Last Saturday, night I attended the viola and cello demonstrations at the Contemporary American Violin Makers Exhibition, put on by Metzler Violins, Los Angeles. It really is an impressive collection of high quality instruments at a wide range of prices. Violist Richard O’Neill and cellist Marek Szpakiewicz gallantly played all of them and made insightful comments on the individual instruments, and on the qualities and features that they are personally interested in when considering an instrument. I’m sure it must have been useful to the less experienced musicians in the audience, and I also found it very instructive.
As a maker, this and other commercial exhibitions are very useful in gauging where you fit into the market. Unlike at violin making competitions, some of the best established makers are represented alongside up-and-comers. Plus the instruments are priced up front and are publicly played.