"The Scroll"  Newsletter for the Cox Violin Community

The Scroll's purpose

is to provide information and enjoyment to people interested in fine new instruments. I welcome your inquiries.

A wasp has just completed an internal inspection of Viola #912.


I am still in love with my Cox Violin! It has served me well and so far traveled to teach and perform with me in Europe, Honduras, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, and around the US. I am truly grateful to you for providing an instrument with which to find my voice.

Joel Schut,
Opus 392, 1999 “Rosenblith” 1713 Strad

I’m in love with my new viola. In Turkish we compliment people who create anything with their hands by saying, “ellerine saglik” which translates as “health to your hands,” so you continue making more. Thank you so much for making such beautiful violas.

Gizem Yücel,
Opus 897 15 58”, 2015

The first time I heard Doug’s violins, I didn't expect to fall in love. Here was an instrument with a multi-faceted sound; rich, dark, throaty and clear at the same time. I love the clarity on the G string, notes resonating as if the instrument had a fifth string, a low C.

Andrea Larson, Swedish Fiddler, Opus 686,
Gaspar da Salò 2010

It is such a treat to see a young musician experience playing on a fine instrument for the first time - watching them light up as they discover the beauty of the sound that they are able to produce - finding the personality of the instrument.

Professor David Rubinstein, about
Viola Opus 846, Storioni 1789, 2014

I am so impressed with the power and sweetness of my new violin, as well as the beautiful craftsmanship. I could not ask for a better companion. Many thanks.

Claire Thaler, Opus 908, 2016 “Nachez” Strad 1716

Doug’s violins have always impressed me. I have several colleagues who perform regularly on Douglas Cox violins, and I’ve had the pleasure of performing and recording alongside these violinists. The sheer power and consistency of his instruments are what impress me the most. I’ve tried out a few myself, and I remember the ease of playing, and how each Douglas Cox violin has its own unique personality.

Jennifer Choi,
Concert Violinist, Soloist, Chamber Musician


If you’d like to find out about seeing a Cox instrument in your area, please let me know.

50thAnniversary Newsletter for the Cox Violin Community ~ Fall 2017

Dear Friends,

The new BMC!One of my joys this year has been seeing the completion of a new education building and performance hall for the Brattleboro Music Center. I’ve been working for twelve years on this project, most recently as Chair of the Capital Campaign, through many twists and turns, ups and downs. There is joy in seeing the unpredictable ways these new spaces are both shaping music in our community and being shaped by the musicians making use of them. There is joy in feeling all the investment and energy over these years, now come together in this particular piece of architecture. There is also joy in the unfolding of these spaces as they take on a life of their own, and in the anticipation of watching and wondering at this unfolding over the coming years.

It is with similar feelings that I approach this year’s Scroll’s celebration of 50 years at the bench. As I reflect on my career so far, I celebrate all the energy and caring and experience that has passed to me, and around me, and through me. I relive the vision and dreams, hopes and expectations that have shaped my life and work. And I am thankful for the many who have invested in my work, just as I am thankful to the donors who turned the BMC’s dreams into reality.

Photo by William Dixon, © 2011And just as a space for music takes on a life of its own and a spirit shaped by the sound vibrations that fill it and by the passion and commitment of the musicians making that music, so my instruments have a life of their own. I feel both joy and humility in watching them make their way in the world, interacting with all they meet in all the ways things come together in this world.

The success of fundraising for the new BMC was built on 65 years of investment in “promoting the love and understanding of good music and making it a vital part of the community,” as the mission statement tells us. The vital community that has grown here, one that loves and understands good music, is what brought about the dollar investment in these spaces that will inspire and support music for the coming generations.

It is the 50 years of investment in my work that allows me to produce what I do, and, with luck, will serve and inspire the coming generations of string players.

Douglas Cox signature

1967 - 2017: Fifty Years at the Bench

In August of 1967 at the age of eighteen, Douglas Cox traveled to the Geigenbauschule Mittenwald to begin his apprenticeship.

