A Tribute to David T. Stone
Seattle-based luthier and violin shop owner David Thomas Stone passed away December 27, 2021 in Seattle, WA, at the age of 70.
Born on May 12th, 1951, David started playing the violin just before turning 8-years-old. His first exposure to a violin shop was in the historic shop of J. N. Aschow of Oakland, CA, whose business had not changed locations since 1911. He marveled at the old-world charm, the antiques, and the dust created by decades of workshop activity. The opportunity to see varying examples of instruments and bows of the violin family, gambas, hurdy-gurdies, and chitarrones was eye-opening. The magic and intrigue of that shop ultimately led him into a 52-year career in the violin trade.
In 1969, at the age of 18, he was given an apprenticeship at Nash Mondragon’s Cremona Musical Instruments in San Francisco, CA, sharing benches with other makers including Boyd Paulsen and Wilhelm Kapfhammer. In 1974 he was invited to join the firm of Hans Weisshaar and Son, Inc. in Los Angeles, CA, where he spent nearly ten years with the firm, eventually becoming director of the corporation. There he worked alongside noted luthiers such as Klaus Grunke, Paul Siefried, Bill Scott, Michael Fischer, Bernard Camurat, and John Waddle. While at Weisshaar, David developed his sales skills and was respected for his talent of matching the right instrument and bow with the right player. This is a skill that stayed with him and helped him build a clientele that trusted and supported him for the rest of his career. Feeling a need to broaden his horizons and seek a better quality of life, he took his leave from Weisshaar after 10 years of employment and relocated to Seattle, WA, to open a shop of his own. In 1984 David T. Stone Violins opened for business above a custom cycle shop in the University District, just blocks north of the University of Washington. From this location he served the Seattle music community for nearly 38 years with consistent customer service, quality repairs and restorations, expertise, and an impressive inventory of instruments and bows.
In the daily activities of his shop, David focused on bow work, cultivating relationships, sales, and the business of the shop, leaving bow making and violin making, repair, and restoration to his employees. Over time he was passionate about investing in and accumulating an exhaustive reference library for research and expertise. He also enjoyed collecting tools, furniture, shop decor, and relics from past colleagues and shops of days gone by.
Many respected violin and bow makers found their start or employment in the early stages of their careers there. Some of these luthiers include Falk Kruger, David Van Zandt, Robert Ray, Erin Shrader, Duane Lasley, Scott Smith, David Goad, Justin Dubish, Sai Gao, Ruth Werner, Michael Doran, Larry Marcell, David Doucet, Ann Larson, Barry Schultz, Mark Wodtli and Jim Morris. He supported his employees by keeping them employed when business might have been thin or uncertain, buying their instruments if they needed funds for personal endeavors, and giving them a space to learn from and grow with each other. Most importantly, many of the bonds formed in that workshop grew and expanded beyond their time there, and are still fruitful today.
Every violin shop has its own unique formula that makes it work, and David T. Stone Violins was no different. David was able to maintain a respectable work-life balance while running a successful small business that was open to the public in the afternoons Tuesday-Friday, all day on Saturday and closed Sunday-Monday. In his early years, he would spend his time off outdoors where he would camp and kayak. He took many trips to the Yukon where he was proud to have kayaked over 1000 miles over the years. Later in his life, he enjoyed building and rebuilding computers on the dining room table and beta testing video games for local developers. Like many other bow makers and repairmen dating back to Francois Tourte, David was a passionate fisherman and enjoyed connecting with friends and colleagues through this sport. He regularly fished in the mornings before work at Seattle’s Greenlake, and his fishing pole and tackle box were kept ready to go in the trunk of his car until the day he left this earth.
David was preceded in death by his wife of over 30 years, Aviva Leonard. He is survived by his partner, Susan Burns and his daughter Sarah Stone, a baroque cellist and gambist whom he never missed an opportunity to brag about.
A memorial concert is being planned for the summer of 2022. If desired, the family asks that contributions be made in memory of David T. Stone to the Washington State Music Teachers Association or to Save Our wild Salmon. Thank you Brandon Godman for gathering together these tidbits and tales from friends and colleagues to remember David.