Bikes are Vehicle of Choice for Violin Making School

Violin Making School of America
Adam Goltry focuses on detailed scraping at a VMSA work bench.
Photos: Jennifer Leahy

By Jennifer Leahy

The Violin Making School of America, one of only three such schools in the United States, sits at the corner of 200 South and 300 East in downtown Salt Lake City. Since 1972, students from all over the world have come to the school in to spend three years training and studying for careers as luthiers. In addition to its skilled instructors and award-winning alumni, the violin school is also known for its bicycles: with 28 students and no free parking, it’s home to a healthy community of student bike commuters, as evidenced by the collection regularly locked up out front.

The violin school is supportive of its students who choose to bike. VMSA director, Charles Woolf, says that in years past, students used to bring their bikes inside each day and store them upstairs, which encroached on workspace. To remedy this, the school requested a rack through Salt Lake City’s free bike rack installation program. Upon the arrival of the first inverted-U rack, the school rapidly realized that one was not going to be enough, and requested two more. Lori Carter, the school’s administrator, speaks positively of the city’s bike rack program, saying, “It was great – we didn’t have to pay anything, we didn’t have to follow up or deal with any issues, and they (the city) were pretty accurate with their wait time.”

Speaking with three students at the VMSA, Jenelle Steele, Paul Spencer, and Adam Goltry, it’s clear that in addition to avoiding the hassle of finding parking spots, there are some other benefits to commuting by bike. The three state that it’s a great way to arrive at school warmed up and energized, and on long days spent working in the shop, biking is sometimes the only exercise opportunity they get. Students even transport their work to and from the school by bike: on the day I visited, Jenelle was preparing to ride home with a cello-scroll-in-progress tucked into a wire pannier, and all three recalled the time a fellow student managed to bike in to school with an upright bass strapped to his back.

Violin Making School of America
Bicyclists in front of Violin Making School of America

Despite the school’s large violin-themed mural and sign, it seems as though the regular presence of bicycles out front has confused some people over the years. According to VMSA students, a man once walked in off the street, asking to talk to someone about bikes. Turns out he’d mistaken the filled racks out front for bike shop inventory, and was interested in making a purchase.

For more information about Salt Lake City’s free bike rack program, go to

Jennifer Leahy is a photographer living in Salt Lake City. You can find her work at

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