Marion local violinmaker Mark Wilcox entered two of his handcrafted violins in the annual Violin Makers Association of Arizona Inc. competition and took first place in tone with one instrument and seventh overall with the other.
“There were 32 total instruments entered in the division I was in,” Wilcox said. “Three violin players from the Tucson Symphony Orchestra served as judges for the competition.”
In the first round, one judge played contestants’ instruments while the other two listened from across the room. Through this process, judges narrowed the field to the top 10 instruments.
For the second round, each judge individually played every remaining violin and separately evaluated the quality of each one.
Wilcox said instruments were judged primarily on playability, tone, and sound projection.
“The judges said they objectively looked for an ‘evenness,’ that included both a complexity of sound and the actual power of the instrument,” Wilcox said. “I thought my violins would do all right but I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.”
Wilcox said the wood in violin number 38 — the instrument that won gold — was different from other violins he usually makes.
He normally uses Engelmann spruce for the tops of his instruments, he said. Violin number 38 represented the first time he used sitka spruce for a violin.
“Sitka spruce is a little stiffer of a wood, so it is harder to work with,” Wilcox said. “I remember when I was making it that I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to work with it anymore.’ But since it did so well, I am considering using sitka again.”
Wilcox and his violins were featured in the Oct. 2 issue of the Marion County Record.