The 2014 Poetry Contest Winners!

We are excited to announce the results of Kennedy Violins‘ 2014 Poetry Contest! As always, it was very difficult to judge with such fantastic entries. Thank you to all the magnificent poets who submitted their work this year!



So without further ado, CONGRATULATIONS winner Caroline Castleton for her beautifully crafted entry! Caroline will receive Kennedy Violins’ Premium Accessory Package as the grand prize!

We shall keep playing!
We shall keep playing, for poor souls bulge,
too swollen for inarticulate frames.
Great organizers of sound consigned to us
St. Matthews, Violettas, Tills–a host of names.
We bring blood and breath;
They pull stoppers from welled-up humanity.
We shall keep playing,
and give utterance to our sensibilities.
As Bach made life, Beethoven storm,
Berg a scream, Debussy a sigh,
We, then, shall keep playing, you and I.

– Caroline Castleton


Three honorable mentions will receive awards (and tuners as prizes!) this year as the judges could not settle on just two. Congratulations to Veeresh Taranalli, Rachel Richardson, and Liza Lehmkuhl Walters!

Life is but a set of strings to be pulled,
To make a song as best as we could,
Touch the hearts of one and all it should,
Then gift a memory to life, we would.

– Veeresh Taranall


“Is that a guitar?”
Or “Should have played piccolo.”
To such I say, “No.”

-Rachel Richardson


I grew up believing my large hands and long fingers were a curse–until your neck was cradled in my palm.

I felt like such an oddball with my used station wagon–but it was important for you to travel safely

I carried you on my shoulder, against my chest and hip, over long distances, in heels, and responded to stares and questions with a breezy “sometimes it’s awkward, but you get used to it”–you were my responsibility.

And then college came and we spent less time together. Cross country moves, weddings, births, and now you have a corner in a spare room.

I remember how I felt you rumble in my belly and quiver in my hands and how my fingers arched and flexed as they traced the length of you.

You beautiful girl.

You beautiful bass.

– Liza Lehmkuhl Walters


Thanks again to all who entered — we can’t wait to see what you enter next year! Stay tuned to the blog and follow Kennedy Violins on Facebook page for news of upcoming contests including our annual photo contest!

History Preserved: Guarneri, Amati & Stradivarius Violins

This weekend I had the great opportunity to travel to New York City and spend time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was especially excited about their wing dedicated to musical instruments with some incredible stringed instruments on display, including original violins by makers Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri as well as other 16th century violins from the Cremona school in Italy.

“The Antonius” Violin by Antonio Stradivari,1711, during Stradivari’s “Golden Period.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY)

Evolution of the Modern Violin

The Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari families actively produced instruments between 1550 and 1744 in the same region of Cremona, during which time the modern violin as we know it came to life. While string instruments have evolved over time with various body shapes and string counts, very few changes have been made to the violin that was standardized during this time as a four-stringed instrument with its signature shape and size, strung in perfect fifths (E, A, D, G).

You may notice slight differences in design between the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivarius violins, but they are clearly instruments in same family with the same tuning, string count, and contours. These violins seem so familiar because they are; almost all violins today are made with Stradivari, Amati, or Guarneri body designs.

1731 “Baltic” Violin by Giuseppe Guarneri “del Gesu” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY)

For example, if you take a look at all the violins we carry at Kennedy Violins, you’ll notice that they are all made with the same standard measurements (body length, string length, string height, fingerboard length and so on—take a look at our violin measurements chart) used by luthiers today. Most are made and shaped with an original Stradivari design.

Preserved Historical Violin

As you may know, some instruments preserved from these hundreds of years ago are still in use. Most notably, there are 650 Stradivari violins still in existence, ranging in value from between hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. In 2010 a Stradivari violin sold at auction for $3,600,000, a record high.

Updating to a Modern Setup

Even though these 16th, 17th, and 18th century violins are in tact and in use, the ones in performance today have actually been modernized with fittings that make them playable by today’s standards.

I found the diagram below so fascinating. From it we learn that a Stradivarius violin in performance today has been OPTIMIZED to compete with modern violins to catch up with the evolution of the violin that has taken place over the centuries. These evolutionary changes in setup have made the violin more easily playable with more projection and better sound quality.

What’s changed? Here’s a visual comparing Baroque violin setup to modern violin setup.

What’s New?

