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Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

A Musical Encounter in Rione Regola

Perhaps it’s because of all the street performers in Rome, or our visit to see the Berlin Philharmonie, but since coming here I’ve suddenly wanted to pick up my violin again. It’s been more than two years since I quit playing (balancing architecture and hobbies is tough), and I didn’t have my instrument with me, so I went to the closest violin workshop to see if they did rentals.

My friend Jane and I went to Michel Eggiman’s workshop, just a few streets from Campo de Fiori. I found his shop on Google Maps, and although there were no reviews, I decided to give it a shot.

When we got there, a young-ish man was carving a violin scroll, and I had google translate for me ‘rent’ to ‘noleggio’ and asked if I could borrow a violin. He said he had to call his boss, and went on his phone, where he addressed his boss as ‘maestro’. Jane and I got excited over that, since it seemed so Italian! A violin-maker maestro!

Turns out the maestro was only a few minutes away, because he came to the shop in a few moments and told me that I could borrow one for 200 euros a month. He usually sells his violins for 4000 euros, so they must be good. After texting my parents if that was okay I went for it. The violin had a beautiful timbre and made my ratchet playing sound better. I guess this is what a 4000 euro violin sounds like! The student violin I have at home is a quarter of the price. Since I had trouble finding a tutor, I decided to just play on my own, looking at some old Suzuki method books from before and trying to get back in shape. The last piece I played was ‘Remembrances’ by John Williams, the title song in Schindler’s List, but I had lost the ability to play that, so my goal was by the end of the month to be able to play the song. I think I was able to achieve it, to an extent.

Jane then asked if he knew a piano teacher, and turns out, he knows one right down the street! So we followed him to Mr. Cameron’s apartment.

There was an American lady that was telling her husband that this was her favorite street so far, although at first glance it seems like a boring residential street. When we walked further down we discovered a number of art supply shops, wood shops, bringing back memories of Ithaca, and we could see why the lady liked this street so much (perhaps she is also an architect?).

The apartment building was very grand, and Michel told us that he was a famous musician and composer. Mr. Cameron and Mrs. Cameron opened the door and was very welcoming. They were an elderly couple that spoke both French, Italian and for Mrs. Cameraon, English as well. Their apartment was filled with paraphernalia accumulated over the years, and the coffee table was a pile of scores. A grand piano took center stage in the living room. There were other instruments lying around the apartment as well.

Jane made an appointment for the following week, and I went with her for her lesson. When we got up the elevator, he was already waiting for us outside the door with a full smile on his face. I’m guessing he doesn’t get foreign study-abroad students very often (in fact I think he is mostly retired from his career). He was very kind and patient, and although he didn’t speak English and Jane didn’t speak Italian, somehow they were able to communicate. I quit piano when I was 10 so I don’t know much about it, but I thought that Jane played very well. She had also quit playing piano since college, so this was an opportunity for both of us to pick up our instruments after two years of neglect! The lesson was just 20 euros an hour, which compared to Asia where some pianists charge up to 100 USD, it’s very affordable for students. Not only was this a good experience musically but to be able to befriend locals outside the school setting and visit their private homes is something special.

I hope that back in Ithaca we can both continue making music and not lose ourselves to the dizzying business of architecture school.


Michel Eggiman, Maestro Liutaio

Address: Via di Montoro, 13, 00186 Roma RM

Cell: 06 6880 8518
Tel: 06 6880 8618


Blog by Ami Kurosaki

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