Cassandra Cleghorn, poet, professor, fiddler

Opus 575, “David” Guarneri del Gesù violin, 2006


The first time I played ‘David’ I actually blushed. The combination of sweet and dark, and that bit of edge, went straight to my heart. I returned to the studio often, trying other instruments at home over the next few months, but I knew it was ‘David’ from the start. -- Cassandra Cleghorn

Cassandra grew up in a family of professional musicians—her step-father is a violist and conductor and her violist father and violinist step-mother just retired from the Cincinnati Symphony after more than 50 years of service. “My father liked to wake me and my sister by playing his favorite recordings of Mahler scherzi. Music of every sort—from Puccini to Papa John Creach—filled both my mother’s and my father’s houses.” Cassandra started playing the violin at age 7 and performed regularly in orchestras until she went to college. “At 18 I discovered Greek and became a classics major. College led to grad school, which led in turn to my first teaching job. Without ever making a conscious decision to stop playing I found myself in my late 30s, missing the violin terribly and wanting it back in my life.” Importantly, she wanted to give her four children something like the immersive experience of music she had had.

Cassandra resumed the violin by learning to play by ear. She attended Interplay Jazz workshops where she met Eugene Friesen, who teaches at Berklee and who is credited with helping to transform the repertoire and profile of the contemporary cello. “The first thing Eugene did was to dismantle the music stand: ‘We won’t be needing this thing!’ It was all about learning to hear rather than read. Eugene understood what it was like to be a ‘recovering classical musician.’” Cassandra also studied improvisation with Todd Reynolds, pioneering contemporary violinist. “As much as I loved learning from Eugene and Todd, I knew that my technique was never going to be equal to the demands of jazz. My ears had gotten big enough, but my fingers couldn’t keep up.”

Meanwhile she was discovering the vibrant vernacular music of New England and French Canada. Alden Robinson, an Irish fiddler from Maine and a student of Cassandra’s at Williams College, played her the opening track on Liz Carroll’s album, Lost in the Loop. “I was sitting on the steps of Chapin Hall one sunny spring day. I heard the first bars of ‘Sevens’ and I said to Alden, ‘That’s what I want to play!’” Since then she has immersed herself in Irish, New England and French Canadian fiddling, attending sessions, dances and festivals in Western Massachusetts, Vermont, upstate New York and Quebec. Cassandra has studied in workshop settings with Liz Carroll and with Quebecois fiddlers David Boulanger, Donna Hebert, Eric Favreau, Olivier Demers and Andre Brunet. “For reasons I can’t explain the Quebecois tunes really move me—especially the airs tordus, or crooked tunes. The rhythmic work is both powerful and subtle. Right arm technique is key.” She recommends the recordings and videos of Jean Cartignan, Louis “Pitou” Boudreault, Yvon Mimeau, Guy Bouchard and Lisa Ornstein. “The friendships I’ve made with players all over New England and Quebec are a source of joy—we speak the same musical language, with slightly different accents.”

As inspiring as are these musicians and traditions for Cassandra, she credits Doug Cox with providing the most exciting stimulus to her musical life. “For the first two years after I resumed playing I was using a $200 instrument I had picked up at Downtown Sounds in Northampton. Eugene Friesen finally told me it was time to find a real instrument.” Cassandra found her way to Doug’s studio on the recommendation of Friesen and Reynolds. “The first time I played ‘David’ I actually blushed. The combination of sweet and dark, and that bit of edge, went straight to my heart. I returned to the studio often, trying other instruments at home over the next few months, but I knew it was ‘David’ from the start.”At first she struggled with the idea of playing music from outside the classical repertoire on so fine an instrument. “Members of my family actually told me I was playing ‘the wrong kind of music,’ and that was a heavy burden to overcome.” But the joy of playing David eloquently answered every objection. “Every day as I bring this violin to my body and draw the bow, my heart soars. At sessions people routinely ask about the violin, even as I’m just beginning to tune—it sparkles from across the room. This is the instrument of a lifetime, a gift I cherish and try to honor by my playing.”

Cassandra’s dream of a music-filled house has come true. Her children sing and play the guitar, piano and violin, and her partner, Jeffrey, plays the guitar, piano and clarinet. Cassandra and Jeffrey play Celtic music together as a duo, often joined by musicians from the Berkshires and beyond. “Playing this instrument—both in company and alone—brings me home to myself.” 

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Photo by Deborah Brothers

Photo by Deborah Brothers

Sophie (the dog) Cox

Sophie  is  Cox Violins' receptionist. While she doesn't actually  play an instrument, she helps out in many ways in the making of violins,  violas and cellos, mostly in the selection of wood. Sophie selects the  wood that is not appropriate for instrument making, and indicates that  by chewing it to bits.

Sophie  greets visitors to the shop with boundless enthusiasm, so be prepared.  If you object to such an effusive greeting, you might find the word  "Off" to be useful.

Sophie plays with many toys, but her  favorite is a dead soccer  ball which was run over by a tractor and found much later in the field.

Always friendly and athletic, Sophie has had training in basic  commands of sit, stay, come, and off. For Sophie, the most important  words in the English language are "Where's the ball?" Play is central to  her philosophy, along with food and sleep. As a puppy she was  frightened of stairs, but has overcome her fear. She  is very popular,  with many neighborhood friends and  visitors, both canine and human.

When you visit Cox Violins, it's best to leave the treats behind.  We don't want Sophie to get the idea that every vehicle that arrives is  a treat-mobile. She'll be thrilled to see you anyway. 

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Sarah Frank, 5-string fiddle

Opus 82, Guadagnini 5-string Violin, 1987

I love my 5-string fiddle made by Douglas Cox, and I'm  always eager to show it off. It is the most well-rounded 5-string I have  played and it always makes me feel and sound like myself, whether I am  playing a traditional fiddle tune or a classical string quartet. -- Sarah Frank

Sarah Frank is a Canadian fiddler/singer-songwriter who finds her  home in bluegrass, Irish, and Quebecois music. She has a Bachelor of  Music in classical violin performance from McGill University. Sarah  works full time as a free-lance musician and member of The Bombadils, a  progressive folk group based in Montreal.

"Sarah Frank's fiddle and vocal harmonies [add] some stratospheric beauty." -- Bernard Perusse, The Montreal Gazette 

The Bombadils are a band of four, a charismatic and kind-hearted  bunch of rascals. They write and perform tunes that blend their strong  musical conviction, drawing from Québecois, Irish, and bluegrass folk  styles. It's a decidedly contemporary sound that combines soaring  melodic lines, tight rhythmic energy, and virtuosity.

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The Bombadils

The Bombadils

Laurie Indenbaum, ex-Business Manager

Opus 717, “Chathédrale” Strad violin, 2011

One of the perks of my job as Doug's business manager was to 'play in' the fiddles as they come off the bench. When Doug  set up violin #717 in July of 2011, I took it for a spin, even though I  thought it might be too big for me. After a few weeks I meant to swap  it for a newer instrument that needed playing. But after a couple of  days, I realized that I could not give it back. This fiddle grabbed  hold of me and would not let me go. -- Laurie Indenbaum

I  play fiddle  for local dances, weddings, parties and family events and I play viola in an amateur string quartet. 

Since January of 2008, I have been  business manager for Cox  Violins. Among more mundane tasks, I photographed the instruments, oversee  production of The Scroll,  and maintain the website including the  “Spotlight” section, a rogue’s gallery of players who play on Cox  instruments. I also worked with Charlie Dion of Bear’s Den Carving, who  created our chain-saw carved bear.

Late in 2007, when my previous job was ending, I sent emails to  many friends, asking if they knew anyone who was in need of my collection of skills. At the same time, Doug was considering hiring someone to take care of the aspects of his business that he could not find time to do himself. My skills seemed an almost perfect match for those needs, so we agreed to give it a try.

The learning curve for this job was much steeper than I expected, and almost five years later I am still learning new things and new skills to keep the Cox Violins business running smoothly and efficiently.

In 2010 I went to my high school reunion. The best part was being  asked what I do, and answering, “I am the business manager for a violin  maker in Vermont.

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Photo © Doug Cox

Photo © Doug Cox

Sarah Isberg, Magic & Music

Opus 554, “Totenberg” Guarneri del Gesù violin, 2005

I wanted an instrument that would fill a large room  without amplification, and would still have a lovely warm tone. I am  very happy with my choice. It has  been a pleasure to meet and talk with  Doug about violin making and magic and many other things. -- Sarah Isberg

I started studying piano when I was 14, having listened to my  mother's playing all my life.  I loved the piano and piano music, but  was more serious about ski racing through high school and college.   After college, my father gave me his Hohner button accordion, thinking I  should have a portable instrument.  Thus began my journey into the  world of folk music.  

