Fiddle Me This

In Do, November 2016 by Christa GalaLeave a Comment

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Could you win a violin just in time for the holidays?

Student Katelyn Martin tried twice before finally winning a custom-made violin from wood carver Mike Anderson. That’s two essays she had to write; the second one, written when she was 17, did the trick.

“It meant a lot to win the violin,” says Martin, a freshman now at Guilford Technical Community College. “I actually played the violin that I won at the State Fair last year, and it was the most sought after by all the violin players at the fair. It was also my last year of being able to try for the free violin.”

For the past 17 years, Mike Anderson of Louisburg has carved violins, violas, cellos and fiddles as FiddleMaker Mike. Four years ago, he decided to give away one violin every December to a North Carolinian between the ages of 10 and 17, awarding the prize based on a simple 300-word essay. For two of those four years, he’s given away two violins. Because sometimes the essays are so good, it’s hard to pick just one.

Anderson has been carving wood since he was a boy. He started with a bar of soap at the age of 5 or 6. He progressed to bowls and spoons but eventually wanted something more intricate.

“I’ve done a lot of different things in wood, and I wanted a challenge that would take me beyond my lifetime to figure out,” says Anderson.

Carving string instruments for nearly two decades, he works with a special mentor. Arthur Conner, 92, of Copper Hill, Virginia, is teaching Anderson what could very well be considered an art in danger of extinction. Before finding Conner, Anderson read books and attended university workshops.

“He [Conner] said, ‘I’ll teach you everything I know’ and for the past several years, I’ve gone to his home and spent weekends with him, and his wife has fed me meals, and I’ve stayed at his home,” says Anderson. “I’m still striving and learning.”

Each violin takes 200 hours to make and costs $1,200 retail. But Anderson does it largely for fun. He works full-time restoring and renovating homes but estimates he’s made 62 violins, five violas and two cellos in the past 16 years.

“I harvest all my own wood,” says Anderson. “It’s basically from the forest to the fiddle. I use local North Carolina Red Maple and Virginia Red Spruce.”

Anderson traces his interest in string instruments back to his Minnesota childhood.

“As a small child, my mother played classical music, and I heard so much violin music I think it may have had an impact on me,” says Anderson, whose great-grandfather also played the fiddle.

Enter to win a violin!

To win a free violin for Christmas, you must be between the ages of 10 and 17.

Submit ONE essay [up to 300 words] explaining why you or someone you know should receive a free violin to between December 1st and December 15.

For more information, visit

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