oct 3

Antiquing with the DoD

This post originally appeared on the ‘fiddlefish.com’ blog. It’s here for archival purposes only.

Finding a great bow is somewhat easier than finding a fiddle. And far less expensive. While Cremonese violins can range from a few hundred-thousand dollars to 15M (which we just witnessed with the sale of the Lady Blunt Stradivarius), bows are a fraction of the price. A great French bow from one of the Masters is something that would complement any fiddle case and something which I would like in mine one day.


Last Friday, I got an email alert about a Louis Gillet bow. I followed the link and became quite confused. Apparently, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) also likes rare French bows (and Cremonese violins and violas, too). The website onto which I had landed was a public “notice” that the DoD was to purchase a tall order of very fine goodies from Potters Violin Shop. Not understanding how this could be, I decided to write a quick email to the officer attached to the public notice only to have a response in the affirmative. The DoD was to purchase these rare antique violin, violas, and bow for the U.S. Air Force Band.

OK. It’s important to give U.S. troops the best equipment money can buy, but can the same be said for the players in the band? How perfectly must the “Star-Spangled Banner” be executed!? The U.S. Army/Navy/Air Band gig is famous for its generous perks. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Maryland, and the music school was always a-buzz about the how the U.S. Navy Band was the best gig in town. The benefits are many. But to lend these players rare Cremonese violins and great French bows is almost comical, if it weren’t for the abuses being committed.

The largest carbuncle of this whole matter is that musicians (myself included) don’t really need vintage collectibles — though, they are wonderful to have if the cash is there to acquire them. Since the DoD has a blank check, it follows, unfortunately for tax-payers but fortunate for the Band players, that it will provide luxury instruments to its service-men and women. Some may not have a problem with this, but I do. There is no way to justify such exorbitant purchases with tax dollars.