9.23.2011

Interview with Jan van Rooyen, co-owner of of Gainesville Violins Inc



Sarah Velasco: Jan, can you tell us what you do?
Jan Van Rooyen: I am a violin-maker, co-owner of Gainesville Violins Inc. with my wife of 45 years, Anna van Rooyen, who works by my side, together with Amelyse Arroyo who is a full workshop member, two part-time
apprentices, and two office staff members.

Sarah Velasco: What's your typical day like?
Jan Van Rooyen: Get up around 2 am and do emails and Facebook for about 90 minutes, then sleep until 7 am. Walk, breakfast, shower and dress. Work in the workshop until 9 or 10 pm. Listen to classical music all the time. Read and study. Sleep.

Sarah Velasco: How did you get started?
Jan Van Rooyen: Fell in love with the sound of the violin (over the radio) at age 4, got a book on violin making at age 16, started a part-time violin shop (lutherie) at age 37, went full-time at age 55 and immediately
immigrated from South Africa to Gainesville FL.

Sarah Velasco: How would one get started if they were interested? What type of training is involved?
Jan Van Rooyen: See my Facebook note, "Violin-making, lutherie: Advice to aspiring craftspersons".It's a long process, a life. There is a short way too: Go to a violin-making school. Very unsatisfactory.

Sarah Velasco: For readers that do not know about violins, what are differences between one violin and another?
Jan Van Rooyen: Wood, varnish, craftsmanship, appearance, sound and age.

Sarah Velasco: What happens if a client is interested? What process do they have to go through with you?
Jan Van Rooyen: We discuss where they are with their playing, where they want to go, why their current violin is hampering them, what their budget is, what their appearance and sound ideals are.

Sarah Velasco: Do you make things other than violins?
Jan Van Rooyen: In all sizes, violins, violas, cellos, bows and double-basses, as well as repairs, restorations and appraisals. Of course I don't personally make everything that we sell. I commission fine workshops to make them
for us up to a point and then we take over in our workshop.

Sarah Velasco: Has there been one single instrument that you have made that you are most proud of?
Jan Van Rooyen: Yes, a violin for famous violinist Joshua Bell. He liked it a lot and gave me a rave review. See the "Featured Inst" page of www.gviolins.com. But all my custom-made violins are highly regarded.

Sarah Velasco: If you could make a violin for one person dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jan Van Rooyen: A poor, hardworking, humble, talented and dedicated kid of about 12 years of age. Because he or she would need it most.

Sarah Velasco: Has your style evolved? If so, how?
Jan Van Rooyen: I am more daring in my antiqueing of my custom-made violins and more bold in my tonal work.

Sarah Velasco: Are there any common misconceptions in your line of work?
Jan Van Rooyen: Yes many. One is that if you throw a lot of money at your violinistic endeavors, you'll be good. ("The poor workman blames his tools" kinda thing.) Another is that old violins are better than new ones.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence [in preparation, self-discipline, study and hard work]. Talent will not -nothing is more common than failed people with lots of talent. Genius
will not - unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not -the world is full of educated derelicts and barbarians. Persistenceand determination alone [in preparation, self-discipline, study and
hard work] are omnipotent." - After Calvin Coolidge.

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