Luthier Adam Day
Young Violin Maker Takes His Craft Seriously
Salt Lake Tribune
By Justin E. Sheen
Friday September 9, 2005
Having played the violin since the age of 3, Murray violin maker Adam Day is accustomed to tackling challenges while young.
"I was 15 when I went to a week-long violin-making course in California. Of course, I was the only one under 30. Everyone laughed when they saw I was going to make a violin," he said.
Twelve years and 10 highly praised violins later, no one is laughing, even if Day is still surprisingly young to have an established reputation in the competitive violin-making industry.
"The idea came from my violin teacher, Kelly Richardson. He had noticed an artistic talent and actually had a dream that I was a violin maker," Day said from his Murray workshop, above Day-Murray music. "Paul Hart, who runs The Tree's Breath violin-making school in Mount Pleasant, was my teacher for about four years."
Through Richardson, Day was able to place his first few violins in the hands of some of the world's great violinists, all of whom praised the quality, workmanship and tone of his violins.
Day proudly displays a handwritten note from former Utah Symphony conductor and world-renowned violinist Joseph Silverstein, who played Day's first and third violins. "I found it to be of very high quality in workmanship and sound," the signed note reads.
World-renowned violinist Joshua Bell, who played the score for the film "The Red Violin," was similarly generous in his compliments for Day's instruments. "Thanks for letting me play your fantastic violin," Bell said. "It had a rich sound [with] high overtones. The violin has an even quality sound through the full range."
Igor Grupman, another world-famous violinist, went even further, saying, "It sounds as close to a Guarneria as any new violin I have ever heard." A Guarneria is a violin made contemporary with (and in Day's opinion, comparable to) a Stradivarius.
"I want to compete with the great masters," said Day, an accomplished violinist himself. "That's what I'm trying to achieve. I have played my violin against Stradivarius and Guarnerias and my violin holds its own. It hasn't been blown out of the water."
Day understandably takes his craft very seriously. "It's a scientific art," he said. Reluctant to share his unique secrets of the trade, Day gives few details regarding his signature workmanship.
"I pay particular attention to the quality of the wood, and matching the top and back to get the optimal sound. The other steps, such as the arching, graduation and placements of the f-holes, are most critical in achieving a warm, rich, well-projected instrument. Each step that I do is as important as the next."
Day said roughly 200 hours of labor go into each of his violins. "I take my time to ensure that each step is handled with extreme care and precision."
But for Day, a good violin is far more than just the quality of the wood or the care and precision of the craftsman.
"A great violin maker can only be great if he can play as well as he can build. One who doesn't play the violin won't have the ear training to make the fine-tuned adjustments after the violin has been built. It's a whole other art, figuring out the location of the bridge, sound posts [and] length of the strings. . . . It's a big deal to be able to play well," he said.
Day's talent and attention to detail have garnered the praise and admiration of some of the nation's most respected teachers. At a recent Suzuki Camp, legendary violin instructor William Starr was helping a pupil select a new violin. Before purchasing a vintage 1920 instrument for $19,000, Starr tried one of Day's six-month old violins.
"He and all the others agreed that my violin sounded richer and older, more mature, in sound quality. They also all agreed that it had the better projection and playability of the two, and for half the price," Day said.
As his notoriety spreads, Day's dedication to the quality of his work only increases, resulting in a waiting list for a genuine, personalized Adam Day violin.
"I may pass my secrets through my kids, Ellie or Nathan," each of whom have had an Adam Day violin named after them, "but for now, I'm just going to focus on creating professional violins at a reasonable price."
This is excellent news for regional violinists such as Oregon's Jason Swigert.
"I have had the privilege to play recitals and concerts on several of [Day's] instruments. Each displays remarkable playability and even response across all registers. . . . Anything complimentary that could be said about a luthier [violin maker] and craftsman, I would say about Adam and I consider it a great pleasure to play his instruments," Swigert said.
Everett Peterson, a member of the Orchestra at Temple Square, who is waiting for Day to finish the violin he commissioned, agrees.
"It has been my great pleasure to perform with several violins made by Adam Day. The splendid tone of his violins ranks among the very finest of our generation."