Alvin Thomas King

In addition to Karl Roy and Carleen Hutchins, I have been fortunate to work with a number of other excellent teachers. Deena Zalkind Spear and her husband Robert had a violin shop in the Washington, DC area for many years. Deena taught me instrument setup as well as classical violinmaking.

Geary Baese taught me the Classical Italian approach to varnishing, based on his many years of research into the ancient recipes and practices. He also shared his ideas about the Classical Cremonese principles of violin design, the basis, he believes, for the distinctive and desirable tone quality.

Terry Borman--who I think makes some of the finest and most beautiful violins today--taught me his approach to construction, varnishing, and setup.

My very first teacher was Willis M. Gault, a long-time maker in the Washington, D. C. area. I came to Willis as a cellist who thought it would be interesting and fun to make an instrument for myself. When I told Willis that I wished to make a cello, he said: “First, we make a violin.” A wise man. Although I had played the cello for almost all my life, no one really understands how large a cello is until he or she has made a violin and contemplates what the size difference means in terms of work. Gregg Alf, who passed through the Gault School of Violinmaking a few years before me, has written of him: “although Willis was not known for his precision of cut, he taught me perhaps the greatest lesson: to truly love the role of helping each instrument to emerge.” [The Strad, November 1995] I share and hope I display Willis's enthusiasm and love for this craft.
I have been privileged to study with two of the world’s great teachers.

Above all, I thank Geigenbaumeister Karl Roy for training my eye and hand. Formerly the Director of the State School for Violinmaking in Mittenwald, Bavaria, Karl Roy was both a master teacher and an extraordinary craftsman. I worked with him for many years, ultimately becoming his assistant and responsible for teaching his class when he could not. Claire Curtis and I assisted Karl in the preparation of his monumental book, The Violin: Its History and Making, [published 2007].

Dr. Carleen Hutchins, renowned for her path breaking research into violin acoustics, taught me to think about the physical basis for what we hear in a fine violin. She is best known for her work on plate graduation, but her methods and interests went far beyond that, to include air and body modes in the assembled instrument, wood, grounds, and varnishes. Thanks to Carleen, I became an active member of the Catgut Acoustical Society, serving as Trustee, Society President, and Editor of the CAS Journal.
Alvin Thomas
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As a violinmaker, I create beautiful violins, violas, and cellos that are a joy to play and a pleasure to hear.