin Making owner Brian Derber. "Students have to fulfill a certain requirement before they can apply to graduate, so the minimum time they are with me is three years."

Students start out by making the body of a violin in their first year. As they progress, they add the scroll and varnish, a process that can take months for students to finish. Nearing the end of their stay, they can even try to make a cello.

"In the time that I have with students in the school here, I can only give them so much, and then it's time for them to go someplace else and get more knowledge," said Derber.

The materials students use to make their instruments can come from places as close by as the UP and as far away as Europe. Derber says violin making is a challenging process that can change every day.

"You can change the arching of it," said Derber. "You can change the graduations, the thickness of it. You can redesign the F-holes if you want. There are many things you can do to keep it interesting. It's not really making the same thing every day."

Derber says that a whole violin takes at least 150 hours to make. While he only has one student now, Derber will take up to six students at a time. His student says the experience is like none she's had before.

"It is a wonderful thing to do," said Leila Kelly. "It's a life-changing event, I guess you would say."

As for Derber, he says he won't be quitting anytime soon.

"I can't imagine," he says. "I'll probably be doing this to the grave."

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