This is a very interesting video from The Chronicle of Higher Education, produced by Lisa Philip about The Peabody Conservatory, the changes in the classical music performance field and the challenges training a new generation of musicians who need new skill-sets in order to succeed in a rapidly changing employment marketplace.
The truth is that there are far fewer well-paid positions for classical musicians in orchestra and symphony settings and that this change needs to be not only reflected in our major conservatories and other institutions of higher musical education, but in the violin business as well.
In this video, Peabody is actually acknowledging the shifts in the cultural and economic landscape that present new challenges for musical professionals and the institutions that train them. These changes should be reflected in the violin business as well insofar that the current concepts surrounding the purchase of string instruments and bows need to evolve. Ideas of valuation vs function must be confronted and discussed. The era may be rapidly approaching where students and young professional musicians may not be able to afford the exorbitant and constantly increasing prices charged for older (Italian) instruments and (French) bows due to the high cost of education and the new realities of employment.
The violin business is increasingly out of step with any real economy of supply and demand, and even with wholesale auction prices. It is becoming a landscape where dealers, experts, and shop owners arbitrarily create prices and values – conflicting with the real-life needs and economic realities of the musicians which the field claims to serve.
A re-focusing on actual function over market value needs to occur. The truth is that there are many, many over-priced poorly functioning instruments and bows out there – that have high prices due of provenance, geographical origin, and age. While it is true that real items which function well, made by the acknowledged masters of the past, must have values commensurate with their beauty and rarity, the fact is that increasing numbers of students and professionals cannot afford these items. The future of the violin business, I believe, lies in finding, restoring, and selling bows and instruments that first and foremost work as musical tools as well as in a re-appreciation of the work of new makers. By re-focusing on function, we can better provide quality inventory in every price range and meet the needs of an increasing cash-strapped, underpaid new generation of musicians.