Violin store to open in nearby school

While Magby’s merchandise is mainly high end, the store will also rent and repair violins and bows.
While Magby’s merchandise is mainly high end, the store will also rent and repair violins and bows. Photo by Zoe Gorman.

Guilford violin store Charles Magby Fine Violins Ltd. will move this coming July to 191 and 195 College St., occupying the retail space on the ground floor of the Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School.

The store, which will connect to the school through a separate entrance, will work on developing relationships with the students at the school through master classes, tours and demonstrations about instruments and how to care for them, said store owner Charles Magby, who has previously taught a class at the School of Music on instrument care and maintenance.

The school was originally looking to lease the 2,778-square-foot retail space overlooking the highway to two separate businesses, but when Magby offered to occupy the whole space with one large store, the New Haven Board of Education and University Properties decided to accept his proposal, said Keith Cunningham, the school’s art director. (Though the space is New Haven public school property, University Properties was brought into the partnership to help with the search to fill the retail spaces.)

“We hope that the store will open up opportunities for our students,” Cunningham added.

The store sells rare string instruments by the Italian masters dating from the 17th century, as well as violins, violas and cellos from the French, English and German schools and a wide array of French bows. While most of the store’s pieces are relatively high-end, with violins and violas priced up to $15,000, Charles Magby Fine Violins Ltd. also rents out instruments to beginners, repairs instruments and rehairs bows.

“Anybody who walks into my store gets shown how to maintain an instrument,” Magby said. The expanded store, which will employ a couple of more workers to accommodate the expansion, will incorporate two isolated, soundproof rooms where clients can test the violins, he added.

Michelle Wade, spokeswoman for the New Haven Board of Education, said Magby is a “master” in training students to repair and maintain violins and therefore a good match for the space. Magby’s willingness to share his knowledge will supplement what the music students learn in class, she said.

“I hope to do whatever I can to interact with the students,” Magby added.

Magby said he provides his clients with a set of practices and exercises that help them choose an instrument and advises both beginners and professionals in how to “let an instrument show them who it is.”

The proximity to Yale’s campus was another bonus of the new space, Magby said, citing the fact that many student musicians do not have access to cars but would benefit from a violin store. Magby said he has also sold instruments to many School of Music faculty and hopes to continue this partnership.

Student musician Sam Sketch ’11 said he sees the need for a violin store: Though the shoulder rest of his violin is broken, he must wait until he goes home to replace it because there is nowhere in New Haven to get it fixed.

Charles Magby Fine Violins Ltd. has another location in New York City at 115 West 73rd St.

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