I strive to create an instrument with a bold and multidimensional character, both visually and tonally
Photo: Itzel Ávila
A 1983 graduate of the Violin Making School in Salt Lake City, I have over a 40 year career as a maker, and remain passionate about my occupation. I invite you to see the devotion I have to the craft in the instruments I make. You’ll find a great deal to like about their playability and sound.
My work has evolved through study, practice, intention and adherence to traditional methods, materials, and forms of the 17th and 18th century masters. The original instruments themselves inform my work, as do my years of experience, feedback from musicians, and the diagnostic tools and acoustical research that have become available in the last few decades.
I give thanks to my teachers, and the many musicians, violin makers, and friends who have taught and motivated me to develop the subtleties of form and tonal character necessary in the construction of fine musical tools for demanding musicians. Though most of my violins and violas are built for contemporary and classical musicians, I also offer instruments in historical set-up for Period performance.
When not at the bench, I can often be found with a camera in my hand or in the digital darkroom manipulating images.
I made and sold my first violin in 1980 while attending the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City. After graduating in 1983 I moved to New York City to work with William L. Monical and Son to develop skills in repair and restoration. Working with and studying the many historical instruments that passed through the Monical workshop was like a graduate course in the finer points of violin making.
In 1987 I returned to my home town of Seattle to establish my workshop, where for 35 years I made violins and violas for both the modern and baroque musical communities. In 2022 I established a new studio in Portland, Oregon to build instruments, and to continue my study of fine instruments and violin making techniques, both on my own and collaboratively with colleagues. I’m grateful to the generous community of makers who share their knowledge at the annual Oberlin Violin Makers Workshop.
I build all of my instruments by hand, adhering closely to the traditional methods, materials and forms of the classical masters, drawing from a large stock of fine aged wood, and making my own varnish using natural resins and drying oils. Each of my instruments has its own voice and unique character, but all are built to an exacting professional standard to speak easily, evenly and clearly.
My instruments are available for audition directly through my workshop or through one of the fine violin dealers I work with. I also enjoy working by commission with musicians seeking specific requests. While the majority of my instruments are built and set up for modern performance practice, I have a special fondness for constructing baroque and classical violins and violas for members of the early music community. Several of the instrument models I make can be found pictured in my gallery.
I’m passionate about building violins and am pleased to say that the work I do today is better than it’s ever been. Should you hear of anyone looking for a new violin or viola, it would be kind of you to pass on my name and contact information.
Please be in touch. I welcome your interest in my work. You can reach me Monday through Friday at (206) 478-9603. Or you can use my website contact form.
David T. Van Zandt
My style is unmistakably new and crisp, yet has the warmth and patina of years