I taught myself to play the accordion, and soon formed a contra  dance band with a few friends in the Mount Washington Valley area.  I  continued to play the accordion for 20 years, meanwhile, eyeing the  fiddle from afar.  When one of my daughters was 4 years old, I started  her on Suzuki violin, and found my chance to learn to play the fiddle at  last!

After a fall of commuting  3 hours round trip to the nearest  Suzuki teacher with a neighbor and her daughter, we decided to start a  community music school, and import teachers to our town, and the Mountain Top Music Center was born. I pursued Suzuki teacher training and began to teach for MTMC. 

I  had progressed from a $200 second-hand fiddle to a new  violin made by a  Montreal luthier, to a 7/8 size or "women's size" German violin I found  in Stockholm, Sweden.  But I was looking for a combination of a great  sounding violin that would fit my small size (5 feet tall), and decided  to pursue having one made for me.  We were fortunate to have Eric and  Carol Rosenblith join the board of MTMC, and through them, and the International Musical Arts Institute  (IMAI), we met Douglas Cox doing a workshop at IMAI.  When I was  looking to upgrade my fiddle a few years later, Eric Rosenblith pointed  me towards Doug.  I tested several, found one I loved, and have been  extremely happy with it ever since.  My instrument is a slightly  modified model of the "Totenberg" Guarneri violin, where the neck is set  asymmetrically, making it easier for me to reach the fingerboard. 


I perform Swedish folk, Celtic, and a little classical music as  accompanist to my husband, Roger Isberg, a magician.  Our show is called  Magic and Music.  We have performed together for several years,  starting soon after he moved to the US in 2004.  We are one of the few  magician/musician duos, or magic acts with live music.  It is great to  see people's faces when we make our entrance, their fascination with the  violin I'm playing as we walk in to the stage.  When we performed once  at a magic club in Stockholm, several people asked me afterwards if I  was really playing!

I also play every week at an Irish session at May Kelly's Cottage  in North Conway, NH.  We have a great session, and I love hearing how  my Cox  fiddle fills out the sound of the other melody instruments,  accordion, flute and tenor banjo.  It is also beautiful on waltzes or  slow airs. We have also attended music festivals in Sweden.  I've  studied with Liz Carroll, Martin Hayes, Matt Cranitch, Antoin MacGavin,  and Swedish fiddlers Per Gudmundson (from  Frifot), and Mikael Marin  (from Vasen), all masters of the instrument and music in general, as  well as the folk music they play.

I think I will always be a student of music, searching for better  tone and expression, and enjoying sharing music with others.  I love  playing fiddle music, because it is different every time I play. 

We live in Jackson, New Hampshire, in a field tucked in between  the hills surrounding Jackson, and the Wildcat River.  We have  greenhouses and gardens, and sell our maple syrup, garlic and other  veggies, and swedish cinnamon rolls at the Jackson Farmer's Market.  

We  teach outdoor life in Sweden each year, where my husband started a  school for outdoor life 30 years ago.  We have published one book, Simple Life - “Friluftsliv”, and hope to write more. And we hope to keep honing and performing our magic and music.

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Music and Magic!

Music and Magic!

Alistair Leon Kok, Baroque Violin

Opus 118, A&H Amati Baroque Violin, 1988

I was initially attracted by the graceful, petite proportions, elegantly placed f-holes and deep archings characteristic of its Amati design. The wood choice is absolutely striking. With a deeply flamed one-piece back and beautiful, multi-layered varnish that brings out the numerous facets of the close grain, this violin is as beautiful to behold as it is to hear. The tone is rich and complex with a warmth and sweetness I would expect from a fine antique Italian instrument. The response is quick and easy, making this violin a pure joy to play. Mr. Cox's workmanship is first-rate and I am so impressed by the meticulous attention to detail he took during the creation of this magnificent instrument. -- Alistair Kok

Alistair is a graduate of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He currently resides in Blacksburg, Virginia and freelances in the area with the Roanoke Symphony and also in the greater Boston area with Symphony by the Sea. 

