Thurmond Knight
Maker of Violins, Violas and 'Cellos

Musicians Who Play Thurmond Knight's Instruments

 
Susan Openhowski with her new viola
     
Susan Openhowski commissioned Thurmond Knight to make a 15 1/4 inch viola based on instruments made by Gasparo da Salo.  She requested the upper bouts have cutouts to allow her easy access to upper positions.  The instrument was completed in May, 2015.

Susan hails from Lancaster, New Hampshire where she lives on a small farm with her husband.  She plays with various string ensembles in New Hampshire and Vermont.  Before she moved to Lancaster she was involved with orchestras and ensembles on Long Island.  She is also a fine violinist, and owns two other larger violas. 

As she has gotten older she has had more difficulty playing the larger violas for any length of time because of their weight and long playing string length.  She finds the new viola to be much lighter with a very short string length allowing her to play the viola with ease for longer rehearsals.

Susan is presently involved with a ceilidh group in Lancaster, and is a regular player in an ensemble sponsored by Amos and Anne Hamilton in Morgan, Vermont.


Click here for more info on Sue's Viola
Mercedes Horner, of Connecticut, violinist and composer, plays a violin made by Thurmond Knight in 1998, dedicated to and named after Thurmond's grandfather, Luther Leonidas Knight.  
Luther violin is modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu'.  The violin was played for a year by Richard Lohmann, former concertmaster of the Omaha Symphony, as well as by several of his advanced students for their concerts and recitals, including the well known violinist of New Orleans, Elizabeth Brockway.  Luther violin was also on loan for a year to Nashville recording artist, Patrick Ross.


Click here for photos of Luther Violin


Mercedes Horner performing her own composition on Luther Violin

Arvel Bird in performance
     
Arvel Bird, a Native American musician/performer, is a violinist and Native American flutist, known around the world for his dramatic connection between Celtic and Native American traditions, stirring up scenes that echo from North American memory.  Dubbed "Lord of the Strings" by fans and music critics, his music evokes the soul of North American history.

 Arvel attended Arizona State University on a music scholarship and later transferred to Champagne/Urbana, IL where he studied classical violin with renowned Hungarian violinist and teacher, Paul Rolland at the University of Illinois.  Later his music evolved to include Bluegrass, Appalachian, Folk and Celtic. 

He was hired by Glen Campbell to tour worldwide for 6 years.  After moving to Nashville he also toured with Loretta Lynn, Tom T. Hall, Ray Price, Louise Mandrell, Clay Walker and others.  Once he began composing and recording his own music, the result was a fusion of both his Scottish and Native American (Southern Paiute) roots that are uniquely his own and intricately woven throughout his songs.  Arvel has released 21 CDs, two EPs and two DVDs, earning him numerous music awards.  Although based in Nashville, TN, Arvel is permanently on the road, connecting with audiences the old-fashioned way with live performance.

 Arvel plays the 16 1/4 inch Bethany Viola made by Thurmond Knight in 1995.  The viola is modeled after Andreas Amati's 1676 "Conte Vitale."

Click here for photos of Bethany Viola
     Gerardine Tobin of Lancaster, New Hampshire, a member of several area chamber groups and community orchestras, purchased Floreen Thomas Violin in 2007. Hand-made by Thurmond Knight, a violinmaker located in Glover, Vermont, Floreen is modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu'.  It is dedicated to Thurmond's nanny, Floreen Thomas, who raised Thurmond for the first 5 years of his life in their Pahokee, Florida home located in the Everglades at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee near Bacom Point.   

  The violin's top is constructed from Sitka spruce harvested in northwest Canada.  The one-piece back, as well as the neck and ribs, are of  maple from Bosnia.  Hand-carved boxwood/ebony fittings were used in setting up the instrument. 


      Click here for more photos

     .

Gerardine Tobin holding Floreen, a violin made in 2006
Dave Hoke purchased Carmalita in July of 2012. Dave has been a self-taught musician for more than 45 years. He played with a central Ohio string band (the Turkeys) in the late 70's before moving to northwest Vermont, working in the agricultural community, building a homestead and raising a family. Dave continues the oral tradition of rural Appalachian fiddle music and is known for an extensive repertoire and lively style. He still occasionally plays out and also accompanies his son Latimer in performance.

