The Violin Society of America offers scholarship assistance for qualifying students of the art of violin and bow making and restoration. For this purpose the VSA maintains three funds: the Kaplan-Goodkind Scholarship Fund, created in memory of founders Albert J. Kaplan and Herbert Goodkind, the Kun Fund, created in memory of the noted Canadian bowmaker Joseph Kun, and the Aram and Rose Nigogosian Fund created in memory of the parents of Vahakn Nigogosian. Teachers and faculty of leading American violin making schools annually submit the names of those students most worthy of scholarship aid.

To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must be a US citizen, have satisfactorily completed at least one full year of study in the program, have shown serious effort, talent and future promise and have financial need. The administrator of the program will verify these criteria and make recommendations to the VSA. For more information please contact

If you are interested in a VSA Scholarship, please contact the program director.

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The scholarship program is funded by gifts from members and others, through donations of items for the Scholarship Auction (held during the competition week), or direct contributions. Please make a contribution to support the training of new violin and bow makers!

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The Violin Society of America 2021 Scholarship recipients

The Chicago School of Violin Making

Victoria McDonald is originally from central Pennsylvania and began playing the violin at six years old.  After graduating from Susquehanna University in 2017 with a BA in Music and a Chemistry minor, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio and gained some industry knowledge while working as an office assistant at Terry Carlin Violins. She also participated in a bow repair workshop with Lynn Hannings at the UNH Violin Craftsmanship Institute in the summer of 2018. While she came to CSVM with no prior violin-making experience, she is immensely grateful for the guidance and encouragement she has received from members of the community and has fallen in love with the trade.  After graduating from the Chicago school, she hopes to continue her slow migration westward with her cat and partner to hone her craft in a shop setting.

My name is Katie Dodd and I'm 21 years old. I'm originally from Ohio and moved to Chicago after highschool in order to go to the Chicago School of Violin Making. I am currently finishing up my second year at school while working at Seman Violins. My first encounter with violin making was at Oberlin College where I took cello lessons and became aware of the summer restoration program. I've been interested in the art of violin making ever since and strive to bring my career back home to Oberlin when I have gained the skills and knowledge to do an effective job in the field. It could be 10 years or 40 from now when that happens, but I'm happy learning from my educators, peers, and colleagues in the meantime.

Originally from New York City, Brian Lee began his studies at the Chicago School of Violin Making in January 2020, and is currently a second-year student working on his third instrument. He is a trained violinist, with a B.M. in violin performance from the Eastman School of Music, where his primary teacher was Mikhail Kopelman, and a M.A. in violin performance from Montclair State University, where his teachers were Weigang Li and Lilit Gampel. While at Eastman, he also studied orchestral repertoire with Juliana Athayde. His other major teachers have included Kurt Nikkanen, Jonathan Strasser, and Jean Dane.

Growing up in New York City, he was fortunate to meet and frequently visit many world renowned violin makers and bow makers, restorers, and experts. He also had the privilege to examine and play numerous examples of instruments and bows by important classical makers, as well as leading contemporary makers. These lofty standards of excellence and ethics would influence his decision to pursue violin making. In addition to the Cremonese masters, he is interested in the instruments and working methods of Venetian and Mantuan makers.

Minnesota State College - SE Technical - Redwing

Cecil Brown: “I am a student of the Redwing violin repair program. Going through school I learned to appreciate all instruments and their roles through attendance of band, guitar, and orchestra. Though nothing fascinated me more than learning how the instruments worked and produced the music so easily heard walking around campus. After multiple days of losing around 3 hours of homework time to instrument research, I began to think about fixing instruments as a future career. The immediate year after high school graduation begged to differ. With limited finances and large bills, I settled for several factory jobs. Fast forward a shorter way than it felt, friends from out of state picked me up from the depths of labor and set me up with an opportunity to attend redwing. I leapt at the chance immediately and began pinching pennies. Now I soon will be completing the violin repair class and moving on to polish my skills in the real world.”

Violin Making School of America

Mitchell Dart, from Hillsborough, North Carolina, discovered his passion for the violin when he began playing the instrument in 4th grade. From that point his enthusiasm towards any other subject was unmatched until he enrolled in his high school’s woodshop where he found a new joy in woodworking. Mitchell’s teacher inspired him to merge his passions and tackle violin making head on. By the end of that school year he had completed his first violin and been accepted into The Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City, where he is currently studying. He has completed his first three instruments at the school. He is excited to learn more about violin making and looks forward to getting to know the people in the community.

Zoe McCadams
is currently a student at the Violin Making School in Salt Lake City.  In 2017, while attending Middle Tennessee State University, she began regular employment at Williams’ Fine Violins in Nashville, Tennessee. There, she discovered her passion for luthiery from watching Dustin Williams, shop owner and VMSA alum, repair instruments. Shortly after, while still attending university, McCadams began apprenticing weekly. Still eager to learn more, McCadams attended the 2018 New Hampshire Violin Craftsmanship Institute and the 2019 ISB convention where she was able to work on her first bass at the conference’s Build-A-Bass program.

