A passion for instruments
The Intrigue Begins
Jim Clinton’s musical career began when he signed up to join 4th grade orchestra at the historic J. L. Noble Elementary School, in Juniata, PA . It is now considered a historic building designed after the renaissance gothic architecture. Let’s just say, it was old then and very large. Jim remembers being intimidated by its size, he had no realization of the immense style that surely influenced his creative instincts. No, he did not play music there, but does remember standing in his 2nd grade classroom corner for making and displaying a blue clay clown nose during art class. The waiting list for a school instrument was so long that before the opportunity to play violin was available his family relocated to aptly named, Accident, MD. The hamlet had a population of 714 (7 of which were Clintons, enough to sway a mayoral election) and the school didn’t offer violin lessons. Following in the footsteps of his late mother, Jim took up what was available, alto saxophone. In school his mother played a silver Conn C melody sax in the mid 40’s. Jim still has it.
The Passion Ignites
Jim’s interest in the violin never left him. The orchestral sound and the violin in particular always had its intrigue. He played saxophone through school, took lessons in college and played in Woodwind Choir on campus. When he had the money, he purchased a premium quality Paris made Selmer Saxophone. He understood even then the necessity of playing a quality instrument. After graduating from college, Jim traveled every weekend to Georgia for approximately 14 years helping small churches with their music program. At one church a couple young people began violin and cello lessons. This reignited the spark of interest in the violin. Understanding that he could not only begin the journey of learning a stringed instrument but he could encourage and impact the musical and spiritual lives of these young musicians, he began cello lessons as an adult. Now the church had an orchestra as well.
One of Jim’s cello instructors was Allen Probus, cellist in the Kansas City Symphony who had a profound impact on Jim’s playing. Jim played cello in Greenville’s Foothills Philharmonic and served on the board and as President of the Foothills from the second year of its inception until shortly after he married the love of his life, Kim Williams at age 45. He continues to support the Foothills Philharmonic through advertising and inviting his clients to each of their concerts.
Learning The Craft
Jim has always known he worked best utilizing his eye hand coordination. Previously to opening his violin shop Jim’s various interests and occupations included auto body and painting, auto mechanic (Mercedes Benz), machinist at a go-kart manufacturer, welding, drag racing motorcycles, and building street rods. Every one of these endeavors involves repairing and improving, even maximizing whatever he put his hand and heart to. He felt he could improve his first cello, an old Kay, since the bridge made it sound bad and hard to play. After doing some research and handiwork he improved his technique and tone on the cello. This became an important theme in his work today. He later bought another cello with a broken neck for $250 and proceeded to repair it after obtaining advice from a reputable repairman. That cello is still holding to this day without a re-repair. Jim soon discovered Horst Kloss who years ago came to America from Germany and worked in the Becker shop where he eventually worked on Strad and Guarneri instruments. Jim studied with Mr. Kloss learning conservative techniques of restoration, repair, varnish repair, and instrument setup. He also studied French traditional bow restoration, rehair, and bow making with Lynn Armour Hannings. Jim’s attention to detail stems out of his many influences and experiences. He has done meticulous things such as removing the slightest dent from a car door, polishing an auto finish to show appearance, matching paint and varnish colors, improving performance, designing a suspension setup, and sensitively satisfying client’s needs.
Performing the Craft
One day Jim walked into a band/orchestra store to purchase a used violin for a friend. He told the salesman it could be a broken one since he could repair it. The owner told him that he was looking for a repairman and on the spot began a subcontract relationship. Jim was later asked to manage the store and worked there for approximately 2 years. While learning how to meet the needs of musicians, Jim discovered that in Greenville, and South Carolina, string playing musicians and teachers were in need of the kind of support he could provide. The violin department was always at the back of the store and there were no shops specializing in violins, violas, celli, and basses and their care. With the encouragement of an associate, he looked into opening his own specialty violin workshop, offering repair and restoration services along with instrument sales.
Finding a Home
In January of 2002 Jim started the shop by meeting friends and their referred clients in the parking lot of a bread store or in front of the old Taylors Library. A lot of really great friends kept Jim going by referring their friends and students to him for repairs, setups, and new instruments. Finally he had to find a home for this budding business and in April of 2002 Jim Clinton Violins had a location where it is to this day. After shopping many potential locations, he met a gentleman who he knew he could rent from and be an ally in this business venture. The Lord helped Jim find Bill Shivers who is now passed but was his new landlord, friend, and advisor. Jim and friends have done a lot to redecorate and create a pleasant atmosphere. It is their goal that Jim and his associates bring a warm and friendly atmosphere to a visitor’s experience.
A Passion For Instruments Through Real Service
Everyone at Jim Clinton’s Violins goal is to continue to provide the best in instrument selection, setup and repair. Optimum tonal adjustments, ease of playability, accurate pitching and aural beauty are important custom elements found in a well setup instrument. These features are limited when a shop merely orders an instrument shipped to the door. It takes time, patience and effort to bring the full power and beauty from these instruments.
The Passion Continues
Jim began performing instrument repairs and setups in the Greenville area in 1997. He has done anything from replacing a broken string to bringing a fine Maggini violin copy back to life from fire damage. He insists on providing the best entry-level instruments available for beginning students providing them with quality sound and the ease of play that ensures the best learning experience possible. His shop also carries some extremely fine, high-end instruments that rival the quality found in larger shops in major cities.
Jim has been proprietor of Jim Clinton Violins since January 2002 and drives a PT Cruiser with “Full Moon” hubcaps. He resides at Greer, SC with his wife Kim, daughter Hannah. They are expecting another child in September of 2011.