Click here for more photos of Carmalita 


Click here for Dave's comments and correspondence
regarding Carmalita Violin

In the early summer of 2012, Latimer Hoke, a well known fiddler from northern Vermont, commissioned a violin from Thurmond Knight.  Thurmond dedicated the instrument to the memory of his mother, Ellen Frances Simmons Knight, 1921-2012.  The fiddle is modeled after the 1733 Guarneri del Gesu' violin previously owned by Fritz Kreisler, but now residing at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The Ellen Frances violin was constructed with a one-piece maple back from New Hampshire, and a two-piece top from Northwest Canada, with ribs and neck block from Bavaria.  The instrument was finished with a golden-brown oil varnish. 

Click here to view more photos of Ellen Frances violin


Meg and Mel Pitts visit Thurmond Knight's violin shop

In the spring of 2009 Mel treated his wife, Meg Pitts, with a visit to Thurmond Knight's violin shop in Glover, Vermont.  Driving all the way over from Denver, Colorado, Mel arranged a visit with Thurmond as a surprise for Meg.  He had commissioned a violin from Thurmond as a gift for their 30th wedding anniversary, and during their visit to the shop they were able to pick out the wood and model of the instrument to be made.  Working for  just over four months, Thurmond completed the violin and shipped it out to Meg in August, 2009.

The violin is modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu' and is made from Bosnian spruce and maple.  It was finished with oil varnish and gently antiqued.

Click here to view photos of Meg's violin

 

Mary Grothe, formerly of Montpelier, Vermont, owns Farrell Mann violin which she purchased in 2008.  Mary is a former member of the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra and the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra.  She now lives in a small California town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.  She is presently a member of the Symphony of the Sierra, and also plays in several other musical events in the area during the year.

The Farrell Mann violin, completed by Thurmond Knight in 2007, is named in memory of Thurmond's father's ranch foreman who taught Thurmond, at a very early age, the ways of a cowboy, including roping and riding.

This violin was modeled on Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu'.  The sitka spruce used for the top is from northwestern Canada.  The one-piece highly flamed maple back, neck and ribs are from Bosnia.  The instrument was gently antiqued with oil varnish. 

Click here for photos of Farrell Mann Violin


Mary Grothe with Farrell  Mann Violin

Ruth Einstein playing the Chelsea Violin.


Chelsea Knight, Thurmond's daughter, holding the Chelsea Violin


With the violin strapped to her backpack, hitched to a saddle, or along in a rowboat, Ruth Einstein and her music have wandered over mountains in Nepal, played melodies at fireside pujas in India, accompanied dance at midsummer festivals in Sweden, and transcribed La Musica de Tierra Caliente in Mexico. Each place brings a story, experience, and inspiration to share music with others.

At home, in Montpelier, Vermont, Ruth plays classical music in string quartets and trios. She is a member of the Vermont Philharmonic and the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra.

Teaching is Ruth's passion. Since 1990 has she has created music with hundreds of children. Ruth has studied string pedagogy with Mimi Zveig at the University of Indiana and is certified by the Suzuki Association of the Americas to teach through Book 6. She has been a regular attendee of American String Teachers Association (ASTA) conferences and the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp. This training informs her spark, yet the flame is her own.

Ruth plays the Chelsea violin made by Thurmond Knight and named in honor of his daughter, Chelsea Knight, a videographer and installation artist in New York City.

Rachel Dauenbaugh owns the Aunt Mae violin.  Presently, an undergraduate student at DePauw University, she has been playing violin for 15 years.  Rachel has a special interest in medicine and hopes to one day become a neurosurgeon.  She attended the All-State festival, and the Honors Orchestra of America conference in Indianapolis her sophomore and junior year of high school.  Her violin teachers include Vadim Mazo, Associate Professor of Violin at Illinois Weslyan Univeristy who studied at the Moscow Conservatory of Music and is a soloist and teacher on the world stage; Lisa Nelson, head of the String Preparatory Department at Illinois Weslyan; and John Borg.

Click here for more photos of Aunt Mae Violin


Rachel Dauenbaugh plays Aunt Mae violin


Freeman Corey playing Floretta Violin

Click here for more photos of Floretta Violin

Freeman Corey purchased Floretta in 2007.  He has produced several commercial CDs playing Floretta with his blue grass group.
          
Fiddle player Freeman Corey grew up on a dairy farm in Benson, VT. The son of a fine old time fiddler, he started playing at age 10, learning hundreds of Irish, Scottish, and French-Canadian fiddle tunes from his father.  Their family band, Champlain Time, consisted of his Dad, Freeman Corey, Sr., on fiddle, Wynn Griffith on guitar, Melvin Corey on banjo, and Freeman. They played square dances, contra dances, kitchen hops, and parties around Vermont for many years.
           
