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Greg Walke

Greg Walke

Forging his own path 

Greg Walke began making musical instruments in 1979. After receiving a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biology at the University of Guelph, he attended the Welsh School of Violin Making and Repair. Now, that’s not the typical path for a violin maker, but Greg’s not your typical luthier. His journey to his chosen vocation was filled with luck, happenstance, and being in the right place at the right time. 

Beethoven’s string quartets 

During his BSc, Greg realized he would have to do graduate work if he wanted to continue in the sciences. And that’s where fortuitous circumstances — and some beautiful music — offered a different path. “I was exposed to some chamber music while studying biology at Guelph — Beethoven’s string quartets — which I found quite amazing. I think that was the initial spark for me.” Then while walking about in Toronto, he noticed the shop of a violin maker, Otto Erdesz. “It dawned on me that it was possible to make a living making instruments that made these beautiful sounds.” A trip to Ireland with his brother, where he got hooked on traditional Irish music, sealed the deal. “I came back to Toronto, went to Long & McQuade, and rented a violin. That’s when it all came together for me.” 

Following seven years of study and work in Wales and then Germany (his last position was with Hieronymus Köstler in Stuttgart), he returned to Canada and established a studio in 1988. He also worked as a freelance restorer for various shops in North America. Today he dedicates his time solely to making instruments, including violins, violas, and cellos. 


The rigours and joys of making 

But all that training in the sciences did not go to waste. “There is so much rigour and precision involved in making violins, and the world of science has definitely entered into the world of violin making,” says Greg. The rigours of instrument making are on full display on his website under the Process tab, which is full of notes, measurements, and calculations — along with lovely visuals of the process. “There is so much overlap between the sciences and violin making that you even have physicists experimenting with making instruments today,” says Greg. 

After starting on his violin making journey, it became apparent to Greg that he needed seclusion and tranquility to concentrate on instrument making without the constant attention required to operate a city shop. So he again forged his own path. He and his wife and fellow violin maker Sibylle Ruppert established a home and studio in Paisley, Ontario. 

“My workshop is in my backyard, so typically I go for a walk, come back to my shop, and work on violins. We do some repairs for locals, but otherwise we’re making instruments,” says Greg. The best parts of his vocation? “The connections I have with musicians, having access to good wood, and making beautiful instruments at my own pace are the best parts of my job.”