Spiral wood shavings fall around the boots of Daniel Foster, 67, in his woodworking shop in Blacksburg.
Their inward curls resemble the scroll at the end of the viola he is carving by hand from a sheet of maple from eastern Europe.
“You can make a violin out of most anything. All you need is a box, a vibrating string and hair to make a bow, you can make something that passes for a violin,” he said.
“It’s easy to make a bad one … but to play on a superb instrument is just thrilling.”
He recites names of the Italian masters from the 1500s. Not Leonardo or Donatello, but Stradivari and Amati, in his grandfatherly, Midwestern accent.
His face glows. He has more than a crush, and you can see it when his rough hands caress the back of the viola as he brushes away the shavings.
Foster grew up in Madison, Wis., far from Italy, and graduated as a voice major from Lawrence University in Appleton. He fell in love with the violin family because they are the only instruments that truly sing and can best reach the ranges of the human voice, he said.
“I figured I would perform for a living, but it was a hard market to get into,” Foster said.
He dabbled in making folk instruments from scratch. At a summer workshop, he made his first bass viola. He sold it and had requests for more.
Thirty-seven years and 271 instruments later, he has literally carved a niche for himself crafting and repairing instruments in a little workroom attached to his modest home not far from downtown.
The wood Foster uses to masterfully construct his violins only gets better with age.
And so does the refinement of his craft.
— Justin Cook | The Roanoke Times
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