Kevin Lee | A Master

Kevin Lee chose to make Southern Utah home for his violin-making business because of the excellent climate for curing wood and drying glue and varnish.

A luthier (pronounced lo͞otēə), by definition, is a maker of stringed instruments.

Walking from the sagebrush-covered desert of Leeds into Kevin’s luthier shop is akin to stepping into a new and fascinating world.

A particularly enormous bookcase filled with vintage music books covers nearly half the length of one wall. Across from it, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet contains jars of amber mixtures and paintbrushes. Blocks of wood hang from the ceiling. Worktables display the master luthier’s work: violins-in-the-making.

Next to the door, a straightjacket is draped over a bench. When asked about this unusual piece of décor, Kevin smiles and says, “The straightjacket is a reminder of just how close to the edge – just how crazy you have to be – to go into this [business].”

According to Kevin, of the eight master luthiers the world has ever known, most of them died in abject poverty. He said that one in particular – Jacob Stainer – died in a straightjacket on his front porch.

“The only way you can succeed is to believe you really can,” Kevin says. “You have to believe you can succeed when no one in the last 300 years has. You have to be that arrogant. Otherwise you have no chance of success.”

Kevin’s violins cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Kevin says he is the only living certified master luthier in the world.