Acoustical Society of America Accolades

So often reviewers of biographies get hopelessly lost in the details of the subject’s life and often forget to mention how the biographer handled the subject. The result is that readers more often than not come away with more knowledge about the subject but little to no knowledge about the new biography–about the book itself.   Not so with the recent review of American Luthier just published this past month by the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.  Earl G. Williams, Senior Scientist for Structural Acoustics at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not make that error. ... Read more →

Climbing the Mountain – Guitars and Fiddles

A week or so ago, I had the honor of attending an exhibition at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, MA–“The Art of Guitar Building: An Evening with Steve Klein & Steve Kauffman.” What an amazingly beautiful array of guitars were on display in four different rooms of the Custom House, spanning a career of almost fifty years by innovative guitar makers Steve Klein and his longtime luthier partner Steve Kauffman.   When I introduced myself as biographer of Carleen Hutchins, Steve Klein jumped a bit in place, grabbed my hand, and said: “Thank you for your work!  I ... Read more →

Listening to the Fiddle and the Story

003-vibrating-a-fiddleListen to fiddle–and the story of one female who listened to her fiddles and then invented a new family of violins–the violin octet, a new family of eight violins across the tonal range of a piano. Carleen Hutchins–a 20th century American female luthier–took an old idea that had been envisioned by composers, musicians, and luthiers before her–and made it possible by applying science to violinmaking.  Listen to her story on NPR Radio Program Science Friday with Ira Flatow.  Click on


The Greatest Violin Not Heard

Much of the mystery of the violin world involves its contradictions–beginning with the most famous fiddle of all–the violin dubbed the “Messiah” for its storied history, the one violin that is in itself a metaphor for the entire violin world. See below its story–twice. First, see: Then, this Youtube video will take you there, to the Ashmolean Museum, at Oxford, home of the most famous of fiddles.

The Violin: The Object that Sings

As an arts journalist for many years, I had the honor to cover many stories about creativity. The stories I loved the most were about craftspeople–blacksmiths, glassblowers, printmakers, textile artists, potters, woodcarvers–the people who used their hands masterfully to work glass, clay, reed, wood into an object.  And of all the objects-makers I met, two remained the most fascinating–puppeteers and musical instrument makers–because these objects are the only inanimate objects that, when placed in the hands of a human, become something else. The transformation for the puppet happens when the puppeteer takes hold of the strings and magic happens as ... Read more →

Sound and Serendipity at New Dominion Books

Thanks to Mitzi Ware at New Dominion Books in Charlottesville for taking a second look at American Luthier and reaching out several weeks after I thought an opportunity had died on the vine. And a world of thanks to Jefferson scholar and new friend Cinder Stanton, retired Shannon Senior Historian at Monticello, also of Charlottesville, whose work Those Who Labor for My Happiness about daily life at Monticello provided the focus and foundation for the group biography The Hemingses: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed, winner of the 2008 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the 2009 Pulitzer Prize–and fourteen other ... Read more →

Where are Jefferson’s fiddles?

Thanks to my hostess–celebrated Jeffersonian scholar Cinder Stanton–I was lucky enough to not only tour Monticello, but to venture beyond the ribbons that protect the house from too many visitors to venture up the first steep set of stairs to see the second floor, and then one more stairwell to see the top floor of Monticello!  A real treat–not soon to be forgotten!  Upon first learning of my upcoming visit and of the subject of American Luthier, Cinder had asked about whether I knew about Jefferson’s fiddles?    Jefferson studied violin at an early age and continued his passion for ... Read more →

American Luthier at Fountain Bookstore

Many thanks to Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA, for seeing the exciting potential of the Carleen Hutchins story–the most unlikely story of a female violinmaker–a New Jersey housewife in the 1950s, a trumpet player and a biologist, who taught herself acoustical physics by carving by carving fiddles in her kitchen!


Jeffersonian Elegance at WTJU

Lambeth Field

What campus can boast such elegance surrounding athletic fields? This palladium of columns surrounding Lambeth Field, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, sits just outside the studios of WTJU, the venerable community radio station that’s call letters pay tribute to the founder of the University–Thomas Jefferson. WTJU Host Francesca Da Rimini, host of “Classical Sunrise” graciously allowed Jefferson scholar Cinder Stanton, a WTJU radio host for more than two decades, to interview biographer Quincy Whitney about the remarkable life of pioneering luthier Carleen Hutchins.  See and listen:

WTJU Podcast


Shout-out and KUDOS to Jefferson expert and scholar Cinder Stanton of Charlottesville who interviewed Quincy Whitney on WTJU, courtesy of “Classical Sunrise” Francesca Da Rimini, about American Luthier, the
remarkable true story of Renaissance-minded violinmaker Carleen Hutchins. See: