Ok...Hold everything. Let me just savor this for a moment.
At this very minute, Jonathan Cooper, world class violin maker, is toiling away in his shop building me a violin. This is unbelievable. I've yet to even wrap my brain around this, and yet it is happening. Right now. As we speak. A violin created with me solely in mind.
Andy Happel and Jonathan Cooper at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland, Maine 2012
I've known Jon for a few years now, and have always dreamed of owning one of his instruments. He is world-renowned, and the best violinists across the globe play his violins, including Mark O'Connor. The very same composer who wrote "The Fiddle Concerto," which just happens to be the piece I will be performing on November 4th with the Portsmouth Symphony. This constellation of dots connecting one unto the next overwhelms me with its synergy and simplicity.
Cooper violins are magical. I know this because I've had the good fortune of "playing them in." You see, I teach out of Jon's shop in Portland, Maine one day a week, and he's grown accustomed to popping his head in the door and asking me to break in one of his new fiddles. This is a phenomenon like no other. Playing any newly built violin is a bit like trying to play a wet sponge. It's feels soggy, sometimes slow and basically, hardly playable. But then there is a thing that happens, not exactly a chemical change, because of course, wood is wood. But a change does occur. The production of certain vibrations over the course of several hours align the molecules, which work symbiotically, to produce tone. It's an awakening that happens in a recognizable moment and is something to be cherished.
To say that I can't wait for this moment with my own Cooper violin is an understatement. I think about playing the violin all the time. When people assume that I am distracted, spacing out or day dreaming, I am thinking about violin fingerings and bowing patterns, phrasings that I have yet to reach.
I don't know the first thing about building violins. I don't know where Jon begins. I don't know how he chose the 60 year old piece of wood for the bottom and sides (see below), or the 35 year old piece of wood for the top. That's why I'm not meddling in his process. I am trusting in it. What matters to me is that Jon is making my violin with me in mind. He knows the intricacies of my playing well enough for me to let go and let him do his great work.
Jonathan Cooper violin for Andy Happel, top complete September 2012
Jonathan Cooper violin for Andy Happel, bottom complete, September 2012