So I was in Nashville not too long ago, and before meeting our parents for dinner, my brother Dave suggested we stop by McKay Used Books. After rooting around the DVD section I had a prize find: an un-authorized tell-all of the real story behind American Idol. Score! 50 cents and it was mine.
But not so fast…since dad didn’t pick up the first time Dave called to confirm 6:30 pm instead of 7:00 pm, Dave suggested we take another 15 minutes to look around.
Dave: “Have you checked out the musical instruments section?”
Stephan: “There’s a musical instruments section?”
Dave: “They don’t usually have a lot of instruments, but it’s fun to look.”
So I looked–and I was shocked to find a cello-shaped viola case identical to the red one I use to carry A Roadkill Opera sheet music and gear for playing the opera at exhibits. Except this one was gray.
Since I was exhibiting at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in about a week, I thought the case would be perfect for my table.
Just one problem–the case had a viola in it. What should I do with it? Was it worth anything? I wanted to know. Fortunately, I knew a guy: Mike. Like me, Mike has a day job, and he also has a passion for bluegrass music. But Mike is not like me in respect to this: he’s got chops, and plays guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, among other things. And though he lives in West Virginia, Mike was in Nashville that day and agreed to take a look at my mystery viola.
Mike concluded that the viola was in pretty good shape and had a good tone. He also noticed that the back of the instrument had been marked with a permanent marker.
Once home in Maryland, I looked on the internet and found Charlie Daniels has a signature that looks similar. Since Mike said it was a decent instrument and maybe it had been signed by Charlie Daniels, I figured it would make sense to ask the pros from Dover–that is, Jen and Alicia, the master luthiers at Lashof Violins. When they agreed to take a look at it, they said to leave it for a week, and they placed the instrument in one of their humidy-controlled cases.
That would allow me to use the gray cello-shaped fiberglass viola case for a tabletop display and the red cello-shaped fiberglass viola case for more visual impact in front of my table. The red really pops in the sun!
When I came back to Lashof Violins to see what they had found out, there were some real surprises…which I will reveal in my next post.