Freeman has played with the Hilltop String Band (NY), Tobacco Valley (CT), Champlain Time (VT), The HayMakers (VT), No Brakes (NY) and Spare Parts (MA).  Contact Freeman at freeman@bigspikebluegrass.com.

A 2002 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Lisa Utzinger  majored in music and psychology and studied violin with Linda Laderach at MHC and Joel Pitchon at Smith College.  Soon after graduating from Mount Holyoke, Lisa landed a job at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston as Assistant Director of Board Relations.  In 2005, Lisa left NEC to work at From the Top, the non-profit organization best known for its hit NPR radio showcase featuring kids playing classical music.  She was hired to create and manage From the Top's new scholarship program.  Lisa has been a violinist with the Boston Civic Symphony, under the baton of Max Hobart, and is a member of its Board of Directors.  Lisa performs on the Susan Ellen violin handcrafted by Thurmond Knight of Glover, VT. 
Click here for more photos of the Susan Ellen Violin
 


Lisa Utzinger with her violin, Susan Ellen


Willie Docto


Lulabelle violin, named in honor of Thurmond's favorite Aunt Lucille DePamphillis, was purchased by Willie Docto in May, 2006.  The instrument is modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu'.  

Click here for more photos of Lulabelle

Willie Docto enjoys combining his musical background with his management experience.  He performed as a freelance musician in the Washington, DC area for over 15 years.  He has served as general manager of the Georgetown Symphony Orchestra and the Virginia Chamber Orchestra working with conductors Andrew Litton and Fabio Mechetti.  He has performed in the Georgetown Symphony, Prince William Symphony, Alexandria Symphony, and Oak Ridge (TN) Symphony Orchestra.  Willie has served on the boards of the Monteverdi Music School and the Vermont Arts Council.  Since 1996, Willie has owned an association management company providing event planning and marketing consulting services to clients in the U.S., Poland and the Philippines.  He is principal second violin in the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra Society and the Vermont Philharmonic.  He recently co-founded the Eleva Chamber Players based in central Vermont.  Eleva Chamber Players is an all-string chamber orchestra composed of professional musicians from throughout the Northeast, with distinguished international careers.   Willie performs on the "Aunt Lulabelle" violin handcrafted by Thurmond Knight of Glover, Vermont.

Outi Markkula of Vuorela, Finland (Suomi) plays a cello made by Thurmond in 1995, dedicated to his mother, Ellen Frances.  Outi attends a high school for the arts, Kuopion Musiikkilukio in Kuopio, Finland, studying piano, cello, dance and voice.  She plans a professional musical career.  In the summer of 2006 she joined the Bread and Puppet Theatre Company at their home base in Glover, Vermont, and performed in several productions.  As a visiting guest artist, Outi sang, danced and played a fanciful primitive bowed instrument of her own creation.

Earlier in the summer she enjoyed the lights of Broadway, and meeting Christian Hebel, talented concertmaster of Wicked.  Outi also had a chance to play the skin drum at a matinee performance of Drumstruck.  

Click here for more photos of the Ellen Frances cello


Outi Markkula playing the Ellen Frances cello
Click here for more photos of Outi


Shay Gestal playing Mother Teresa Violin

Shay Gestal, a classically trained violinist originally from Vermont, has now turned her considerable talents to fiddling performance.  She purchased her violin in 2013 and is presently performing throughout the northeast.  Below is an email received from her in early April , 2014: 

Hi Thurmond!
A very belated THANK YOU for the appraisal of Mother Teresa! I got her
insured immediately, what a relief - she truly is my most treasured
possession. We have been having a ton of fun lately, performing and
recording all over the northeast, and I am growing more fond of her by the
day, if that's even possible! Still in search of the perfect bow to
complete the trio, but I trust that will come at just the right time.
Thanks again for all you have done in reuniting me with what has turned
out to be the joy of my life. Hope you are well, and I look forward to
seeing you when you're in the area!     Shay

 The instrument is modeled after a 1694 "long" Strad, dedicated to the memory of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India, and to her Missionaries of Charity who have devoted themselves to serving the poorest of the poor throughout the world.

Click here for more photos of Shay and Mother Teresa violin

 

Sally Schlueter Commissioned her violin and took it home April 27, 2005.  Harley, christened by Sally, a motorcycle enthusiast, is modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu'.  It was constructed with Bavarian maple and Mittenwald spruce harvested around 1998.  The oil varnish is plum colored at Sally's request. 

