Rich Maxham, Va. violinist making music, money and memories

A 23-year-old Virginia man is proving his music-making talents are well beyond his years.

Rich Maxham is a fifth generation violin maker who recently packed up his strings for Bethesda.

He spends 40 hours a week tuning violins, varnishing them and carving out new ones.

“I like the idea that I'm adding something to the world that will last beyond me,” he said.

Maxham, who didn’t attend violin-making school, was able to soak up enough knowledge and skills in a violin shop in his hometown, Lynchburg, Va.

There, he would  watch his grandfather regularly maintain the instruments. When he died, Maxham inherited all his grandfather’s tools.

“I started out with just blocks of wood and gauged them, played them and scraped them until they were violins,” he said.

With the help of his mentor, it took him seven months to create his first violin and another two months to varnish it.

“It’s given me a lot of inspiration to continue making and hopefully add a few more violins to my repertoire,” Maxham said.

Jim Kelly is a violinist and the Vice President of Operations at the Potter Violin Company in Bethesda. In July, the company signed Maxham to join its family after discovering he had an ear and eye for violin-making.

“It's a legacy you're creating and it's also a voice for a musician,” Kelly said.

“He has great wood-working skills and it's just a matter of time and just doing it over and over and getting that critical feedback from us so he can hone his skills,” he added.

With his new job, Maxham is proving that practice makes perfect, all while ensuring his grandfather’s memory lives on.

“I like thinking of that as kind of a legacy,” he said.

As part of his new position, Maxham is tasked with perfecting the violins at the Potter Violin Company and, once he masters that, he’ll move on to making them.

Most of company’s staff can create instruments that range from $6,500 to $12,000.