Antonius Stradivarius is a name known through the annals of time and across the globe as THE preeminent luthier and purveyor of stringed instruments. While he is mostly known for his violins, he also created and crafted incredible violas, cellos, mandolins, harps, and guitars.
Throughout time, others have tried to replicate his creations, but to no avail. Counterfeiters and copycats alike have copied his exact specifications, but are unable to match it's beauty, tone, and resonance, making his instruments among the most sought after objects in the modern world. Sadly, due to theft, loss, and damage, of his 1200 creations, only 650 remain, where they valued in the tens of millions of dollars.
What's his secret? What's the special technique or raw material that separates his creations from all others?
The answer may lie in a story from the past...
Legend has it (I have been unable to source the material) that in the 1950’s an instrument made by Antonio Stradivari was purchased by an investor for a sizable sum. The man placed the instrument in an airtight vault and kept it there for 10 years expecting its value to dramatically increase during that time.
On the day of the auction, the violin was taken out of the vault and handed to one of the world’s greatest violinists to demonstrate its authenticity. The Stradivarius was tuned and the auction house became hushed to hear the tones of this musical treasure. But what came from the instrument was worse than the music from a cheap, beat up, children’s violin. The legend has it that a Stradivarius will only reach its potential if it is played regularly and not simply kept hidden.
The story reminds us that an instrument without a musician is a depreciating asset. It may have monetary value in and of itself, but art absent purpose is nothing more than an artifact.
Perhaps the greatness of a Stradivarius that has eluded copycats and counterfeiters is not located in the dimensions and details of the instrument, but is his understanding of musicians and why they play his instruments.
We all want our students to master the techniques and fundamentals necessary to perform at the highest levels. We all want to give our students the tools, musical and otherwise, to be successful long after they are gone from our rehearsal halls. But, what's the best way to do that?
Perhaps the answer of both goals is the same: nurture the musician as much as you nurture the music.
Just as a Stradivarius requires consistent time and attention to allow it to speak with its truest and purest voice, so does the musician playing it. After all, no one is moved by an artifact!
Have a great (and warm) week!