Sally is a member of the Northeast Kingdom Symphony Orchestra in Lyndonville, Vermont, and studies violin under the tutelage of Jason Bergman.  She is a small animal vet.

Click here for more photos of Harley

 

 
Sally Schlueter and Harley, her violin commissioned from Thurmond

A mid-westerner and member of her community  orchestra, Marilyn Barton studied violin repairs and restoration with Thurmond in 2003.  She owns and plays Rose Viola made by Thurmond.  The viola was named in honor or our Filipino friend, Rose.

           Click here for more photos of Rose Viola

 


  
Joyce Hammann, concertmaster of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway,  played-in a violin made by Thurmond Knight, modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu'.  The Ruth violin is named in memory of Thurmond's dear Aunt Ruth Atchafalaya Knight Dansen. After Joyce played Ruth for 6 months, Ruth was sold to a young violinist in Springfield, Illinois.


Ruth violin modeled after Fritz Kreisler's Guarneri del Gesu'

For more photos of Ruth, click here

A native of St. Louis, at age seven, violinist Joyce Hammann began her Suzuki studies, later graduating from The Juilliard School with a B.M. and a M.M., where her teachers were Dorothy Delay, Oscar Shumsky and Ivan Galamian. During this time, she was the winner of The Berg Violin Competition and The Peter Oundjian award. Ms. Hammann has appeared as soloist with many orchestras, recently premiering three concerti with Scandia Symphony and just completed performing the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas. Her "sweet, rich tone" can be heard on Late Night with David Letterman, The Today Show and Saturday Night Live. She is currently concertmaster of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and tours throughout Europe with jazz pianist Uri Caine.

Joyce enjoys a varied career ranging from the concert stage to Broadway musicals to the recording studio. She has had the recent pleasure of recording with Michael Brecker, Abbey Lincoln and Regina Carter for their new releases. Ms. Hammann can also be heard on Jane Monheit's new DVD, String Quartets -John Zorn, Wagner and Venezia-Uri Caine, Book of Tells- Mark Feldman, Ereia-Dr. Nerve, Double Quartet-Ted Nash, Grains of Paradise-Erik Friedlander and Bashe-Samuel Zyman.. She has performed with such artists as Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett and Sheryl Crow.

 

 

 

David Truslow with Babs cello, made by Thurmond Knight and dedicated to his first cousin, Babs Sganga

 

 

David Truslow owned Babs, a cello made by Thurmond in 1989. David, a psychologist, formerly resided in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, with his family.  He studied the cello with Thurmond for three years.
David moved south and retired from cello playing and sold the instrument back to Thurmond.  Babs is presently for sale for $21,000.

For more photos of Babs, click here



A professional string player and teacher in Maine, who wishes to remain anonymous, owns a 17 inch viola made by Thurmond Knight.  The viola, named in memory of Thurmond's Uncle Woodrow Wilson Simmons, is modeled after Maggini.  

 

 




Left: Woodrow Wilson Simmons 17 inch viola

For more photos of Woodrow, click here


Danielle Sarah Baasch
of Rutland, Vermont

Danielle Baasch playing Sarah Marie, her 16 inch viola made by Thurmond in the summer of 2002.  The instrument is modeled after Maggini and the top was carved from 1866 spruce beams taken from the covered bridge that spans the Connecticut River between Windsor, Vermont and Cornish, New Hampshire.
Click here for photos of the Sarah Marie Viola

Danielle Sarah Baasch, 18, is principal violist with New England Youth Chamber Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse.  She has traveled throughout the United States and Europe performing as both a violist and harpist.  She also frequently performs with her twin brother, younger sister and father as the Baasch Family Ensemble.  Danielle homeschools, lives in Rutland, Vermont, and is presently studying viola with Ariel Rudiakov, of the Manchester Music Festival.  According to Danielle, Mr. Rudiakov has been favorably impressed with her viola.

Danielle (right) with her musical family

Delvin Warner, a member of the Northeast Fiddler's Association of Vermont, studies fiddle with Tony Washburn.  Delvin and his wife, Nancy, are from Lowell, Vermont and both have commissioned violins from Thurmond.  The two violins were made using 1866 spruce from a covered bridge for the tops.  These instruments are from Thurmond's Bridge Collection of instruments.


Delvin Warner of Lowell, Vermont

    Click here for photos of Delvin's violin


Nancy Warner with her violin, a copy of the 1733 Fritz Kreisler
Guarneri del Gesu
Click here for photos of Nancy's violin

Nancy Warner is an active member of the Northeast Fiddler's Association of Vermont.  She studies violin and fiddle with performing artist, Professor Fairbanks, aka Peter Miller.  Nancy and her husband, Delvin, are from Lowell, Vermont, and both have commissioned violins from Thurmond.  She is pictured here playing her one day old violin, completed mid-July, 2002.