Geigenbauschule Mittenwald (State Professional School for Violinmaking) As is customary, the first instruments he made belonged to the school. Only Viola Opus 5 remains in his inventory.

I was assigned to the workshop of Karl Roy. The course of study in his studio was to do one major step of construction, such as building a rib cage for two violins, followed by single repetitions of that process for two additional violins. When these four were complete in the white (not yet varnished), a viola was to be built in one process. I built my viola in the spring of 1968 on the school’s Strad pattern and varnished it the following winter, counting it as my Opus 5.

Given my tendency to work quickly and loosely, the meticulous process and workmanship standards of the Mittenwald School provided a good foundation for me to build on.


Doug began working in the Boston shop of J. Bradley Taylor. During that summer, he continued working in the shop part-time while continuing to run the family farm in Plaistow, NH. He spent the next ten years doing restorations and repairs in Taylor's shop, working on some of the finest instruments in the Boston area.

June 1979

Married Lisa Anderson.

A label from 1982September 1981 – June 1982

Doug accompanied Lisa as she continued her Classics education at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece.

Seven early instruments are labeled “Douglas C. Cox, Athens 198–.” Others were begun in Boston and finished in Athens, or begun in Athens and finished in Boston.

It was about this time that I realized that my instruments did not play as well as they should. I began looking critically at the acoustic assumptions and practices of the Mittenwald School and comparing that to my experience in the Taylor shop. My focus shifted from the “this is how violins should be made” approach to “how can I make instruments that play well.”

I began the process of experimenting and learning from players. The evolutionary process of trial and error – getting to know my wood, and getting to know myself – led to increased success in making instruments that played well. Robert Koff was very important for me in expanding my thinking.

Early Music, ca. 1983August 1983

Lisa took a position teaching Latin and history at the Putney School. Forty-three instruments are labeled “Douglas C. Cox, 198–, Putney, Vermont” Doug worked in rented space on Main Street in Putney, and later in dormitory space on campus.

1984 Jeremy Cox born.

July 1, 1985

Purchased and moved into the house on Sunset Lake Road in Brattleboro. Instruments made from this date on are labeled “Douglas C. Cox, Brattleboro, Vermont.” More than eight hundred instruments are so labeled as of September 2017.

1986 Nathaniel Cox born.

Fall 1988 – Spring 1990

The Cox family relocates to Bard College, where Lisa teaches Classics. Instruments continue to be labeled “Brattleboro.” The first year Doug worked in Livingston, NY and the second year in Rhinebeck, NY.

Summer 1990

Return to Sunset Lake Road. The first few years there, when not away at Bard, Doug worked in the basement of the house. After the return from Bard, work begins on building the shop.

January 1991

Residency with the Ural Philharmonic in Yekaterinburg, Russia.


Work, work, work!

Summer 2007

Began attending the violin acoustics workshops at Oberlin College. Set up acoustic record-keeping system


Hired a business manager.


Developed the making protocol with assistance from intern Isaac Avenia-Tapper.


A comprehensive table of woods used - the foundation of Doug’s work - was added to database with assistance from intern Seamus Carey.


First Wine and Violin Tasting at NextStage in Putney, Vermont. Yum!


Exhibit at David Walter Gallery.


Guadagnini models exhibited at Stamell Strings, Amherst, Mass.


A comprehensive catalog of the forms used is added to the database. Over 60 forms - many still in use today.

January 2016

Traveled to Santiago de Cuba on a cultural exchange with 20 artists and musicians.


Nathaniel Cox joins the business, building lutes and baroque guitars.


Violinmaker-in-Residence for the VSO. Violin #934 debuts at the May 6, 2017 concert. Mid-2017, Doug speeds past Opus 950 on his way to Opus 1,000.

