Fiddlers Flock to Violin Shop

For 12 Years, Store Has Served Dukes, Royalty, and the HRO

Many come to Harvard with a love for playing, singing or listening to music.

But a lifetime passion for the violin led Germaine Carbury-Breau on a somewhat different route--one which culminated in the Cambridge Violin Shop, which she opened 12 years ago on J.F.K. St.

"Dukes and royalty purchased violins, but they didn't buy guitars," Carbury-Breau said.

Carbury-Breau said her customers represent a cross section of society. She repairs and sells violins for many families, young children and the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, among others.

She said the instruments she receives vary widely in value. "People might buy something for 30 dollars, and I can make a violin out of it," she said.

"I also had the pleasure of working on a Stradivarius--they go for about one to two million," she said. "Of course, I locked the door."

Violins of all sizes line the walls of the shop, and a few hang from the ceiling. Several American oil paintings, including two by Earnest Longfellow--nephew of famous poet and Cambridge resident--adorn the walls, and a collection of Oriental rugs for sale lie near the window.

"When I was very young I wanted to play the violin, but I never got to play one," said Carbury-Breau, who is now in her 25th year of violin repair.

"When I got into the real world," she said, "I used to look for instruments. I used to buy strange instruments such as the yukalele or any instruments that were curious"

Carbury-Breau said she can remember the time she bought her first violin.

"I had never dared before...to me it was always unusual to play the violin," she said. "In those days everyone learned the piano."

Two smaller rooms in the back of Carbury-Breau's violin shop display bows and more violins. The farthest room smells of varnish, and little jars are piled on the workbench.

Tools of a Dentist

"These are my tools," the owner said, pointing towards a wide variety of utensils. "They're about the same kinds of tools that dentists end up with."

Carbury-Breau said she finds her work extremely rewarding.

"I like taking a violin that doesn't work and when I'm done, having something that makes music," she said.

"When people ask me how did I get to doing this," Carbury-Breau said, holding her hand three and a half feet off the ground, "I always say that I've loved the violin since I was that high."