Burgess keeps fiddle making tradition alive

ARNAUDVILLE — In today’s digital world, music can be summoned in the blink of an eye.

Yet Anya Schoenegge Burgess is stubbornly old school. Burgess makes violins by hand — the same way Andrea Amati made the first in Cremona, Italy, nearly 500 years ago.


Two months can pass before Burgess completes one instrument. And Burgess isn’t worried about job security.

“Violin making is still an old world traditional craft,” said Burgess, 37. “That’s part of its appeal to me. Violins are being mass produced, especially in China and eastern Europe. But the sound of a mass produced instrument cannot compare to a fully hand built instrument.

“The tone is not as rich. The slight variations that come with building things by hand add to the tone. The top of the violin might be cut out by a duplicating machine in a factory and be completely uniform in its thickness, when you build by hand it’s not. It adds a richer, more subtle quality to the tone of the instrument.

“With the varnishing, for factory instruments, it’s probably sprayed on with a lacquer. I do it completely by hand. It makes a more beautiful instrument.”

Commonly called a fiddle in traditional music settings, the violin remains a vital part of Louisiana’s Cajun music and culture. The Italian-born instrument has a history of bumping heads with the German-style accordion, which has ultimately won the battle as Cajun music’s lead instrument.



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