Leeds College of Music

My introduction to repair work was 2 years on the C.M.I.T. course in Leeds, learning to repair all orchestral instruments. As a grade 8 oboist I intended to specialise in woodwind. However, after spending 2 years under the guidance of Kevin Wilkes (ex Hill's), on violin repair and bow rehair, I found my true direction.

Instrumentally we had to study 5 instruments. I studied oboe with Mike McKenna, bassoon with Roy Walmsley, 'cello, flute and trumpet. I enjoyed every minute playing first oboe for the Leeds 2nd Symphony Orchestra.

Encouraged to try a making course, I decided on London. At the time, an easy decision. The best restorers, dealers and sale rooms would be on my doorstep.




Judith replacing a violin fingerboard


London College of Furniture

Pat Naismith lead the course and also brought in Philip Brown, Mick Shakespeare and Malcolm Healey to name but a few. These tutors were invaluable. Each ran their own successful business and generously taught us the tricks of the trade. Visits from William Luff (Pat Naismith's teacher and mentor) were a treat, his eye for detail second to none.

We also received tuition for violin from Prof. Clarence Myerscough from the Royal Academy of Music.

Final assessment was by Moray Welsh who announced my 'cello to be the best student 'cello he had ever played! High praise indeed from such a brilliant performer.

During the last year of college I found a placement, 2 days a week in Notting Hill. 'Fiddles and Sticks' was run by Archie McPherson, a jazz musician. My duties included setting up all the string instruments, including the double-bass for The Smiths' bass player and on Saturday making a cup of tea for a chap in a hat and black overcoat. After weeks of polite chat I discovered his name - Joe Strummer!

As an out worker I set up all the string instruments for Islington Music (Tricia and Malcolm Cottle) and serviced and repaired all the woodwind.

I rehaired bows for anyone who asked.

Working in the Trade 

Needing to raise funds to finish college I took a year out and worked for Kirklees Music Service, setting up and maintaining the string instruments.

Immediately after college I was offered a position in Oxford by a violin dealer. I moved for the work.

Guiviers approached me 2 months later and I was offered an interview. Such an exciting prospect, and the opportunity to be back in London.

While at Guiviers I worked for Alan Wilks, then Peter Biddulph and finally Robin Hamilton and Richard White. A wealth of knowledge exists amongst these great dealers and it was a priviledge to work for them.  


Violin rack


Judith checking violin head

What Else?


As a committee member at its inception I have had the opportunity to work with the likes of Marc Soubeyran, John Topham and John Dilworth. We ran violin conferences in Dartington and I regularly wrote for the newsletter. I played a large part in setting up and managing 'The British Violin' exhibition at the Royal Academy of Music, rubbing shoulders with great restorers, makers and experts such as Andrew Fairfax and Roger Hargrave. I remain a member of the BVMA. 

RAB Trust

My interests moved towards developing relations between students studying violin making and the profession. I set up the RAB Trust 12 years ago to do just that. With a strong group of colleagues on the committee, and good contact with colleges and the trade, I believe we are making a difference.   

Tweed Music Centre

Locally, I have been involved in the TMC as a committee member for just over a year now. Music is not a big part of children's lives here in North Northumberland. So, on Saturday mornings we offer music groups, currently consisting of 2 choirs, a wind band and string band. We are developing a youth choir at present.     

Judith Blackwell - Tel. 01289 304383   Mobile 07770 846148