FULL TIME VIOLIN MAKING COURSES IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Great Britain has an enviable reputation for training violin makers that can trace its origins back over a century to the North London Polytechnical Institute of Musical Trades. Over the last forty or more years, Newark School of Violin Making has become the largest of all the colleges offering specialist training in violin making and repair, but a number of other colleges also provide valuable specialist education. Britain has always welcomed students from all around the world, with strong contingents of French, German and even Italian students coming to study as well as those from as far away as South Korea, Australia and the United States. British-trained makers have made their mark all over the world. At it’s height, violin making courses existed at The Welsh School of Violin Making, Leeds College of Music and London College of Furniture but by 2000 these other courses were either gone or on their last legs.
Small specialist courses fit uncomfortably within the more expansive websites and marketing of their parent colleges, and a simple subject of “violin making” can be masked under terminology such as “musical craft” or “musical instrument technology”, making it all the more confusing for future students to find the courses that they are looking for. This page is intended to provide an informal prospectus for full time study of violin making and restoration in the UK. For perspectives on violin making schools in Britain, visit Helen Michetschläger’s Violin Making Training in the UK, or Benjamin Hebbert’s Violin Making Schools in Britain. Support for full-time violin-making students studying in the UK is available from the Rowan Armour-Brown Trust.
Chapel Violins School of Violin Making
Chapel Violins is based in Balderton, a village on the outskirts of Newark, and was formed to provide alternative experiences in violin making than those offered in the more famous college up the road. Courses are flexible and can be tailored to the specific requirements of students either in violin making or in violin restoration.
All lecturers have many years experience in the violin making trade, in combination with being experienced and qualified teachers. There is a strong ethos of support, encouragement and enthusiasm for everyone to achieve their best, and teaching runs alongside commercial work as a professional restoration workshop. Students interested in studying at Chapel Violins should get in touch directly to discuss their requirements.
Glasgow Clyde / Anniesland COLLEGE
A part of Glasgow Clyde college (known to some as Anniesland College), offers a National Certificate in Stringed Musical Instrument Making, and a Higher National Certificate in Stringed Instrument Making and Repair. The college has particular strength in guitar making as well as in violin making and repair, but the nature of the course means that one of its strengths is as a foundation to further learning. Students who have progressed to Newark tend to find that the disciplined approach at Anniesland gives them a significant advantage that holds throughout their education and into their career. Graduates have gone on to have successful careers in the guitar and violin, especially in Scotland.
Merton College, London has been running instrument making courses for over 40 years. Instrument making courses for beginner, intermediate and advanced students are offered on courses with the option of one or two taught days per week (currently Wednesdays and Thursdays). Although making instruments is a large focus of the courses, the college also has a particular strength in teaching violin repair and setup alongside making. Alumni have found employment in some of the London restoration workshops, and setting up their own businesses. The college has run violin making and repair courses for years within a broader musical instrument technology department that encompasses guitar and woodwind making and repair.
Newark School of Violin Making
Newark is the largest violin making school in the UK, with an international reputation for excellence, training successful makers from throughout the world. The School of violin making is part of a wider school of Musical Instrument Crafts, including woodwind, piano and guitar schools. As of 2017 the college runs a 3-year BA (Hons) degree in Musical Instrument Craft. It also runs a one-year Foundation Course and evening courses.
West Dean College
West Dean College began it’s musical instrument programme more than forty years ago, and at the time it provided a contrast to Newark School of Violin Making by focussing on stringed instruments for the early music market which was particularly strong in the 1970s and 1980s. Today students develop their tool skills through producing viola da gamba, stringed instruments whose sophistication gives them a full rounding in a range of skills and where the sale of student instruments helps to subsidise the course. At the same time students are introduced to violin or guitar making, with the philosophy that the disciplined making of viola da gamba will inform their skills, and result in high quality work in their chosen field. The West Dean College Diploma is now formally a 2-year Foundation Degree in order to enable overseas students to study in the UK, and is complimented by a further one year professional development diploma in order to create a full three years of study. As well as providing a standard training for students beginning with relatively few tool skills, the college periodically attracts experienced students who have recently graduated from other colleges who come specifically to study early musical instrument making.
Each student has their own workbench, with the workshop open from early in the morning until late at night seven days a week giving exceptional hours at the bench during termite, and most residential accommodation is within a few minute’s walk of the college. Applicants who already have some skills are strongly encouraged to apply for the various scholarships and bursaries provided by the Edward James Foundation and other funding organisations and may be able to be awarded significant reductions in fees.