About the Boorse Collection

All violins in the collection are by living makers. The makers are initially chosen by three main criteria: medals won at Violin Society of America competitions; advice by makers already in the collection; and opinions posted at www.violinist.com. Ultimately, instruments are accepted or rejected by the judgment of Christopher Boorse, after consultation with international soloist and University of Delaware professor Xiang Gao, and also with other music professionals and students. In all but two cases, violins were selected from two or more instruments by the same maker. Only two of the violins had a previous owner. It is currently planned to expand the collection to at least 15 makers.

The Boorse Collection is privately owned, but many of its instruments have been lent to other violinists. Besides the University of Delaware, violins from the collection have been played at Appalachian State University, The Aspen Festival, Temple University, University of North Carolina, and West Chester University.

That the best contemporary violins are the equals of old-master instruments is confirmed by many studies, most recently a double-blind test in Paris in 2013.1 In this test (an improved version of a 2010 study with similar results 2), ten world-class violin soloists were blindfolded and asked to compare twelve violins: six contemporary, six old Italians (including five Stradivaris). The most popular violin was a contemporary, and the contemporaries won decisively on total points. Also, the players were unable to tell old from new; their guesses were no better than chance (31 right, 33 wrong).

About the Collector

Christopher Boorse is Professor of Philosophy at University of Delaware, where he has taught since 1971. He comes from a musical family, with his father having been a music professor at Penn State, his father’s parents music teachers, and his great-grandfather and sister piano technicians. He studied violin from ages 6 to 21, and, as a freshman at Oberlin, toured Northeast concert halls in the orchestra’s first-violin section. Recently, after a long hiatus, he took the instrument up again, playing six semesters in UD’s large orchestra and one semester in UD’s chamber orchestra.

In Boorse’s professional life, his writings in philosophy of medicine, on the analysis of concepts of health and disease, are well-known internationally. He has also written on ethics and on symbolic logic. His teaching has included a great variety of courses, mostly in the latter two areas.

The Collection

Borman violin

Terry Borman

2011 Guarneri model

Terry Borman apprenticed in France and graduated from the Violin Making School of America. He opened his own shop in Salt Lake City in 1986 and in 2005 relocated to Arkansas. His instruments... more >>>


Burgess violin

David Burgess


David Burgess, born in 1953, worked five years as a repairer in the Weisshaar shop. While still in his twenties, he won nine gold medals in four VSA competitions (1976, 1978, 1980, 1982), for both tone... more >>>


Folland violin

David Folland

2000 Stradivari model

David Folland graduated from the Violin Making School of America in 1983. He has made over 200 instruments and won more than two dozen awards for them in international competitions... more >>> 


Gilles violin

Nicolas Gilles

2006 Stradivari model

Nicolas Gilles is a diplomate of both the French violinmaking school at Mirecourt (1996) and the English one at Newark (1998). After several years of apprenticeship, in 2001 he opened his studio in Montpellier, France... more >>>


Gusset violin

David Gusset

2009 Guarneri model

David Gusset, born in 1951, graduated from the School of Violin Making in Salt Lake City, Utah. He earned three VSA gold medals (1978, 1980) and is now hors concours. In 1985, he became the first American... more >>>


Iizuka violin

Hiroshi Iizuka


Hiroshi Iizuka, born in 1946, studied first in Tokyo and then in Mittenwald, where he won a diploma from the German Chamber of Handwork (1974). He won VSA gold medals in 1976 and 1994. His instruments... more >>>

Jiang violin

Feng Jiang

2012 Guarneri model

Feng Jiang is a second-generation violinmaker from China, who worked at Alf Studios and now has his own workshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has won three VSA gold medals (2004, 2012), including a “double gold”... more >>>


Needham violin

Howard Needham

2005 Guarneri model

Howard Needham, born in 1944, worked as a repairer and restorer in a Washington, DC shop from 1981-85. Almost wholly self-taught as a maker, he is deeply influenced by the ideas of Geary Baese on violin acoustics... more >>>


Schryer violin

Raymond Schryer

 2011 Stradivari model

Raymond Schryer, born in 1961, first learned violinmaking from his uncle and then spent a three-year apprenticeship in Toronto.  He has won one VSA gold medal (2002) and six silver ones, as well as a gold (2003) and... more >>>


Vigato violin

Laura Vigato


Laura Vigato, born in Brescia, Italy, in 1958, graduated from Cremona’s international School of Liuteria in 1980.  Since then she has run her own Brescia workshop, in which she has produced hundreds of instruments... more >>>


Widenhouse violin

Kurt Widenhouse

2007 Guarneri model

Kurt Widenhouse, born in 1958, graduated from the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City.  After six years’ work at shops in three other cities, he established his own in 1990 and has made 250 violins to... more >>>



Dr. Xiang Gao

International violin soloist

Xiang Gao

Xiang Gao has appeared as violin soloist with more than 100 orchestras worldwide, including the Czech Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the Detroit Symphony. He approves every violin in the Boorse Collection before its acquisition. See more about Gao's musical career at www.xianggao.net.

A Stradivarius on exhibit at Palacio Real de Madrid. Credit: Håkan Svensson

Stradivarius Violins Aren’t Better Than New Ones: Round Two

Ed Yong, National Geographic

Many people genuinely believe that Stradivarius violins are superior to newly made violins and many scientists have tried to work out why. But to Claudia Fritz from Sorbonne University, the search for Stradivari’s secrets is a “perennially fruitless one”… because they don’t exist. Read the National Geographic article >>>

Professional violinist blind testing an instrument


Pam Belluck, New York Times

It’s a foregone conclusion in the violin world: The best violins were made 300 years ago by Italian masters like Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù. Researchers looking into this belief beg to differ. Read the New York Times article >>>