ANAHEIM, Calif. -- This was the first trade show I have attended where my name badge also included color-coded sticker to indicate my comfort with hugs and handshakes (green dot), fist-bumps (yellow dot) or no physical contact at all (red dot). But the world has changed since the last live NAMM Show in 2020.
The good news is that the show went on!
After being planned for January 2022 and then delayed due to Omicron, the big gathering of the National Association of Music Merchants started on Friday and will continue through Sunday in Anaheim, Calif.
While NAMM 2022 still felt like a seriously huge event, it is smaller than in years past. This year's show is a day shorter, with about 50 percent of the brands, exhibitors and attendees, compared to the last live NAMM Show in 2020, according to the LA Times.
But it felt great to be among tens of thousands of musicians, music teachers and music merchants selling instruments, sheet music, music stands, metronomes - you name it. At NAMM I found people that I had not seen since before the pandemic, and it was wonderful to catch up.
Importantly, NAMM remains one of those gatherings that allows people to meet spontaneously, find new friends in the industry, talk about our common goal of furthering music and music education, and start making plans for the future. Here are a few highlights of my day on Friday.
Shar Music, the company in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I've been ordering my strings since I was about 10 years old, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year! They are also a major supporter of Violinist.com. So I enjoyed seeing Shar CEO Charles and Shar COO Tina Avsharian. In the next few weeks Violinist.com will feature interview with Charles about how Shar got started, it's a very interesting story!
Look who I found, these two incredibly versatile violinists, who also happen to be good friends and amazing teachers - Yamaha artist violinist and producer Jesus Florido and jazz violinist and composer Jeremy Cohen. See our Violinist.com Instagram for a little reel of Cohen playing on the 3Dvarius violin - and also...
3Dvarius inventor Laurent Bernadac, playing his own instrument! I've seen it before, but it always draws me in - this elaborate electric instrument that can do so many effects. He continues to create and work on it, and he showed me a six-string model. This year he also had a 3Dvarius cello, that you can play using a harness, or on a stand.
I also spoke with Ed Mingo of Pirastro Strings, the German-based string company that is marking the 10th anniversary of its Evah Pirazzi Gold Strings. (Remember Evah Pirazzi?) To celebrate the occasion, they have come out with a special set of Evah Pirazzi Gold viola strings that are all steel-core, giving them more power. Evah Golds have been particularly popular with violists, particularly for the clarity and strength of the C string, Mingo said, and this new set came at the request of violists seeking that same power on the D and G strings.
Today I also met Mathis Guyot and Nicolas Despiau of the France-based Despiau Chevalets. They described to me a fascinating environmental initiative that is allowing them to make maple bridges with 40 percent less wood than what they used before. If you look at the violin bridge above - a Despiau Planet bridge, you can see that it has more darker spotting than you might expect in a typical violin bridge. In other words, it is not aesthetically flawless. They have simply decided that this is okay; it is an aesthetic issue that doesn't affect the sound. "When we feel the sound will be excellent, we select this tree," Despiau said. "Violin makers are very sensitive to aesthetics - in the past they were not willing to accept this kind of wood," Guyot said. They hope that by offering quality bridges that look just a little different, this idea will catch hold.
Don't I know you? Yes! I was happy to run into violin maker Adam Day and his daughter Nora Day, whom I'd actually taught at a master class in February at the Gifted Music School. They were visiting NAMM to purchase violins for Day Violins, Adam's shop based in Salt Lake City. In fact, they were speaking to some Italian makers...
Bowmaker Andrea Proietti came to NAMM as part of an Italian contingent that includes violin maker Pasquale Sardone of Cremona. Proietti, who has been making bows since he was 21, taught at the International School of Bow Makers in Cremona for seven years and is now based in Cesena, Italy. Nice fiddles and bows!
I also found fiddler Andy Reiner - whom you might also remember as the guy who fiddles while skiing the slopes of Colorado - wandering NAMM's showroom floor. He had his own five-string violins with him and was looking at these colorful 3D-printed fiddles, perhaps for his mountain adventures!
These eye-catching violins are from 3D Music - they are acoustic instruments.
Back to violinist Jeremy Cohen - here he is with his business partner Val Jaskiewicz, at a booth where they were presenting their new online platform, MuzikMatrix, which evolved from String Masters and supports online lessons, master classes and other events.
Pirastro wasn't the only string company offering new viola strings - Thomastik-Infeld, after premiering its Dominant Pro violin strings in March 2020, came out with Dominant Pro viola strings and cello strings last month. A violist herself, Connolly Music representative Cindy Olwell said "They play very automatically and are very responsive."
And who can forget Yamaha? This year Yamaha occupied the third floor of the enormous Anaheim Convention Center, and that's where I found Yamaha Strings Marketing Manager Ken Dattmore. He said that Yamaha's "Silent Violin" and other "Silent" electric stringed instruments did quite well during the pandemic when everyone was stuck at home. People wanted to practice without provoking the ire of their family, roommates and neighbors - thus the "Silent Violin"! Who knows, perhaps amplification will be the new frontier when we enter a post-pandemic world!
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