Jim Danson runs the bowed instrument shop at the conservatory. Repairing and selling instruments to pros and beginners alike. We sat down with Jim to learn some more about his work.
Jim sees music as a lifelong pursuit where, as he puts it, “you get out of it exactly what you put into it.” And Jim has put a lot into is it as both a player and in his capacity at the shop.
While Jim still plays with Nova Central and PEI, these days he is finding his work in the shop extremely gratifying.
“Repair work I find more and more rewarding every year that I do it,” Jim says. As Jim approaches 70 he has thought of retiring but the closer he’s gotten to finding someone to replace him “the more I realized I don’t want to stop yet. I still really enjoy what I’m doing here.”
One of the more exciting aspects of Jim’s work is the chance to work on older instruments. Holding up an example from the 18th century he talks about how, after so many years in the business he is able to tell (even without strings) whether the instrument will sound good or not. He also talks about the maturation of the instruments, likening them to a great singer.
“They’ll mellow and they’ll show you their true voice,” he explains, “you think of an older woman’s voice, and they develop this warm, full-bodied sound as they get older.”
He goes on to say that the instruments of any age need to be played to help them reach their full potential.
“The molecules in the wood learn to vibrate together in a harmonic way so they get along. If you haven’t exercised in a while then your body doesn’t want to work right and it’s the same with a violin. Even when people come [to the shop] to try them, after 10-15 minutes of playing they open up a little bit.”
Jim sees great value in what the Conservatory provides, feeling that lessons are the best way to get a jump start in playing an instrument, especially one as notoriously difficult as the violin.
“Oh yes, violin isn’t an easy thing to get started on your own, if you’re going to start right you should get in at least a few lessons. Get off on the right foot.”