classissima,, Ifshin Violins, Luthier, violin making

Haide Lin, the Cultural Revolution, and Violin-making (but don’t forget the piano!)

DSC06099 Don’t worry. This blog hasn’t been transformed into a Violin Journey. It’s only a side-trip to a universe that I knew before immersing myself in the piano. In fact, this signature piece, re-recorded for the nth time last night, is a reminder that my heart sings without a bow and four strings.

Having pardoned myself for a departure to the violin cosmos, I had an excuse to wax poetic once again about Ifshin violins in El Cerrito and its violin-making, string repair and restoration activities.

As it happened, I picked up my re-haired bow yesterday, and was led to an area I’d not previously inhabited. Jay Ifshin, owner, allowed me to cross the threshold into what looked like a busy, intensified workshop with dedicated artisans plying their trade.


At the helm was Haide Lin, a Chinese emigre to the US (1986) who allowed me a few close-up photo opportunities before I sat down to converse with him.



This was an impromptu exchange with an esteemed violin maker whose first name, Haide is partnered with Jay (Ifshin) in the Jay Haide signature violin. (Take note that the master craftsman has amassed a dizzying list of violin-making competition victories that put him in a league of his own)

A poster bears the autograph:


Here’s a living, breathing testimony to the beauty of a Jay Haide original. (Elmar Oliveira plays one, linked through Ifshin’s website to You Tube)

click the URL within the paragraph about Oliveira (under his photo)

For more information about the Jay Haide line of string instruments:


Haide Lin reeled off an autobiography that was a flood of poignant events framed in part by China’s Cultural Revolution set in motion by Communist Party Chairman Mao during the period 1966-76. (“It was a social-political movement with a stated goal of enforcing socialism in the country by removing capitalist, traditional and cultural elements from Chinese society, and to impose Maoist orthodoxy within the Party”–paraphrase WIKI)

Perhaps, Lin’s violin-making activity was not affected by the political tide since his mid-70s study in Canton (his birthplace) had no Bach or Handel scores entwined. In truth, the government at the height of its vigilance, punished those who dared to perform works of church composers. (Lin reminded that he played Mozart on the piano, without a problem)

Even before Haide Lin had embarked upon schooling to become a Luthier (1975-77) he was a violinist in the Canton orchestra which recorded movie tracks LIVE as a film was playing on screen. He mentioned the challenge of reading quickly rendered scores that were adapted on site by composers.

My ears were attuned to Lin’s every word, as he noted that Lang Lang, pianist, was probably in diapers when Lin was musically active and training to be a violin- maker in a well-reputed Canton school. (To gain admission, he had pass a tough exam) Not only were his ears tested, but he had to pass visual acuity and fine motor movement screening.

Lin showed me a picture of his 1977 graduating class. (Pardon the ipod-driven glare, but this was the clearest image of Haide, pictured top row, fourth in from left)



To flesh out the highlights of my short, but in depth conversation with Haide, I listed facts gleaned that are mind-boggling:

It takes this well-respected Luthier about “150 hours” to craft a violin from scratch to finish. (He brings his work home with him)

The Cremona school of violin-makers including Stradivari and Guarneri have been his formidable models.

Jay Haide violins are connected to Canton, China were they are sold, repaired and restored.

Lin makes violins of all sizes, and dips deeply into the universe of violas, cellos and string basses.

Not to overlook his mentoring activity.

As we chatted, one of Haide’s side-by-side students worked intensively on a double bass bridge.




And it’s a must to acknowledge, Haidi Lin, family man.–father of three grown children (two daughters and a son) with UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and M.I.T. in their CV’s.


As I was leaving Ifshin’s I panned around the space with my digital cam, capturing a few favored poster images, and an eye-catching mounted piece I had overlooked in my maiden visit last week.

Once again, a big Thank You goes to Jay and Haide for making my afternoon memorable.



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