In the spirit of excellence
Guy Harrison began working in the violin trade at the age of 13 in Australia. That’s right, 13 years old — an age when many young teens are doing anything but repairing violins. “Well, I played the violin as a youngster, which is a common beginning for luthiers,” says Guy, modestly. “Violins were a mysterious object to me, and I wanted to know what was inside them, how they worked, and how they made these sounds. In my family, there was a tradition of carpenters and tradespeople, so woodworking was part of my upbringing and making things was a normal thing to do.” A few years later, he started making his own violins, with help and encouragement from his parents, who provided him with tools and wood. “I’m still fascinated by sound to this day,” he says.
Guy studied for three years at the Newark School of Violin Making in England, graduating with the highest level of distinction. He continued to make and restore instruments in Europe before opening his own studio in Canada. Today, his instruments are prized by musicians around the world, including members of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique in Montreal, and many other ensembles.
Despite these accomplishments and winning several awards for violin making, Guy believes his training and learning is ongoing. “I’ve been attending the Oberlin violin making workshops for the past decade or so, which has been a huge help to me. Everyone there is expected to share their insights and expertise. We learn a lot from each other. Part of being a good craftsperson is being observant. All of our work benefits from this culture of sharing.” Guy uses the excellent phrase “spirit of excellence” to refer to this shared purpose of advancing the craft of violin making.