After graduating with a bachelors in Music Business in 2019, McCadams moved to SLC and began attending the VMSA. In her spare time she enjoys hiking in Utah’s incredible landscape, rockhounding, baking and playing with her cat, Sputnik.

Cedric Gunn: “I grew up in a small Wyoming town with my parents who instilled in me a deep love of classical music.  I was in orchestra class in Junior and Senior high schools but never had private lessons and played on cheap violin which never did sound good.  At the time I had no idea what a difference a quality instrument could make.  After high school I stopped playing and went on to college with degrees in Molecular Biology and Medical Technology.  I spent the past 18 years working with stem cell transplant patients.  On snowy day here in Salt Lake I stumbled across the Violin Making School of America and the Peter Prier Shop.  Inside Prier, the first chair of the SLC symphony was trying out some old instruments and my love for the violin was rekindled and the possibility of becoming a luthier ignited.  Having no prior wood working experience, I signed up with VMSA to begin forging what will be a second career for me.  Currently I find myself about midpoint in my Luthier training program here at the school and look forward to one day providing quality Luthier services for a community without.”

North Bennett Street School

Eliot Smith
grew up in the mountains of North Carolina in a musical family. He started playing Suzuki violin at 2 years old and later spent 5 years as a touring musician. He realized that as much as he enjoyed the music, what really inspired him was the instruments. He began building violins with Joe Thrift who encouraged Eliot to attend North Bennet Street School and study with Roman Barnas. Now in his second year, Eliot is grateful for the financial support from the VSA.

Ada Schenck
is a young maker and artist from rural Vermont. She grew up in her father’s cabinet shop, played fiddle for ten years, and was a professional hand weaver in her teens, so violin making is a natural fit. She was homeschooled her whole life, and entered the Violin Making and Repair program under Roman Barnas at the North Bennet Street School at age 18. Ada is now in her second year of study, currently building three violins and a viola, and has been diving deep into varnish making in the past semester. She is grateful for the financial support from the VSA and looks forward to being in the industry for years to come. 

The Violin Society of America 2020 Scholarship recipients

Violin Making School of America

Jarad Suchoski was born and raised in Salt Lake City. "I've always had a deep love and appreciation for stringed instruments; in both their beautiful sound and aesthetic and have known that I wanted to be a maker since I was 18 living around the corner from VMSA. Years later I am finally making that dream a reality. I look forward to providing quality and beautiful instruments to everyone for the rest of my life."

Andrew Stolfa was raised in North Texas, and completed a Bachelor of Music at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, where he discovered his passion for stringed instruments by playing bass in the orchestra. Feeling the need for formal training in instrument making, Andrew moved to Salt Lake City and enrolled in Violin Making School in 2019. As Andrew’s second year of violin making school begins, he is looking forward to the completion of his first two violins in the white, as well as the set up of his freshly varnished bass. Andrew is honored to receive the support provided by the Violin Society of America.

Aaron Goll was born in Ashland Ohio before moving to Gainesville Florida. In Florida he was able to study violin repair and restoration at Gainesville Violins, then owned by Jan van Rooyen. In 2016 Jan retired as shop owner and Aaron made the decision to move to Ann Arbor Michigan. There he worked for Shar Music for 1 year. Deciding to channel his focus into making, Aaron moved to Salt Lake City where he currently studies at the Violin Making School of America while working at Peter Prier and Sons Violins.

Matthew Estlack, a Double Bassist born and raised in the heart of Texas, always had a fascination with woodworking and musical instruments. After graduating from the University of North Texas with a Degree in Performance on the Double Bass, He taught privately as well as performed with the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra. Luthiery was the perfect way to bring both passions together, and the VMSA was the perfect place to do it. Moving to Salt Lake City, Utah was an arduous but necessary step, so that he may one day become a well regarded maker in the Double Bass community. In the future He hopes to build and repair Fine Double Basses all across the world, and also strives to bring the Double Bass to the forefront of the luthiery world.

Benjamin Ward, 21, is a student at the Violin Making School of America, in his final year of instruction. Having started playing the violin from a young age, Benjamin took a strong interest in the forms and the construction of the violin. This passion, along with the support of some local bow restorers led Benjamin to enroll at the VMSA. Benjamin hopes to further his education and experience after school, and is very thankful to receive support from the VSA to support this.

