There’s music being created in one of the two-story shops on the east side of Main Street in downtown Harmony, Minn. No, it’s not a recording studio. And no, it’s not someone composing the next great top-40 hit.
Mason Weedman recently purchased one of the century-old storefronts in this Fillmore County community, where his primary focus is on crafting new violins, violas, cellos and double basses. He and his wife, Beth, and their six-year-old son, Elwyn, moved from the Twin Cities to Harmony this past year.
Weedman has been immersed in the art of repair and the creation of stringed instruments since 2007. He fell into this vocation kind of by accident. He decided to try his hand at playing the cello. He acquired a used one that needed quite a bit of TLC. Being fairly good with his hands, he Googled “how to repair a cello.” He learned about the Southeast State Instrument Repair Program in Red Wing and enrolled in the one-year program.
From there he landed a job at the Givens Violins Workshop in Minneapolis, where he repaired and restored violins for seven years.
“I was able to refine my skill and knowledge while working there,” Weedman noted. “I was lucky enough to work with a master craftsman, who had more than 40 years in the business.”
Weedman then moved on to the Robertson and Son’s Violin Shop in Albuquerque, N.M., where he worked as a maker and restorer for five years.
“I had the privilege of working alongside exceptional musicians and being entrusted with the maintenance and restoration of truly invaluable instruments,” Weedman commented about his stint in New Mexico.
Mason and his wife decided to move back to the Midwest to be closer to family. Mason was from Plymouth, Wis., (about 45 miles north of Milwaukee) and Beth was from Farmington, Minn. So, the Driftless Region seemed like a workable solution.
“We really didn’t want to relocate to a larger city,” Weedman recalled. “In a larger city, I would have way too much call to restore and repair. I wanted to create new instruments.”
And that’s just what he’s been busy doing, along with putting his workshop together. He’s under the gun right now to have three violins completed. One will go to a national expo in Los Angeles, one to a customer in the Twin Cities and another one to Albuquerque. Between a few repair projects and orders for new instruments, Weedman figures he’s got enough worked line up for the next year.
While creating new violins is Weedman’s main focus, he also has a number of cellos that are in various stages of completion, as well as a double bass and some violas.
The tops of his instruments are made of spruce, mainly imported from Europe. The sides and the backs are maple, as are the necks. Weedman uses pear wood for the scroll ends (where the tuning knobs are located) on the cellos and double basses.
It takes Weedman about 100 hours to complete each violin and viola. Cellos take about six weeks, and the double basses require 60 days or more.
According to Weedman’s website, the price tag on a new violin is $12,000. The price for the slightly larger viola is $13,000, while cellos are listed at $25,000 and double basses are $35,000.
When asked about these prices, Weedman said his prices are on the low side for new stringed instruments on the market. He has received a number of national awards for his creations from the Violin Society of America, the Art of Sound Makers, and the International Society of Bassist Makers.
The Weedmans feel the move to Harmony was a good one. Besides Mason’s workshop in the front of the store, Beth has set up a weaving studio in the back. And the large second-floor apartment provides them with comfortable living space.
“This seems to be a good fit for us,” Weedman said looking around his spacious workshop. “We are happy we landed here.”
And Harmony does seem like an appropriate burg for a fiddle maker, doesn’t it?