Updates from the Baroque setup to the modern setup include

  • a new neck that angles back
  • a longer fingerboard that allows performance in higher octaves
  • a modern bridge
  • new strings, often synthetic with metal winding instead of strings made from animal gut
  • a modern tailpiece
  • a longer bass bar in the interior of the violin

What’s the Same?

What remains “untouched”? Essentially, the body of the violin (back, face, and ribs) and the scroll/pegbox.  This may not sound like much, but it’s the body of the instrument that most greatly affects the sound. The quality of wood and the precise gradations in the carving and thickness of the plates make these instruments sound like they do.

In this sense, the restored Baroque instruments retain their authenticity because no one can replicate the carving of the plates done by the original masters themselves.

Violin by Andrea Amati, Cremona, ca. 1569, one of the “earliest surviving violins.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY)

The Legacy Lives On

If you get a chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art or other museums throughout the world with string instruments on display, definitely take the opportunity to see these preserved treasures. Better yet, you can hear a Stradivarius performed live (or on record) by modern violinists including Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman.

To see and hear these pieces of history alive is truly a privilege as we remember the master makers who brought to life music as we know it today. Here’s to the continuation of their legacy through the practice and performance of music forever!


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How to Keep Classical Music Alive

How can we keep classical music from ending up six feet under? (Photo by Ben Salter)

There are plenty of saucy articles floating around questioning classical music as a dying art, such as these treasures:


Each of these articles brings up some very good points about the past, present, and future of classical music. So is it dying? And if there is any truth to the conclusion that classical music is a dying art, is there anything we can do to stop it?


I don’t know what all the statistics are — ticket sales, CD and digital music sales, concert attendance, radio traffic — but I do know that the best way to

  • keep a plant alive is to water it.
  • lose weight is to eat less and exercise more.
  • accomplish something is the work hard.
  • make friends is to meet people.
  • learn an instrument is to practice.

So when you apply this principle of ACTION in the quest to keep classical music alive, the trick to making a difference in the music community is to do something about it.


At Kennedy Violins we are really serious about keeping classical music alive. That’s why our biggest priority is to get quality instruments into the hands of anyone and everyone who has any desire to play. We try our best to provide instruments, rentals, and lessons at the most affordable price for the quality because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to make music without unnecessary costs as a stumbling block.

I’ll use a gardening analogy. If you want to grow a garden full of produce or flowers or fruits, the first step is to plant seeds. Likewise, if you want beautiful music to be produced in your community, the first step is to get instruments into the hands of the people, especially the children.

Not to say that children are the only one who can play, but the majority of professional musicians who have found success started playing at a young age.


Orchestra concert attendance, ticket sales, and symphony bankruptcies are only a portion of the picture. In the grand scheme, the continuation of music as a lasting tradition is based on three foundational elements:

  1. EducationIn order for music to be produced, musicians must be taught music performance, theory, and history.
  2. Performance In order for music to be produced, musicians must perform what they have learned.
  3. ListeningIn order for music to be appreciated, it must be listened to by people who care.

With that said, there are SO many ways to promote the ongoing exercise of these three foundational elements. I would encourage everyone to take part in these exercises by learning, playing, and listening to music. It’s all about INVOLVEMENT and faith in the lasting value of classical music as an important tradition worth perpetuating. May we each do all we can to support this worthwhile and enriching art.

Enter Kennedy Violins’ Annual Poetry Contest!

PoetryContestHeader‘Tis the season for expressions of love! In celebration of Valentine’s Day, why not write a poem dedicated to the true love of your life that will

                  never let you down,

                  always be there for you,

                  embody how you feel,

                  warm your heart,

                  and last forever.

That’s right: MUSIC!


  • WHO: You and your haiku, limerick, sonnet, ode, or other form of verse in any length.  (Up to three entries per poet.)
  • WHAT: A poem about MUSIC — how much you love to play, listen, or experience.
  • WHERE: Post it on KENNEDY VIOLINS FACEBOOK PAGE (and “like” us while you’re at it!)
  • WHEN: Submit between 12:00am PST on February 1, 2014  and 11:59pm PST on February 14, 2014.
  • WHY: Because we love music, and we love YOU. Period. Oh, and you could win the grand prize —a free Premium Package of accessories!
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Read last year’s winning poem!

*NOTE: Because entries are submitted through Facebook, Facebook terms and conditions apply to all submissions. Additionally, all poetry must be the original work of the author never previously published online or in print. May the muse be with you!

(Rose & Sheet Music photo by Summers Skye Photography)