The following story was written for the Nework in Newark project. The photo above and other photos at the top of pages on this website were taken by Norma Braber-McKinney.
You could say violin making runs in the family of Pauline Riteau: “It was Dad’s first love. He has made violins for as long as I can recall. When Dad heard I too wanted to make violins, he said ‘You’ve got to go to Newark’.”
I tell you this story not because I want to talk about Pauline’s father, although he’s an interesting character from Angers in western France. Nor do I tell it to talk about the Newark School of Violin Making, where Pauline studies, although it’s one of the top three schools in the world, up there with the schools in Mittenwald and Cremona.
No, I tell it only because I’m asked to come up with an idea to make people feel good about Newark. That’s Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, England. My idea is to tell stories about people in Newark – their life, family, home, work, talent, skill and success. It’s one of those stories.
For Pauline’s father violin making remained a hobby. “Dad was unable to do it for a living. When my brother and I were born, he had to forget his idea to study violin making. He had to get a job. Put food on the table.”
You were luckier?
“Yes, I could start studying instrument making in France. But that didn’t work out. The problem in France is that they only teach you the French way.”
Is Newark any better?
“It’s good. I learn a lot and I’m happy here. Mind you, I sometimes miss my family and friends and get a little homesick.”
What will you do when you’re qualified?
“I’m going to get work experience. And I’m talking to a famous violin maker about a job. But my ideal would be to have my own workshop.”
One of Pauline’s fellow students is Younjoon Chung. He’s from Seoul in South Korea.
There’s a moment in your life when you have to say: “This is what I want to do and I’m going to do it.” For Younjoon the moment came when he was studying for a PhD in robotics.
“My Dad is an army general who became professor at the military academy. In Korea the oldest son is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. But that wasn’t what I really wanted to do.
“I loved my cello. I’ve played it ever since I was young. What I really wanted was to build such a beautiful instrument. Wouldn’t it be great to earn a living by making a cello?”
But why study in Newark?
“I spoke to students from different schools. The guys from Newark had a better attitude.
“I love it here. I play in the Trent Chamber Academy (an orchestra that consists mostly of students from the Newark School of Violin Making who make music on instruments they’ve built themselves).
“I’ve also joined an electric cello band.”
“Yeah. We play heavy metal.”
And your next step?
“I’ll open a workshop, so that I can do what makes me happy – I just want people to enjoy playing my cello.”