Violin Making Program Holds Open House During Hanging of Greens Event – UNM Newsroom | Start Classified

The University of New Mexico Violin Making Program is hosting an open house on the same night as the Green Hanging ceremonies on Friday, December 3rd. Visitors will have the opportunity to view the tools and wood used, the work in progress by the students on display and see if they would like to participate in this unique program that is part of the New Mexico Musical Heritage Project.

The open house will be held in Masley Hall, Room 118 (Building 68) from 5pm to 8pm.

Open day of the UNM violin workshop
Friday, December 3, 5-8 p.m. during UNM’s annual Hanging of the Greens event
Masley Hall, Room 118

“The violin making program at UNM offers an amazingly unique experience. How many people can claim to have made a violin? It can be an incredibly complicated and demanding process, but also incredibly rewarding. We are very proud of our work and want to share it with others, invite them into our creative space and make them aware of our program. We’re also hoping to raise some funds, said Klarissa Petti, who teaches the class.

Hand tools are used to make violins

Petti has a music degree from UNM and plays the cello. She is also a luthier with her own business making cellos, violins and violas.

The class currently consists of seven students with a maximum capacity of nine. Petti anticipates having a few vacancies for the spring semester.

As the program has become better known in the community, the program’s student demographics have shifted more towards community members, many in their 50’s and 60’s. Currently the program has two students, one majoring in Nursing and the other majoring in Film and Digital Arts; a UNM English professor; a UNM alumni with a master’s degree in Chicano Studies; three community members, including an ICU nurse and musician, a regional analyst for the US Forest Service and a blacksmith, and a district appraiser and woodworker.


“In the past, we’ve had students from all disciplines — music, engineering, math, biology, psychology, geography, ceramics, and others,” Petti said. “Most of the students who attend the course have some interest in music. Maybe they play an instrument or have an interest in it. Others like to work with their hands, either woodworking or some other form. Some have never touched an instrument, others are accomplished instrumentalists. Some have no experience in woodworking, others are used to working with their hands. We like to have a few musicians in the class, particularly violinists, as part of our program is learning about Southwest folk music. Students who do not play the violin have weekly group lessons during classes while the more advanced students study our repertoire.”

Building a violin is not a quick and easy experience. The use of power tools is minimal. Instead, students use hand tools such as gouges, chisels, planes, and scrapers. In four to six semesters, a student can take several hundred hours to build their first violin. That seems like a lot until you consider they only have six official classes a week and four hours of optional open studio time, Petti noted.

Petti said the mixed group of students enjoy the sense of camaraderie that comes when the same students and classmates are together for multiple semesters.

“Everyone is always so excited for the other when they hit a major milestone or did a particularly good job on something. We regret each other’s disappointments and celebrate their successes. We invest in each other’s work, every violin belongs to all, and we are just as proud, if not more, of the work of our colleagues than of our own,” she remarked.

UNM is one of only two universities in the country with a violin making program and the only one where students also learn the folk music of the region.

“A university embraces and embraces the totality of human experience. In a school like UNM that prides itself on scientific research, art and science can coexist and even complement each other,” said Petti.

Anyone interested in the violin making program can contact Petti for questions and more information.

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