Making Violins in Switzerland

The wood. The history. The craft. Creating violin makers in Brienz, Switzerland.

By Marilyn Heimburger

The beautiful lakeside town of Brienz, Switzerland has long been known for its woodcarving tradition. The forests surrounding Lake Brienz have for centuries provided the raw materials with which Switzerland’s only wood carving school, founded in Brienz in 1884, continues to train young craftsmen.

Not as well known, however, is another very special school in Brienz that also takes advantage of the local wood supply.  The Swiss violin-making school, Geigenbauschule Brienz, founded in 1944, is the only school in Switzerland that specializes in violin making.  Located in an 18th century farmhouse on a quiet street in the center of Brienz, the school offers a four-year training course to students from all over Europe. Those who successfully complete the course receive a diploma and Swiss certification as a “qualified violin maker” and can service, repair and restore instruments for other musicians.

What qualifies a student as a candidate for this special profession?  The Geigenbauschule Brienz requires students to have the qualities of “manual dexterity, a good feeling for form and color, spatial awareness, good eyesight, a good ear and an aptitude for patient, painstaking work” as necessary for violin making.  Some experience in playing an instrument in the violin family is also preferred in those wishing to apply.

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