"The Scroll"  Newsletter for the Cox Violin Community

The Scroll's purpose

is to provide information and enjoyment to people interested in fine new instruments. I welcome your inquiries.

NEWS

Greetings from Poland

Lydia Tang (violin #416) sends Pozdrawiam (greetings). She completed a year abroad at the Krakow Academy of Music in Poland, and presented a recital of Polish music at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA.

Oren Ungerleider

received second prize at the Harvard Musical Association Competition playing violin #433. “If you give me another year I’m going to win the Sibelius competition on your violin.”

Raushan Akhmedyarova

performed Mendelssohn's D-minor violin concerto in February with the San Francisco Academy Orchestra on violin #256.

Lambert Chen

(viola #461) will be associate principal viola of the Montreal Symphony starting in September.

Kirsi Perttuli

(violin #431) continues as a member of the Kalliope Piano Trio, now widening their reach outside of New England.

Bach Duet Books

Vermonters Peggy Spencer (viola #622) and Sue Engle (violin #623) announce the publication of three new collections of duets by J. S. Bach for violins, violas or cellos. Drawn from Bach’s French and English Suites, Two-Part Inventions and lute music, they bring 24 contrapuntal pieces into the repertoire for intermediate to advanced players. J. S. Bach ~ Duets for Two Violins / Violas / Cellos will be on amazon.com in September.

Ben Van Vliet

(violin #484) received his master’s degree in violin performance from University of Massachusetts in May, and completed Suzuki Teacher Training certification at the Hartt School. He is building his studio, performing and working in innovative ways with young people.

Marianna Renno

(viola #526) recently toured in the USA, performing Brazilian music with saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

On The Road

If you’d like to find out about seeing a Cox instrument in your own area, please let me know.

Other Travels:

I’m looking forward to a trip to Europe early in 2010. My hope is to visit England in February. Let me know if you are interested in meeting up with me.

What People Say

“I absolutely love my Cox violin. It is a joy and a pleasure to play on. It feels and sounds like I am playing on a great old Italian violin.”

Jaime Laredo
Violinist, KLM Piano Trio
Professor of Violin, Indiana University
Music Director, Vermont Symphony Orchestra

“You should know that the lovely 3/4 violin is in good hands, and that Kelley Jo Wallace won the Peabody Preparatory Part Recital Competition playing it only two weeks after receiving it. Her eyes lit up when she heard the sound she could make. It filled the auditorium, and she thinks it was the key to her winning the competition.”
Rebecca Henry
Chair, Peabody Conservatory Preparatory string department & founding member of the Kegelstatt Trio

“I am thrilled with my new baroque violin by Doug Cox. It’s modeled on a Guarneri Del Gesù, and has a wonderful quality throughout; I am particularly taken with the silvery E string sound, which projects so easily.”

Daniel Stepner
Lydian String Quartet Concertmaster, Handel and Haydn Society
Artistic Director, Aston Magna Festival
Boston Museum Trio

Preceptor in Music, Harvard University

“I was so happy to have your viola, because it behaved very well in all the difficult weather and humidity changes we had to deal with! Besides that, I am a happy violist and received compliments for my beautiful sound and for showing enthusiasm while performing! I love my viola!”

Marianna Renno
Violist with Branford Marsalis

The Newsletter for the Cox Violin Community Fall ~ 2009

Dear Friends,

Anna Chromy: Sound of BronzeThis past year has been exceedingly full and interesting. Spending two weeks in Prague and the Czech Republic last summer has reanchored my work and vision in that rich, old-world tradition. The financial panic of last fall made buying new instruments a challenge for some potential clients, but we have recently seen a resurgence of interest and activity. New acoustic experiments have more than filled my time and led to fresh and exciting thinking about my work.

A two-week tour of the midwest last November, with the delivery of a new quartet to Lawrence University, was an exciting flurry of friends, old and new, and some intense evaluation and reflection on my work. Click here for more information about the Lawrence University quartet.

Christo Wood Tapping a Top at the Oberlin Acoustics WorkshopAs part of the week-long Oberlin Acoustics workshop in July, I prepared a violin body with five tops, each of a different type of spruce I use in my work. Fellow participants tapped, vibrated and tested the violin and the tops, along with sample strips of the wood, throughout the week. Each day the violin, with a different top, was played and evaluated from both the player’s and listener’s perspective. I have not fully digested the experience or the data collected, but I expect to reach conclusions worth publishing. At the very least I feel I am a better maker for the experience.

I have many interesting projects on the bench and ideas for many more. The discovery of the “Goldberg” del Gesù violin and copying it for Yellow Barn (see From the Bench) was inspiring and has opened a number of doors for me. Three new viola models, using white birch cut on my property in the 1960’s, are still in evaluation, but I think the expansion of the pallet of viola sounds possible with different back wood is very promising.

