Boy Gifted Rare ‘Southpaw’ Violin

By Gordy Leach, WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis fifth grader got a new and altogether rare violin Wednesday.

Whereas most violins are played with the bow in the right hand, 10-year-old George Muller has been using his underdeveloped left hand to bow while his right hand moves on the fingerboard.

His instructor restrung a violin so Muller could play right-handed, but the inside of that instrument was still backwards. He was essentially playing the instrument as if in a mirror.

On Wednesday, he received a special “reversed” violin as a gift from MacPhail Center for Music and Givens Violins in Minneapolis.

“There are two things that are different,” explained violin instructor Teresa Campbell. “One is that the sound post, which stands sort of underneath where the bridge is, is on the opposite side from most violins, and also the bass board is on the opposite side as well.”

George had been accepted into MacPhail’s Pathways to Performance program three years ago.

The violin was made in China, and is extremely rare.

“I’m aware that it’s possible to do it,” said Claire Givens. “Givens Violins has been in existence 33 years, and we’ve never done it.”

Muller said he likes the sound of his new violin, and can describe it with one word: “Awesome.”

Muller is learning to play the theme from “Star Wars,” and his violin experience has taught him that many things are possible with patience and perseverance.

Muller’s instructor says she has seen him change from a self-conscious third-grader to a fifth-grader who has no problem playing before an audience.

  • Nancy Gallagher

    We have a student here in Bemidji playing a restrung viola because of a malady affecting his left hand and arm and leg. He is a student of Frances VanDorn and is progressing very well. Nancy Gallagher, of the local shop Nancy’s Strings Attached has strung first a violin and now a viola backwards so that this boy could play and he is progressing very well and loves to play, like the boy in your article. Having the instrument built in reverse is an interesting concept. Thank your for your story

  • localanon

    Congratulations George! This is a lovely story and MacPhail center for music is a wonderful asset to our community.

    I do find it interesting Claire Givens violin is involved. I went into their shop looking for a violin for my 6 year old. I could hardly get a glance because I wasn’t interested in a $2000 instrument. Someone took my number, and of course never got back to me. I’ve spoken with a number of other families with young violinists who have had a similar poor customer service experiences at Givens. Guess they will help you out if you can assure them plenty of free press.

    • andrew

      Everyone at Givens Violins goes out of their way to help young players. We try our best to find affordable violins that are made precisely, to a high standard and play well. We carry violins in all price ranges and these are published on the company web site. I cannot imagine what went wrong in your case but we will be happy to find a solution to your needs. We always return phone calls to customers and always return emails.

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  • teri

    Well, you probably couldn’t walk into Neiman-Marcus looking for a $15 pair of shoes either. They deal/restore/repair fine violins, bows and string instruments (think $20,000+). There are, however, a couple great shops for students in town — House of Note comes to mind.

    As for why they asked her opinion: You must realize, of course, that Givens Violins is literally around the corner from WCCO?

    • andrew

      All of your suppositions are wrong. Givens Violins is very competitive with the other shops in town. The main difference with our shop is that we have four fully trained violin makers on staff. These violin makers have trained at the best schools of violin making world wide and though we can restore and sell hugely expensive instruments we go out of our way to use the same expertise to find and make violins for young players.

  • localanon

    My point is that Givens generally don’t deal in children’s violins and they custom ordered and paid for this one at $800 (reported on KARE11 – another donor covered an additional $500 for the rest. So at $1300 this is not a high end instrument. ). I absolutely think it’s fine if they don’t want to deal in student violins – they should be up front about that fact. I have no problem with their involvement. I just find it a bit ironic that this is the particular shop violin parents tell other parents to avoid. Givens was asked to comment because they were involved with this violin. The same clip was shown on every local network.

    Again – I’m very glad this young man has a chance to make music!

    • andrew

      Of course Givens Violins deals with student violins, check the company web site for prices. The point is that we do sell instruments that are affordable, are well constructed, and have the backing of a full service repair shop. Most student violins that are commonly sold do not match the highest standards of the trade and they can be a serious impediment to the development of a young player’s musical technique.

  • Anne

    My daughter plays a restrung viola! She is missing her left hand, but still has a wrist. We are currently in process to get her a new prosthetic to hold her bow, and are trying to have something made along the lines of what Adrian Anantawan has.

  • Ignacio

    Hi everyone from Barcelona, Spain.

    As Anne’s Kid, my son alsi is missing her left hand, although he has still one finger ..

    The question is, in face to practice with the instrument at school, we are very interested to buy a violin, adapted to his age (3 years old) , and referring to sound post and bass board.

    Some advice to buy via ecommerce?

    Thanks in advance,

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