By Jasmine Reese - For years, a man doused in musical mystery has graced the Internet with helpful violin and viola video and blog tutorials. Like a superhero, he came out of nowhere, saving beginning string instrument students from their common right and left-hand follies. He created a bustling online community of adult violin students, arranging simple to more advanced tunes for everyone to play, answering questions, and collaborating with musicians of all levels on video projects.
And, like a bright and burning Phoenix, out of this community arose an establishment with one simple mission, to provide quality and affordable string instruments to all -- Fiddlershop.
Since then, Fiddlershop acts like a secret lair for our hero, trying to keep music alive and well for people from all walks of life. Of course, I am talking about none other than Pierre Holstein -- aka Fiddlerman.
I could be a little biased in my introduction. But the description is accurate! OK, Pierre doesn't wear a cape or anything like that, and Fiddlershop is not a high-tech place for highly confidential violin operations. Itis a quaint, well-laid out instrument shop in Fort Lauderdale, FL, containing a small family of employees.
Fiddlerman's journey began back in 2009.
"When I gave up my position in Malmō Symphony Orchestra to move back to Florida in 2009, I no longer had a full-time job, and I figured I could give a shot at starting a blog site with free tutorials and information on playing the violin, " Pierre said. "I was intrigued with the potential to use the Internet to spread knowledge to people who couldn’t afford music lessons."
The birth of the moniker, Fiddlerman, short and to-the-point explanation.
"I consider myself a fiddler and a man, and I was fortunate that the domain was available, " Pierre smiled.
So, I decided to do a Q & A with Pierre to learn more about the man behind the fiddle. Here was our conversation.
How did your life-long journey playing the violin begin?
Simple. A woman walked into our fifth-grade class with a bunch of stringed instruments. I got a hold of a violin and brought an application home with me for my parents to sign. My dad said he would only sign if I promise to practice one hour every single day. I responded, “Sure, that’ll be easy.”
Boy, was I mistaken!
Struggles, successes, epiphanies, strokes of luck -- what were the moments that made you the violinist you are today?
Learning to play an instrument wasn’t what I at first thought it would be. I had to practice whether I wanted to or not and had a tendency to do well in competitions and auditions. The rewards and attention that I received kept me going long enough that I wanted to keep going.
Believe it or not, I received a lot of positive feedback from my peers in grade and high school, especially from girls; that made me proud.
How did your career in music begin?
My private teacher started recommending me for gigs in my early teens and soon gigs were more important than homework or anything else. Heck, I could make money doing something fun!
What was your happiest moment as a violinist?
As some of you realize, politics exist in orchestras. An orchestra in which I was an alternate concertmaster, offered a position to a musician without an audition against my will, so I quit my job. After quitting, it hit me that I just gave up a wonderful job, and I became worried about the future. As a result, I focused my attention on an audition coming up in a mere three weeks. It was for a bigger orchestra, and I barely met the deadline for the application.
I ended up winning the audition! The day I heard that I had won that position was one of the happiest moments I have had as a violinist.
Why did you get into the business of curating and selling instruments? How did Fiddlershop begin?
It all started with an advertisement for Cecilio which was popping up on Fiddlerman.com through Google Adsense. I kept seeing a violin outfit for $99, and it hit me that many people couldn't afford more.
I also received quite a few emails from members of Fiddlerman.com asking if it was worth buying such an inexpensive instrument. Were those instruments playable? I ordered one to find out and was
pleasantly surprised because I had no expectations whatsoever. I had never played on such an inexpensive instrument before.
I asked our son Michael if he would be interested in starting an e-commerce business selling stringed instrument accessories, and he jumped at the opportunity.
At first, I thought we would be successful selling strings but it turned out that profits are minimal. Believe it or not, because of the intense competition and internet, we often only make a few dollars on each string set.
Eventually, it hit me that selling the very same instruments that I promoted on a video would be logical, and the business progressed quickly from that point on. We became interested in not only providing inexpensive instruments for those who could not afford much but also in finding the best instruments available for the money.
Fiddlershop has become somewhat of a family affair? Was that the plan?
The plan was to have a small business sufficient to pay our bills but as the company grew and we needed more help, who better to use than family? I feel as though everyone who works at Fiddlershop is part of our family but my wife, Asa, and our son, Michael, are the only family members working for Fiddlershop.com.
What do you hope to accomplish with Fiddlershop and Fiddlerman?
To take over the violin world!!!
Seriously though, I hope that we continue to gain popularity as being a trustworthy, service-minded, and reliable source for all stringed instrument needs.
Outside of Fiddlershop, what are your favorite hobbies?
Spending time with family and friends, sailing, swimming and diving, and eating great tasting healthy food.
What would you be doing if not running one of the most popular string instrument shops in the country?
Sailing around the world if I could convince my wife Asa.
How long have you been married? How many children? Do any of your children also play instruments?
This will blow you guys away, but I’ve been happily married for 33
Our children are Michael and Emilie Joanna. Many of you know Michaelactually; he doesn’t play any instrument but can answer any question you can throw at him about the violin.
Emilie Joanna is a very accomplished singer and keyboardist. Her talents are in demand, and she does very well for herself. She also started a business of her own, performing and officiating weddings for couples on the beach in Fort Lauderdale.
What's the most interesting thing you've done outside of music that's contributed to the person you are today?
Moving to Sweden and traveling through Europe with my wife was both interesting and has taught me a lot. Everyone should travel the world if they have the chance, and it will most likely affect you in varying ways.
Though you specified outside of music, my job did allow me to travel and perform in Denmark, Germany, Norway, Finland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Scotland, Serbia, Malaysia, and Japan.
Why do you think it's important for us to have music in our lives?
Music is medicine. Music can make us happy or sad and has the capability to pick us up when we are down. Music can clear our minds when we really need it and has the power to enrich our lives.
In what way was music medicine to you?
I sometimes feel my energy is low, and the best way that I know to charge it is with the positive music of any genre. Funny enough, I never used to like country music, but lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of it on my way home from work to relax. I guess it’s tied to the simple, natural, and acoustic aspect of music performance.
From what you've observed in your industry of selling acoustic string instruments, are you optimistic about the future of instrumental music?
I've witnessed that no matter how advanced and electric mainstream music becomes, there are always people who have a passion for pure and simple unplugged performances.
What tips can you give to anyone just beginning their journey on a string instrument?
Set goals but not expectations. Listen to as much string music and varying styles as possible. Work hard but with a smile on your face. Don’t let the hurdles be a distraction; rather use them to challenge yourself.