Guemes Island is home to many things – beautiful beaches, lush forests, abundant wildlife, and a Cremonese style violin/viola maker. What, exactly, does that mean? The answer is quite impressive. Cremonese style instrument making means that they are all hand-made without the use of electric tools, exactly as the Masters made them in the 17th century…Masters who include the families of Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri, and others.
Inspired in her violin making by these Masters, Becky Rodman spent 14 years, from 2000-2014, in Cremona, Italy learning her art. She starts with a form and a piece of spruce tonewood for the top, a piece of maple for the back, ribs and scroll, and ebony for the fingerboard, pegs and tailpiece. It takes her about 3 months to complete an instrument. In the past 5 years, she has been specializing in smaller size violas (around 40 cm in the body of the instrument) that have a good sound and are easy to play.
Becky has been playing for most of her life – about 65 years. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Music – violin performance – from UCLA in 1970. She plays both violin and viola professionally and is currently in four Orchestras in Los Angeles and also in three String Quartets. She ran the San Juan Islands Chamber Music Festival on Guemes Island from 1990 to 2002.
I asked Becky what she does when she is not creating her art. “I am passionate about helping emerging artists in their musical aspirations and careers. This often intersects with playing chamber music with musicians from all over the world.” She is also an avid traveler and has been to every continent except Australia. A recent highlight was Antarctica in December 2019. She enjoys hiking, gardening, and being with her family and friends.
The story of how she came to Guemes is much like others who come here – Family. Her aunt and uncle bought property in Seaway Hollow in 1954 and she spent time on the island in the summers from 1958 until now. She honeymooned with her former husband here in 1971 and they were able to purchase a property here in 1989.
Her art is not for sale, but she has a Foundation (Fondazione Maestro Cremona) where she loans her instruments free of charge to emerging artists. She is also happy to give a tour of her workshop to anyone who is interested. Feel free to call or email her to set up an appointment.
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