We now have, oh, 27 distance-crushes on instrument-toting Curtis Institute students, those wunderkinds who’ve scored free rides to what many consider an even more impressive conservatory than Juilliard. Trouble is, we have no classical cred. That’s why, just in time for Curtis’s Fall Student Recital Series, we chatted with Christopher Germain, president of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers, who, since a move in March, calls Philly home. From his Locust Street home-slash-workshop, Germain, 49, continues the centuries-old tradition of handcrafting violins ($18,000 each) and cellos ($35,000 each). His glue is the same mixture used in 16th-century Italy, his techniques mimic those of craftsmen like Stradivari, and his steel finger-planes from the 1800s are what he turns to for the precise wood-shaving his instruments require. Made in France, the planes were a gift from his mentor, the legendary Vahakn “Nigo” Nigogosian. “He always said ‘Close every door’ as a metaphor for focusing on the issue at hand,” Germain says. And as he takes lessons from past masters, he’s thinking about the future. “Many violin-makers didn’t peak until their 70s,” he says. “I like to think my best work is still ahead of me.” Christopher Germain, 1714 Locust Street, suite 4, 215-545-2500; germainviolins.com.
Originally published in Philadelphia Magazine, November 2006