For over a decade, Kennedy Violins has been one of the nation’s premiere sources of affordable string instruments through kennedyviolins.com, an online store for instruments, accessories, sheet music, and more. Kennedy Violins is now opening its first retail store serving the Portland-Vancouver area. Located at 508 SE 117th Avenue in Vancouver, Washington, this new location is easily accessed from the Mill Plain Exit off of I-205, just across from Cinetopia.
In addition to string instruments for purchase and rental, Kennedy Violins offers lessons in its private studio and instrument repair by a staff of professional luthiers in a full-service violin shop. The large showroom of Kennedy Violins’ extensive line of instruments also serves as an acoustically vibrant performance venue for recitals and concerts by local performers.
Grand Opening Concerts
A grand opening concert featuring 2011 National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest winner Aarun Carter will be held on Saturday, March 2 at 1:00pm and 2:00pm. Admission is free with a reception to follow. A second grand opening concert featuring violinist Emily Wu will be held on Friday, March 15 at 7:00pm, also with free admission and a reception following.
How It All Began
Joel Kennedy, founder and president of Kennedy Violins, is an Oregon native and professional violist. After completing his education at the Eastman School of Music in New York, he began his career as a music educator and professional violist. Joel currently plays with the Portland Opera and privately instructs up-and-coming youth performers.
The seed for Kennedy Violins was planted years ago when Joel became frustrated by the overpriced and poor-quality string instruments his students were purchasing. These mass-produced violins made with poor materials and improper setup were hardly playable—especially for beginners. He quickly became determined to find instruments for his students that not only cost less, but were of higher quality.
Joel discovered that the only way to provide genuinely superior instruments was to work directly with the makers, ensuring that each individual instrument be built according to his specifications and standards. By forging relationships with instrument makers around the world, Joel established a way to provide students with superior violins and violas at a lower cost.
A Unique Approach
This unique approach to purchasing directly from the maker led to the formation of Kennedy Violins, which since 2000, has brought an impressive collection of high-quality, low-cost string instruments to musicians throughout the U.S. and Canada. These instruments are not only satisfying to play, but also beautifully handcrafted.
The ability to find unique solutions to common problems is a skill Joel learned in his childhood. While a young and rapidly advancing music student, Joel needed a high-quality viola. At the time, however, advanced student violas cost between $8,000 and $12,000—far out of the range of affordability for his family. Tom Kennedy, Joel’s father, happened to be a skilled woodworker who knew how to solve the problem. Although he had never built a musical instrument, he learned the luthier trade to craft a viola for his son.
Since then, Joel has played exclusively on violas that built by his father. Tom Kennedy’s handcrafted violas are now being played in professional symphony orchestras around the world.
When Joel began Kennedy Violins thirteen years ago, he has had the pleasure of extending his father’s determination by providing instruments to students around the country. Now Joel’s youngest six-year-old daughter plays on a Kennedy Violins instrument. The love of music and determination to make it accessible to everyone has now reached a third generation.
More Than Just a Music Store
Over the years, Kennedy Violins has become more than just a music store; it represents the entire music community. In addition to selling and renting instruments, Kennedy Violins has been a long-time supporter of school and community music programs across the country through the donation of instruments, cases, and bows to students in need. Beyond these and other charitable contributions, the organization is a resource for music education and performance opportunities.
In a world where the arts are being pushed from center stage, organizations like Kennedy Violins bring promise to the music community both in the Northwest and throughout the country. More than ever, the affordability of musical instruments matters to budgeting families hoping to provide a musical education for their children. And thanks to visionaries like founder Joel Kennedy, these hopes are being brought to fruition—one violin at a time.