In Virginia he collaborates with harpsichordist, Judy Bevans, and performs on a Baroque Violin made by Douglas Cox in 1988, #118. The instrument was formerly owned by violinist, Robert Koff, and was modeled after an Amati belonging to Blanche Moyse.

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Photo © Teresa Tam

Photo © Teresa Tam

Carol Lieberman, baroque violin

Baroque Violin Opus 37, 1983

After years searching for a small viola with a fabulous dark sound  appropriate for solo performance, I have found Doug Cox's Guarnarius  model that projects the perfect antique sound. Everyone who hears me  play it falls in love with this instrument. -- Carol Lieberman

Carol Lieberman is the proud owner of two instruments made by Douglas  Cox: one of his first Baroque Violins, and a modern Viola, which she  purchased in February of 2012. Based on a Joseph Guarnerius 1743 “del  Gesù”, this Viola has its characteristic dark and mellow sound that  carries so beautifully in a concert hall. It is a first rate solo  instrument, and conveys that unmistakable Guarnerius quality.  As an  added bonus, the relatively small size of this Viola makes it the  perfect instrument for a violinist to play.

Associate Professor of music at College of the Holy Cross, and  Director of the Holy Cross Chamber Players, Carol Lieberman is one of  America’s leading exponents of Baroque violin performance as well as  violin repertoire from the 19th to the 21st centuries. She has performed  with harpsichordist Mark Kroll for forty years, and they have given  recitals of the complete Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord of  J.S. Bach in Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, Boston and San Francisco. Her  recordings have received the highest critical acclaim, and include the  J. S. Bach Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, a world premiere album of sonatas by Simon LeDuc, an album of sonatas of C.P.E. Bach and J.C. Bach, CDs of Schubert’s Three Sonatinas for Violin and Fortepiano andErno Dohnanyi’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, Serenade for String Trio, and second Quintet for Piano and Strings. Her recordings of contemporary repertoire includeWalter Piston’s Sonatina, Lester Trimble’s Canterbury Tales, Alan Hovhaness’s Duo, Elliott Carter's Riconoscenza, and a CD issued by Centaur Records of Olivier Messiaen’s, Quartet for the End of Time.  Her recordings are also available for purchase and listening on iTunes.

Carol Lieberman frequently lectures on violin performance  practice, including vibrato and bow technique. She has given master  classes in Poland, Israel, France and England, and recently gave a  lecture-recital entitled “Vibrato in the Franco-Belgian School from G.B.  Viotti to E. Ysaye” in La Spezia, Italy. 

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Carol Lieberman

Carol Lieberman

Daniel Stepner, baroque & modern violins

Opus 78, “Rosenblith” Strad , 1986 (Modern) & Opus 612, “Leduc” Guarneri, 2008 (Baroque)

I am thrilled with my new baroque violin. 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. -- Dan Stepner

Daniel  Stepner has performed and recorded a wide range of music on period and  contemporary instruments.   He has been first violinist of the Lydian  String Quartet, in residence at Brandeis University, since 1987; he is  also a founding member of the Boston Museum Trio, resident at the Museum  of Fine Arts; for twenty-four years, he served as concertmaster of the  Handel and Haydn Society. He is the Artistic Director of the Aston Magna  Festival, which performs a regular summer series at Simon’s Rock  College, at Bard College, and now at Brandeis University. He is also a  Preceptor in Music at Harvard University, where he team-teaches a course  in chamber music with Professor Robert Levin. 

Mr. Stepner’s recorded repertoire includes violin sonatas of  Bach, Vivaldi, Buxtehude and Telemann, and Marais; chamber music of  Rameau, Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, William Schuman, Vincent  Persichetti, Lee Hyla, Peter Child, Martin Boykan, Yehudi Wyner, and  John Harbison; and the complete violin sonatas of Charles Ives, with  pianist John Kirkpatrick.  He has also conducted recordings of Handel’s The Triumph of Time and Truth and Monteverdi’s Orfeo (on  Centaur).  Mr. Stepner hails from Wisconsin, and studied with Steven  Staryk in Chicago, Nadia Boulanger at Fontainebleau, France; and Broadus  Erle at Yale, where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1978.   He plays violins of Antonio Gragnani, Sebastian Kloz and Douglas Cox.

