The violin making program hosts an open day at the Hanging of Greens event: UNM Newsroom

The University of New Mexico’s violin making program is hosting an open house the same night as the Green Hanging festivities on Friday, December 3. Visitors will have the chance to see the tools and woods used, see student work in progress presented, and see if they would like to participate in this unique program, which is part of the New Mexico Musical Heritage Project.

The Open House is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Masley Hall, Room 118 (Building 68).

Open house of the UNM violin making workshop
Friday, December 3, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at UNM’s annual Hanging of the Greens event
Masley Hall, room 118

“The UNM violin making program offers an incredibly unique experience. How many people can say they made a violin? It can be an incredibly complex and demanding process, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. We are very proud of our work and want to share it with others, invite them to our creative space and publicize our program. We’re also hoping to do some fundraising, said Klarissa Petti, who teaches the class.

Hand tools are used to make violins

Petti graduated in music from UNM and plays the cello. In addition, she is a violin maker with her own cello, violin and viola manufacturing company.

There are currently seven students in the class, with a maximum capacity of nine. Petti plans to have a few slots open for the spring semester.

As the program has become more widely known in the community, the demographics of the program’s students have shifted more towards community members, many of whom are in their 50s and 60s. Currently, the program has two undergraduate students, one majoring in Nursing and the other in Film and Digital Arts; an English teacher from UNM; a UNM alumnus with a master’s degree in Chicano studies; three community members, including an intensive care nurse and musician, a regional analyst for the US Forest Service and a blacksmith, as well as a county assessor and carpenter.


“Historically, we have had students from all disciplines – music, engineering, mathematics, biology, psychology, geography, ceramics and others,” Petti said. “Most of the students who take the course are interested in music. They may or may have an interest in playing an instrument. Others like to work with their hands, be it 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, especially violinists, as part of our program is learning to play Southwestern folk music. Students who do not play the violin have weekly group lessons during class while more advanced students learn our repertoire.

Making 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. It can take several hundred hours for a student to make their first violin in four to six semesters. That sounds like a lot until you consider that they only have six official hours of class per week and four hours of optional studio free time, Petti noted.

Petti said the diverse group of students enjoy the sense of camaraderie that comes from having the same students and classmates together for multiple semesters.

“Everyone is always so excited for everyone whenever they reach a milestone or do a particularly good job at something. We sympathize with each other’s disappointments and celebrate their successes. We invest in the work of each one, each violin becomes that of all and we are just as, if not more, proud of the work of our colleagues as of ours ”, she observed.

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

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

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

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