Yanfu Tong, Luthier
Yanfu Tong Violin Shop is owned and operated by Yanfu Tong, a graduate of the Violin Making School of America. Yanfu Tong provides manufacturing and restoration services for all string instruments but specializes in violin repair, manufacturing and restoration. Feel free to browse our site for more information on student instruments and fine stringed instruments.
Yanfu Tong emigrated from Beijing to the United States in 1991 to improve his skills at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City. Due to the intensity of the program, the school typically has only about four graduates every year, according to administrator Lori Carter. The number of applicants and students has remained steady over the past five years, she said; the niche market for luthiers held strong through the recent recession.
For Yanfu Tong, 13 was the age of discovery. That was the year he started playing the Yang-qin, also known as the Chinese dulcimer, and crafted his first yang-qin. A long, flat soundboard is the base for the instrument’s strings, which are played with bamboo sticks.
Tong worked for 13 years at the Dong Hua Men Violin Shop in China. He was 31 when he decided to leave China to attend the Violin Making School of America. Tong wanted to learn more about the Western instruments like the violin, which he favored over the yang-qin.
“That school is like the Julliard of making instruments,” he said with a grin during an interview in his shop, tucked away in a strip shopping center on Gaither Road.
Tong’s association with the school has been great for business, he said. Referrals from former classmates have yielded orders from all over the region.
One client, who studied for his doctoral degree in the violin at the University of Maryland, brought customer loyalty to a new level. After he graduated, the man moved to the West Coast to work as a professional musician. He so trusted Tong that he flew back to Maryland twice so the luthier could make basic repairs to his instrument.
“They think it is worth it,” Tong said of his customers. “They get the result that they want.”
Even after more than 20 years in the U.S., Tong speaks with a strong Chinese accent. But he says music is a universal language and mastering the craft of violin-making eased his transition to a foreign country.