Our friends Jim and Kathy Zartman invited Mike and me to a pretty cool event tonight. We’re going to a gala that benefits the Chicago School of Violin Making, and it sure sounds like my kind of party:
- Starts early – 6:30 p.m.
- Begins with a sampling of three to four wines
- Promises ”substantial” Hors d’oeurves along with the wine
- Features a string quartet during cocktail hour
- Ends with Acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine playing a number of different violins – one of them made by the violinist from the quartet we will have heard earlier.
I’ve known Jim Zartman for nearly five years — his wife Kathy is in the memoir-writing class I lead on Thursday afternoons for Lincoln Park Village. Jim often drives Whitney and me to that class, and during those rides together over the years I’ve had the privilege of hearing his stories about growing up in a small town in Illinois, the mother who gave him his first violin, and getting free room and board in exchange for working as a houseboy for John Kenneth Galbraith’s family at Harvard. “They said they named their son Jamie after me,” he told me once. “But I’m not sure that’s true.”
Jim is not exactly forthcoming, but when I ask questions, he answers. In our 20-minute rides to class he’s shared stories of raising a family with Katherine, his appreciation for his talented grandchildren, his work writing the Illinois Power of Attorney Act and then getting it through the state legislature during his career as partner in the Chicago firm of Chapman and Cutler, and his role as president of the board of the Chicago School of Violin Making.
A couple years ago Jim arranged for me to have a tour of the school, wich is one of just three violin-making schools in the United States. Jessie Gilbert, a graduate of the school who took over for Jim as president of the board there last year, led my one-on-one tour. Her strong hands guided me along blocks of maple and spruce that were to become instruments, and I met teachers and students who had come from all over the world to participate in the schools three-year program — students aspire to the quality craftsmanship of the 17th and 18th century classical masters and are ready to enter the violin making and repair field as professionals once they graduate.
I didn’t stay long — it wasn’t fair to distract the students from their work. While I was there, though, I was taken by how quiet the workspace was — no music to work by, just the intense sound of careful carving and fine sanding. And tonight, I’ll have the privilege of hearing Rachel Barton Pine perform on some of the results of all that hard work. This. Is. So. Cool.