In recent years I have celebrated Stradivarius’ work by making 300th anniversary copies of his instruments. I have found two worthy Strads of 1709 to copy for this series. These will be finished before the end of the year, and will be playable in the spring. Another quartet, a slight modification of the Lawrence Quartet, will also be ready in the spring. The cello of this 2009 quartet is my opus 650, surely a milestone for an instrument maker.

My work and my life remain fulfilling. I look forward to keeping in touch.

Douglas Cox signature

FROM THE BENCH

"Goldberg" Violin Opus 631Copying The "Goldberg" violin

I have a special place in my heart for the Yellow Barn Music School and Festival in Putney, Vermont through my involvement as an audience member, trustee and friend. Many Yellow Barn participants have played and continue to play on my instruments.

I offered to donate an instrument to Yellow Barn to celebrate its 40th anniversary. I wanted to make something that would be special, and also would be interesting and fun for me. It adds challenge to design and build an instrument not knowing who will ultimately play it.

I have worked on many violins patterned after the "Kreisler" Guarneri del Gesù violin. This pattern combines the best design concepts and elements of Stradivarius and the Guarneri family. While I was contemplating what sort of instrument to build for Yellow Barn, it came to my attention that the "Goldberg" violin, twin to the "Kreisler," had been donated to the Library of Congress in 2007 by the estate of Miyoko Yamane Goldberg, wife of the late teacher and violinist Szymon Goldberg. Previously known as the "Baron Vitta," the violin was built circa 1730-32 out of the same wood as the "Kreisler," which was donated to the Library in 1952 by Fritz Kreisler himself.

The "Goldberg," which is on lifetime loan to Nicholas Kitchen of the Borromeo Quartet, seemed like an excellent choice for a limited edition instrument. It was not well-known to me, and was therefore of great interest. Mr. Kitchen generously allowed me access to the violin. It is an average sized instrument, as near to perfect in tone quality as a violin can be. It has proved to be a great choice for a challenge, indeed!

The donation proved to be a successful fundraiser for Yellow Barn. At the festival's season finale, I drew the winning lottery ticket, and we determined that the instrument will be going to England, to a British couple who run a foundation providing fine instruments for exceptional young players.

You can learn more about the Guarneri del Gesù "Goldberg" violin, and its twin, the "Kreisler," including wonderful photographs of the instruments, at the Library of Congress website.

Scholarship Opportunities

Karen Cueva

This year brought fresh opportunities to put fine instruments into the hands of some exciting young players. We partnered with the From the Top organization to provide an instrument to Karen Cueva, then a senior at the Walnut Hill School in Natick, Massachusetts.

We arranged to supply a yearlong loan to two Sphinx Laureates and we loaned two more instruments to students at the Sphinx Performance Academy summer program.

Lilian Belknap (viola #293) brought a violin to a student in Tunisia via Cultures in Harmony, an organization dedicated to cultural diplomacy through music. “In addition to classes in violin, cello, piano and chamber music, students study oud, kanun and guitar. Our performances include a collaboration with acclaimed Arabic musicians Amine and Hamza M’Raihi,” explains Lilian.

MAKING CONVERSATION with Marissa Licata

The violin is seen by many solely as a vehicle for classical performance, but the make-up of musical culture tells a different story. Doug’s violins are found in the hands of classical players, traditional and improvisational jazz players, rock musicians and fiddle players, chamber artists and solo artists. Marissa Licata is a sonic dynamo who covers nearly that entire range by herself.

Marissa Licata

Marissa was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras in 1984. The adopted daughter of a jazz saxophonist, she grew up hearing a vast array of music in her home: jazz, Latin, Jewish, classical. Her father made sure that she heard “whatever was good,” Marissa recalls.

Her violin lessons began at age three, and along the way to a master’s degree from New England Conservatory’s Contemporary Improvisation program, Marissa amassed an impressive record of solo competition wins, prestigious festival auditions and concert mistress positions.

Marissa LicataAt age 18, she returned to her birth country with her father to play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Honduran National Orchestra. The Tchaikovsky had never been played in Honduras, and Marissa found the orchestra players completely welcoming. They worked tirelessly to ensure that she would sound the best she could.

Marissa, who has picked up Spanish from Latin musicians she plays with, developed a fondness early on for traditional music, and she’s always been drawn to Latin music and dance in particular. “I play it, I dance it, I always wanted to be from there.”