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Ida Washington, member of the Amateur Musicians Orchestra in Burlington, Vermont, playing a violin which she commissioned from Thurmond in October, 2001
Click here for more photos of
the Ida Washington violin

Ida H. Washington is Professor Emerita from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, and the author of numerous books and articles on literature and history.  A favorite hobby is playing the violin as a member of the Amateur Musicians Orchestra in Burlington and in a chamber music group in Middlebury.  She and her husband live in Weybridge, Vermont.  She commissioned the "Ida Washington" violin from Thurmond, completed in October, 2001.  The instrument is modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu' and has a carved lions's head for the scroll.

Reuben Epstein, a violinist and violist with the University of Rochester Symphony Orchestra, plays a viola made by Thurmond in 1990, and a violin made by Thurmond in 2004.   Dr. Epstein,  a Senior Scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics of the University of Rochester, purchased the Thurmond Viola in the spring of 2001 from the shop of Horst Kloss in Needham, Mass.  A 16 1/4" viola modeled after the 1676 Andreas Guarneri "Conte Vitale", the instrument is dedicated to the memory of Thurmond's father.   The top of the viola was carved from large timbers taken from the covered bridge which spans the Connecticut River between Windsor, Vermont and Cornish, New Hampshire, during a recent restoration project.  The timbers were hand hewn from red spruce trees, cut in 1866, and hauled to the bridge building site by teams of oxen.
The St. Cecilia Violin is modeled after Fritz Kreisler's 1733 Guarneri del Gesu'.  It is fashioned from maple from southern Vermont, and spruce cut in the 1950s in Bavaria. 

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Click here for more photos of Thurmond Viola

Click here for photos of St. Cecilia Violin

Click here to read Dr. Epstein's comments about the Thurmond viola.


Elizabeth Brockway playing her violin
"Belle" named in memory of Thurmond's
grandmother Katie Belle Geiger

Click here to see more pictures of the Belle Violin

Elizabeth Brockway, violinist in New Orleans, studied violin with Rick Lohmann, concertmaster of the Omaha Symphony. Elizabeth won the 1998 Iowa State High School Music Contest in the top division. She was awarded a perfect score (the only one), "Best-in-Center" award, and "Best Instrumentalist." For the contest Elizabeth played her violin made by Thurmond in March 1998, named the "Belle," dedicated to the memory of his grandmother, Katie Belle Geiger. In 2000 Elizabeth began as a freshman at Snow College in Utah where she was assistant concertmaster with the college symphony orchestra and chamber orchestra.

Tom Penrose, cellist from Springfield, Illinois, plays in several chamber groups.   In May, 2000 he purchased the Strad model cello, "Lucille," dedicated to Thurmond's Aunt Lucille Depamphilis.  The cello was made in 1996 and played-in by Thurmond for 4 years.
Click here for more pictures of "Lucille"

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Tom Penrose playing his cello "Lucille"
dedicated to Thurmond's Aunt
Lucille Mentoria Simmons DePamphilis

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Dave Poplawski holding his violin
"Emma" dedicated to Thurmond's
grandmother Emma Alley Simmons
Click here for photos of "Emma"
Click here for photos of "Mona"
Click here for photos of "Alyssa"

Dave and Cindy Poplawski own Alyssa, the first violin Thurmond made, dedicated to the memory of Alyssa Elaine LaFrance.  They also own Emma, a violin named after Thurmond's grandmother.  Dave plays fiddle in the style of Cape Breton fiddlers.  He spends several weeks each year basking in fiddle music and celebrations at the Cape Breton Music Festival which involves many of the world's finest musicians.  When not fiddling around, he is a busy urologist working at a hospital in Maine.  He presently lives in his Lake Willoughby, Vermont  home with wife Cindy, who is also a fiddle player.  

Amy Cowell is pictured performing in her senior recital at conservatory in Laramie, Wyoming.  In 1995 Amy purchased Thurmond's cello, dedicated to his son Elliot.  The cello is modeled after Stradivarius and was constructed with wood cut from the forests around Mittenwald, Bavaria in 1954.  Thurmond obtained the pattern for this cello from his master teacher, Karl Roy, who directed Thurmond through its construction.


Amy Cowell performing in 2005 with
her Strad model cello, "Elliot,"
dedicated to Thurmond's son.

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