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Daniel Stepner

Daniel Stepner

Cheryl Zylla and Marc Levine, Lyra Baroque

Baroque Viola Opus 79, 1690 “Medici” Strad, Baroque Violin Opus 85, 1713 “Rosenblith” Strad

Hello Mr. Cox, I play your baroque Viola #79 since  1990, with Lyra Baroque.   Recently a new colleague , Marc Levine, has  joined us.  When I saw his violin, I immediately wondered if it was  related to mine---and it is! We just wanted to let you know that Marc  & I both adore the sound & playabilty of our "voices". I cannot  imagine playing baroque music without my Viola! Sincerely, Cheryl Zylla

Cheryl Zylla  performs on violin, viola, and viola d'amore with such groups as Lyra  Baroque, Consortium Carissimi, Bach Society Orchestra, Ensemble  Sebastian, Ensemble Polaris, Baroque Orchestra of Iowa, Wooddale Church  Orchestra.

She is a Member of Local 30-73 Twin Cities Musicians Union and is  a frequent Adjudicator for MacPhail Center for Music Master Class  series, Minnesota Youth Symphonies, Greater Twin Cities Youth  Symphonies, Thursday Musical, Schubert Club, as well as public and  private school Solo & Ensemble Contests.

Marc Levine's  versatile performances have been described as "eloquent as well as  technically superb combining technical mastery with emotional  perceptiveness and beautiful sound" (Southampton Press).  He is Artistic  Director of the Southampton Cultural Center Chamber Music Series, has  been a member of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and The New Tango  Project with whom he recorded in collaboration with the Center for  Contemporary Opera.  As a baroque violinist, Marc was a prizewinner in  the 2008 American Bach Soloists International Competition for Baroque  Violin and is a member of the Lyra Baroque Orchestra (Concertmaster,  Principal 2nd violin, section) and Early Music New York (Principal 2nd  violin, section) with whom he has recorded on the Ex Cathedra label and  provided “vividly rendered instrumental interludes” (The New York  Times).  In addition to past chamber music performances with Jacques  Ogg, Marc Destrube and Arthur Haas, Marc is a founding member and  frequent performer with the baroque ensemble Flying Forms.  With Flying Forms, Marc has presented regular concerts throughout the  midwest and east coast of the United States at universities and on  concert series, lectured to college seminars, produced and was music  director of a fully staged opera, won many grants and created The  Baroque Room, a new performance space in downtown Saint Paul, MN.

Lyra Baroque  is a professional Baroque music ensemble based in Saint Paul, Minnesota  which has been performing regionally and internationally since 1985.  Lyra presents historically informed, seventeenth and eighteenth century  musical performances to a wide and diverse audience, utilizing period  instruments and intimate seating arrangements to provide a meaningful,  unique musical experience. Under Artistic Director Jacques Ogg, Lyra has  expanded its reach to include concerts in Spain, collaborations with  numerous acclaimed local and international guest artists, and  educational programs for both children and adults.

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The Sound of Bronze

A sculpture by Anna Chromý

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is  the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true  science... - Albert Einstein

We  love this photograph, taken by Doug's son Jeremy in 2008 during a  family visit to Prague at the Senovážné Námesti. It is part of group of  sculptures known as Czech Musicians, installed in 2002.

Born in Bohemia (Czech Republic) in 1940, Anna Chromý was raised in  Austria, lives in France and works in Italy.

At the end of World War II, Anna Chromý's family moved from Bohemia to  Vienna, Austria. Her family did not have enough money for her to attend  art school however, so only after she married and moved to Paris was it  possible. She received her education at the École des Beaux-Arts. It  was here she realized an interest in Salvador Dalí and other  surrealists, and began using the soft colors of William Turner in her  paintings.

Anna Chromý has studios in Pietrasanta, Tuscany where she also has  her bronze foundries, Fonderia Artistica Mariani and Massimo Del Chiaro.  For her marble sculptures she works at the studio of Massimo Galleni in  Pietrasanta. In Carrara, she sculpts at Studio Michelangelo of Franko  Barattini.

Chromý's best-known piece is the empty coat, known as The Cloak of Conscience, Piétà or Commendatore, located in Salzburg, Austria, Prague, Athens and  elsewhere. Chromý has transformed The Cloak into a chapel over four  meters high, carved out of a block of white marble weighing 250 tons in  the Cave Michelangelo in Carrara.

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Photo © Jeremy Cox

Photo © Jeremy Cox