“Good music has to have its basis in traditions,” Marissa says. “Then, you get the right group of people together, and it can go to new places. I have a new interest in Indian traditional music. Every day I try to listen to something new, grasping elements that fit into what I already do.” Her father, she says, always “encouraged me to be a musician first, not just a violinist.” Although she continues to study, play and perform classical music, Marissa has toured with rock icons Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and with Jethro Tull, led by Ian Anderson, on solo and acoustic tours since 2006.
Few young musicians graduating from the classical conservatory environment have this breadth of musical experience. Marissa doesn’t consider herself exceptional; she’s just taken advantage of the musical choices available to her. “Classical chops are important, but you don’t need to be restricted.”

Marissa LicataAs an improvising violinist, she plays what she feels, fitting it into the structure of whatever piece she is performing. Classical musicians, by contrast, play what is on the page in front of them. Marissa’s background has helped her make this transition. During a time in her childhood when she did not have a strong teacher, she memorized symphonies alone in her room, learning to play what she heard.

Her teacher, Eric Rosenblith, has been supportive of her choices and she continued in his studio into her graduate studies. Rosenblith has remained influential, down to the instrument that she plays. Her Cox violin, #441, is a copy of Eric’s 1713 Stradivarius. “The violin does what I want. I have never been in a situation where it couldn’t express what I desired. I am now experimenting with percussive sounds and overtones, releasing the voice inside. I am bonded to this violin, my violin.”
Marissa is working professionally, playing at weddings, in clubs, at concerts and on tour with internationally recognized pop and rock music acts. She is her own manager, and is taking the do-it-yourself, grass roots, hardworking-independent-artist aesthetic to new heights.

It is her mother, a business executive, to whom she turns with questions about business matters. “I’m probably looking for more gigs than I should, but I don’t like looking ahead and seeing a vacuum, so I’m filling up my calendar.”

Marissa Licata“Now that I have graduated, I have to prove myself,” she continued, “not as a musician but as an arranger and an improviser. Another challenge is that most people, including promoters and producers, see the violin as a classical instrument. I have to promote myself as a player and my instrument as appropriate for jazz, improvisation, hip-hop and rock.”

Establishing oneself in the music industry is a hard road. Marissa feels that she has to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes along, so her life is crazy at the moment. She has been to New York and Los Angeles for “America’s Got Talent” auditions, to New York for an Alicia Keyes (R&B) audition and once for a benefit for the American Heart Association at the Apollo Theatre along with many other rising artists.

The groundwork for a professional career was laid while she was at NEC. Now, the legwork has arrived, and she is armed with a distinguishing passion, talent and freshness. Her goal is to entertain her audience, whoever and wherever they may be. “You have to be honest,” offered Marissa. “The music must come from your soul. When I perform, I feel I know what people want, and I know that what I do must engage them.” With such a joyful melting pot of sound coming from deep within, Marissa won’t have a problem doing just that.
Visit Marissa at www.marissalicata.com.
Photos by John Hammond

A TALE OF LIFE AFTER DEATH: Violin #208

Violin #208 with damaged scrollLast fall, Carol Peckins experienced a near-calamity with violin #208 as she rushed to gain her seat at a rehearsal of the Boston Philharmonic.

“If ever there was a story about haste makes waste, this is it. I was at a rehearsal at New England Conservatory and the break was coming to an end. I suddenly realized, while engaged with a visitor, that I was about to be late. I hurried back to my case and started grabbing things separately…violin, shoulder rest, bow, glasses…I was doing a thoughtless juggling act without even realizing it. As I transferred things from hand to hand, somehow the violin started its mad dash to the floor. In the way that accidents happen in slow motion, I tried to catch it, doing a dance of sorts, at one point attempting to break the fall with a completely useless foot. Seriously, who grabs a fine instrument with a foot?”

With all of the noise, chatter and random cacophony to be heard as an orchestra comes into place after a break, it’s hard to imagine an absolute, complete silence descending in a moment. But when someone drops an instrument, you can cut the silence with a knife.

Violin #208 with new scrollCarol gathered her pride and the shattered violin and brought it back to Doug. The most drastic damage appeared to be the scroll, which was broken through, and the complete separation of the back seam. The top was cracked along the full length of the bass bar. Internally, the lower block was also cracked. The restoration proved extensive, including a new neck and scroll, new upper and lower blocks, new bass bar and mending of the cracks in the top and back plates. The work took nearly five months, during which Carol played on violin #609, a Guarneri del Gesù “Ole Bull” model. Reunited with #208 this spring, she offered this full report:

“I admit that the very first time I played it I was a bit panic-stricken, as it sounded so much smaller and more compressed than I remembered it. I wondered if I had in fact done it in. But then, as if it were virtually taking in air, it began to inflate and breathe more easily, even in that first session. I realized that if a human being were in some horrible accident and bedridden for months, perhaps in casts and surgical bandages, the first time up and about he or she would not be running a marathon, or even running at all. This violin is coming back to life with grace and apparent forgiveness, and I am grateful beyond words for your masterful work.”