Mentors & Inspirations

Working with Brad Taylor helped to launch my career. He smoothed the way for my study in Mittenwald, and then gave me the opportunity to get to know professional players and fine instruments in all their diversity and complexity. With his guidance and support I undertook work that stretched me beyond my limits, discovering and developing the skills and understanding that have provided the foundation of my making career.

Marylou Speaker ChurchillMarylou Speaker Churchill, principal 2nd violin with the BSO, had a profound influence on my career. As she did with so many others, she encouraged and challenged me to do my best work. There are hundreds of individuals, not all musicians, who can say the same. Her reach as a teacher, musician and friend was vast, and through those people her teachings and her spirit live on.

Eric RosenblithEric Rosenblith was a celebrated violin teacher and chair of the string department at New England Conservatory in the 1980s and a prominent part of the Yellow Barn Festival in Putney, Vermont. I saw him regularly and he graciously made his 1713 Grand Pattern Strad available to me to study and copy. The violin hadbeen his since he was a young prodigy in the orchestral world and fit his character and playing style perfectly. He is one of many who gave me access to inspiring instruments and the understanding of why they are so wonderful.

Robert Koff, founding 2nd violin of the Juilliard String Quartet, gave tirelessly of his time and wisdom over the many years he served as my mentor, evaluating and improving my work. He played and commented on most of my instruments for two decades and kept me reaching for the “Dark Chocolate” sound he loved.

Blanche Honegger MoyseBlanche Moyse was mentor, inspiration and formidable taskmistress to generations of musicians in Brattleboro and beyond. As conductor and interpreter, she offered rare and profound insights into the music of J. S. Bach. As a passionate advocate for community participation, she pursued her vision with a tenacity that has made our town a Mecca for music.

Blanche generously allowed me to study her 1610 Brothers Amati Violin, and I have made several violins on this pattern. My Opus 730, made entirely of wood harvested locally in Windham County is a tribute to Blanche and her legacy.

Antonio Stradivarius lived from 1644 or 1648 to 1737. He was a brilliant thinker and craftsman, and he and his shop produced a very large and well-documented body of work. Coming to violinmaking with 200 years of evolution of the instrument before him, he was able to synthesize the work of his forebears and apply his own genius to systematically experimenting with the form and materials to achieve results many feel have not been surpassed.

I look to Stradivari for inspiration and instruction. In my case the instruction has not been “do it this way!” but more “here is how to think about the violin and here is how to experiment and evolve”. The vast production of his studio – about 600 instruments still exist from a likely output of around 1200 – and their prominent placement in museums and with top players, allows for easy study and comparison.

On Violinmaking

I view myself primarily as a toolmaker: I make violins to be used by musicians to order sounds in the universe, to express their soul and spirit. As a user of good tools, I know that tools have a beauty that comes from elegance and efficiency of design, comfortably fit to the body, and a relationship to a tradition of use. My work is limited by the nature of wood, the laws of physics, the shape of the human body, and the imagination of my clientele.

Visually my work needs to be inviting to the player. It needs to look like it wants to be played and will respond to the player’s wishes. The classical violin world is conservative, and old is usually considered better, so most of my work is designed to look and feel old; most is modeled on specific instruments of the past. I admire and strive for strength of character and personality, and willingly sacrifice fineness of detail to achieve this strength.

Tonally, I strive for ease of response and a full, flexible sound. I work on a wide range of models to try to meet the needs and tastes of a wide range of players. The goal is a rich, complex foundation with enough character and personality on top to provide projection and clarity of articulation.

I use local woods because I want my work to reflect the place and time of its making. I am an American and I like to use American wood. My studio is located in West Brattleboro partially because of its place within the Eastern forest and the maple and spruce with which I work.

Once I have made the violin and set it up, it will be the playing, weather changes, accidents and repairs over the next 200 years that will give the violin its identity and its soul.

Timeline of the making of Violin Opus 934 for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

Timeline of the making of Violin Opus 934 for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.
Click here to see our blog documenting start to finish.

Production Graph: 1967-2017.