Violins Amidst the Violence


Fascinating wire story the other day about Army medic Sgt. Geoffrey Allison, perhaps the only US serviceman who’s also a luthier:

As bombs exploded and the ground shook around him, Allison carved and shaped violins. He couldn’t block out the violence or the death around him (his job was tending to the sick and the wounded), but it gave him a newfound focus.

“It became more serious,” says Allison, a talkative man with glasses and a crew cut. “I thought, ‘Hey, I’m in combat. These could be the last fiddles I ever make in my life. I’m going to make them really count this time.’ That was my attitude – take it to a different level of seriousness.”

As Sgt. Allison points out, violin-making is an ideal hobby when you’re in a place with dodgy electricity — he used hand tools exclusively while hunkered down in his bunker in Ramadi. What turned him on to fiddle-making? An old (Emmy-winning) documentary on PBS’ Nova called “The Great Violin Mystery,” which traced the research of University of Wisconsin physicist William Frederick Fry into “the secret” of Antonio Stradavari’s violin-making. How often have you heard THIS pitch as a reason to join up at your local Army recruiting station?

“I said, ‘That’s it. I’m going back into the Army and buy these tools wherever they are in the world and hopefully get back to Europe and become a violin maker.'”

Besides the movie, Sgt. Allison credits his interest in fiddles to the days when his mom played in the Phoenix symphony. I wonder if they’re paying attention? Nothing yet on M.D. Michael Christie’s blog.