Jamie Marie Lazzara
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Jamie Marie Lazzara

Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves:

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Thu 08 Oct 2009 12:00 AM

Florence is home to many
expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved
here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive
here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether
they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were
looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance’ for
the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking
to follow their hearts.

 

 

At the age of 15, Jamie Marie Lazzara decided
that she wanted to have a profession that would mix art and music: she was
gifted in art and had been playing the violin since she was eight. When she
decided to become a violin maker, she spoke with a few violin makers in California,
where she was living at the time. They told her that it wasn’t a profession for
women, but that didn’t stop her. She was determined to make her dream a
reality. At 19, she traveled to Cremona,
Italy
to attend the most prestigious violin making school in the world.

 

Before studying how to make violins at Istituto
Professionale Internazionale Artigianale Liutario e del
Legno (www.ipiall.it), Jamie came to Florence
to study Italian and art restoration at Università Internazionale dell’Arte
(www.uiafirenze.com) for two years. Afterwards she returned to Cremona
where she studied for four years to become the first American maestro
liutaio (master violin maker) to graduate from IPIALL.

Shortly after she graduated, Itzhak Perlman, the
famous Israeli-American virtuoso, played one of Jamie’s violins and was
impressed. Many years later, when Perlman was in Florence,
Jamie spoke with him and talked about a violin she wanted him to try. After
playing it, he ordered a custom-made violin from Jamie immediately based on his
Stradivarius. In January 2009, Perlman played that violin at President Obama’s
inauguration ceremony with Yo-yo Ma, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero.

 

Jamie builds custom instruments as well as period
instruments, like citterns, and kit violins, for such renowned musicians as
Micha Molthoff, as well as local artists, among them Luca di Volo (tromba
marina), Emanuele Parrini (a viola and a violin), and Jacopo Martini, Leo Boni,
Tommaso Papini, Simone Solazzo (swing guitars), and Gianluca Venier
(Renaissance violetta and basseto da gamba). Even though her shop is fairly
new, having opened over 20 years ago, it is considered a historic Florentine
artisan studio.

 

In her studio behind the Palazzo Vecchio, in via dei
Leoni, you can find Jamie building, restoring, and repairing violins, guitars,
and other string instruments. Violin forms for some of the custom instruments
that she has made hang on the wall above her workspace while stacks of wood
from Val di Fiemme in Northern Italy
are piled high in a corner. She keeps resins and pigments in separate
containers to make her own varnishes for her instruments. Her six square meter
studio is compact, but optimized: she’s able to work on numerous instruments at
a time.

 

Jamie also plays her instruments. For almost 15 years,
she played violin for the late Italian folk singer Caterina Bueno, and was
recently invited to play the lyra da braccio for the inauguration of a Leonardo
da Vinci museum in Sweden.
(Apparently da Vinci surprised the court in Milan
one day by playing the lyra da braccio, the forerunner to the violin.)

 

Even after being in Florence
for 30 years, Jamie still finds the city stimulating. When she is not in her studio,
she sometimes heads out to one of the museums, like the Bargello, where she
finds inspiration for her work of making violins by hand.

 

 

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