MacArthur Fellows Program

Joseph Curtin

Violinmaker | Class of 2005

Introducing to a venerable craft new strategies, expertise, and materials to produce new and world-class violins for the twenty-first century.

Joseph Curtin Studios
Ann Arbor, Michigan
52 at time of award

Joseph Curtin is a master violinmaker who crafts original, world-class violins for the twenty-first century. A luthier with research interests in nontraditional materials, nontraditional structures, and violin acoustics, Curtin weds acoustic science to the art of violinmaking and merges time-honored techniques with new materials and design. Having first excelled in the traditional practice of creating replicas of the great Italian instruments of Stradivari and Guarneri, Curtin is now confronting the dilemma of the evolution of the violin, creating entirely new instruments that incorporate contemporary materials and aesthetics. In so doing, he has collaborated with leading acoustics researchers in the field, experimenting with violin acoustics, playability, sound, and ergonomics. His approach consists of an artful synthesis of the old and new and offers clear evidence that the centuries-old art of violinmaking is still evolving. Using new methods of construction and affordable modern composite materials to improve the instrument’s response and sound, he produces violins and violas of remarkable tone, power, projection, and timbre. Driven by a desire to experiment and innovate, Curtin builds distinctive violins of enduring quality that are increasingly recognized worldwide as instruments of the highest order.

Joseph Curtin studied violin at the University of Western Ontario (1971-73) and music and philosophy (1974-77) at the University of Toronto. He abandoned musical performance for lutherie when he came under the tutelage of violinmaker, Otto Erdesz, in 1977. He apprenticed with Erdesz for several years and worked in workshops in Italy and France. In 1985, he established a workshop with partner, Gregg Alf, with whom he built instruments for twelve years under the name Curtin & Alf. He founded his independent workshop, Joseph Curtin Studios, in 1997. He also co-directs the Violin Society of America’s acoustic workshop at Oberlin College, is a trustee and contributing editor for the Catgut Acoustical Society, and is a regular contributor to The Strad magazine.

News About this Fellow
August 15, 2013
"The Elusive Digital Stradivarius"
From The Story on NPR
Joseph Curtin, MacArthur Fellow, 2005
View all news


Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY.
Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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