In 1984, Robert Ray began repairing violins and bows. By 1992, he directed his full attention to the making, repair, and history of bows. Robert spent the next seven years making bows and doing bow restoration. He has worked in the shops of David T. Stone Violins and Hans Weisshaar Inc, as well as performing restorations in his own shop for major dealers throughout the United states. He met Georg Albeck at the Hans Weisshaar shop in L.A., and in 1999 they formed a partnership here in Olympia. By 2001, Robert took full ownership of the shop. Robert travels around the world, working with makers and dealers to provide the highest level of instruments and bows to our clientele. Players, collectors and dealers have come to rely on Robert's knowledge and expertise when acquiring or selling their instruments. Robert is a member of the International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative (IPCI), and the Violin Society of America (VSA), has written several bow-making and restoration articles which have been published in various books, and is a contributing author for the book The Conservation, Restoration, and Repair of Stringed Instruments and Their Bows. He also wrote the book The Little Pernambuco Tree, which was illustrated by local school kids before being published. It was later orchestrated by Mark Thome and premiered by the Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia in 2010. The proceeds of the book benefit the IPCI.
Jon Hanson is an Alaskan native, but he came to Bellingham in the early 90's to play violin at Western Washington University, where he graduated in 1997 with a degree in music. Jon has traveled extensively through Europe, studying and performing music. He lived in Hungary for several years, studying baroque music and the art of baroque violin bow-making. On his return to the United states in 2004, he began his bow-making apprenticeship with Robert Ray. His knowledge as a maker and restorer (as well as his playing ability) is a great asset to our customers. Jon is now our shop manager and part owner of R.L. Ray Violin Shop as of January 1st, 2010. He does bow rehairs, repairs, restorations and new bow making for the shop. He is also a violinist in the Olympia Symphony and an active member of the community, musically and otherwise.
Ben Barnes attended luthier school beginning in the winter of 1998. He started working at Hammond Ashley Violins in February of 1999. In the year 2000, Ben traveled to Torino, Italy to apprentice with double bass maker Luciano Golia. He has been a valuable member of R.L. Ray Violin Shop since 2007. Ben's insatiable curiosity and eagerness to learn have led him to attend many workshops, including those by Hans Nebel and William Salchow. He has focused his career towards the traditional repair and restoration practices according to Sacconi's teachings.
A retired nurse, Tess Ray enjoys working in the violin shop managing the office. Originally a pianist, she took up violin playing as a hobby at the age of 35. She enjoys playing in local community orchestras, is a current member of WOTFA and has placed in several state fiddling contests. In past years, Tess was busy homeschooling her daughter Heather and was actively involved in the CHOSS homeschool group as secretary of the board. At home she has designed extensive gardens including a large pond area and enjoys planning and scheduling events for the shop. She enjoys camping, hiking and traveling with Robert. A music lover and hobby musician, she finds it rewarding to help other musicians, young and old, to achieve their musical goals.
Growing up on a farm on the scenic banks of the Chehalis River, Bonnie Glerum learned to be independent, drive the farm tractor, assist with milking the herd, and harvesting the hay. Bonnie was actively involved in school and enjoyed horseback riding as a hobby. She also enjoyed working in her mother's cottage garden and learned the art of preserving foods and culinary delights. Bonnie graduated from H.S. and went on to college to major in bookkeeping. She later married her highschool sweetheart, and they have 3 beautiful daughters. We were fortunate to add Bonnie to the office staff in 2004, where her sense of humor and outgoing personality is appreciated by all!
Cheryl Nizam was born and raised in Andover, Massachusetts where she began playing violin at the age of six. Throughout her life, Cheryl performed regularly in orchestras and chamber ensembles, including as a student at Phillips Academy and Kenyon College. Her aspiration to become a luthier began while completing a college semester in Florence, Italy where she visited the shop of a local violin maker. Struck by the elegance of the art, Cheryl decided to pursue a career in lutherie. After graduation from Kenyon, Cheryl attended the Chicago School of Violin Making where she studied under the tutelage of Tschu Ho Lee. While in Chicago, she worked at the shop of William Harris Lee and Carl Becker and Son.
In 2000, Cheryl and her husband moved to Olympia, WA, where she worked in the Applebaum Violin Shop performing instrument repair and restoration. Cheryl continues to build instruments and enjoys playing classical violin, gardening and spending time with her husband and two children.