Steve Eddy: I am a native of California. Violin dealing and playing have almost always been a part of my life. I began playing in grammar school and I sold my first violin in middle school. Upon my graduation with a degree in business administration from Pepperdine University in Malibu, I spent many years in the corporate world of insurance. The corporate world was never my passion but it paid the bills. Eventually, I followed my true passion and became a full time violin dealer. In 2015, I became ill and was placed on the heart transplant list. During that time, I had time to reflect and to think about what I’d do if I lived. Overwhelmingly, violin making was the answer. It was a natural progression to become a violin maker. In 2017, I received my new heart and now I am following my passion full time.

Minnesota State College - SE Technical - Redwing

Quinn Hallenbeck grew up in rural California and moved to Seattle, WA after earning a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography at UC Irvine. Quinn started playing the violin in 2019 and quickly became fascinated with lutherie. The violin presents a paradox: historical, scientific, aesthetic, and sociological. An object that appears pleasingly simple to the eye yet taking years of dedicated attention to render, existing in a confluence of heritage mythologies and precision research. The foundational education at the Red Wing Program has only pique her interest and she plans to spend the next lifetime refining her skills in repair and restoration working with historic instruments and bows as well as collaborating with new makers. Quinn heartily looks forward to pouring through the literature, data, and observations in the VSA archives and beyond, working to serve the violin and the people who love it.

Angela Thompson was raised in Bowling Green, Ohio. She began playing the violin at the age of eight and knew it would be a lifelong passion. She discovered interest in violin making after watching a documentary on the craft during a class in the eighth grade. After high school, she decided to study classical music performance at Bowling Green State University, but transferred to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a performance degree in other musical styles. In the years following her graduation in 2016, she still desired to learn more about the instrument, leading her to attend the violin repair program at Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing, Minnesota. During her study, she has greatly enjoyed and excelled in learning the craft and is currently restoring two violins from her personal collection. She hopes to work closely with a violin maker after graduation to learn more about the making process.

The Chicago School of Violin Making

Luke Eliot McDonnell: "I have absolutely loved anything detailed and hands-on from the time I was born. From a very young age I have been fixing cars, computers, and doing cabinetry. I was so young when I first started taking things apart and fixing them that I don't even remember when I started. My first introduction to very fine woodwork was at the age of 15, when I apprenticed under Rick Thacker, a luthier, at a quickly growing small business called Plum Grove Music. Rick is a graduate of CSVM and started a music business shortly after his studies there. I began in his shop with lighter repairs and processing rentals (a lot of rentals). I very quickly excelled at any complex repairs and restorations I was given. I loved the challenge so much that I started getting as much information on methodology of repair, and testing the finest restoration techniques I could find. I also recieved guidance from several friends who are shop owners and luthiers. I was instantly obsessed. Within a few years I was the only technician executing advanced repairs within the company and I started managing and instructing the shop employees and apprentices. I stepped out of the management position two years later when starting my studies at The Chicago School of Violin Making in 2017, under Fred Thompson and Becky Elliot. I still work full-time for Plum Grove Music doing all of the advanced restorations from my personal workspace in Chicago. I'm finishing my CSVM degree under the new CSVM director Antoine Nedelec. After this I will avidly pursue a career in full-time luthiery."

Kaelyn Finwall was raised in Ashland, Oregon where she found her love of the arts, especially the violin. She began her experience in instrument repair apprenticing at Ashland’s Bellwood Violins. She was inspired to continue learning about the trade an instrument creation and was eager to begin her studies at the Chicago school of violin making. Now having been a student for just over a year she has completed two violins in the white and her third instrument, a viola, is underway. Upon graduation she plans to return to her hometown and continue working with local makers and repair shops.

My name is Trevor Austin I live in Sugar Grove IL, I  am the 7th child of 8. My mother and father studied in violin making. My father and sister Holly graduated from the Chicago School of Violin making, where I am currently attending. My mother and father opened up a shop here in Sugar Grove which has been open 39 years now. I plan on finishing school and returning to the shop and helping run the business.

Claire Rowan, 24, previously lived in Colorado before moving to Chicago to pursue violin making. She started with a background in fine arts with oil paintings and figure drawings. Claire found violin making as a career through an animated film, Whisper of the Heart, where the protagonist was a luthier. Inspired and without any previous background to the violin, she took a leap of faith two and a half years ago to attend the Chicago School of Violin Making. Studying to be a luthier has become a passion and one of the most rewarding steps in her life. Claire is on track to graduate this upcoming December and looking at extending her career to outside the States.

North Bennett Street School

Veronica Vaillancourt grew up in a musical family on Long Island, New York. After studying history and music in college, she worked as a receptionist at Reed Yeboah Fine Violins in New York City, where she learned invaluable lessons about classical and contemporary instruments, as well as the day-to-day operations of a top flight violin shop. She then made her way to Boston to study violin making at the North Bennet Street School under Roman Barnas, where she is currently in her second year.

Click here to view previous scholarship recipients!

The Violin Society of America
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