"He took to it like a duck to water," Hans said.
To Eric, there was history, romance and nobility in an ancient craft perfected by a relatively small number of shops in the world. He sees a fine violin, cello, viola or double bass as a work of art and architecture, created in the service of music that's lasted for centuries.
"We want to foster the next generation of musicians, so we decided to rent out violins very inexpensively," said Eric, who repairs and restores instruments but has now made nearly 100 of his own, selling them to a number of world-class musicians.
"I was on tour one time and went all over, looking for a brand-new instrument in Europe," said Jonathan Karoly, a cellist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
No luck. Instead, he found what he was looking for — an instrument with a bold and richly colored sound — in Studio City.
"It sounds great, but it's beautiful to look at," Karoly said. "A piece of art."
Eric Benning said he feels a kind of parental pride when he goes to a concert at Disney Hall or the Hollywood Bowl and his instruments are on stage.
"I'll go, 'Ooh, that sounds really good,' and feel a parental connection to the instrument."
Eric said he hasn't pushed his sons to follow family tradition, but at the moment they both seem inclined to do so, with Garrett probably more interested in managing the store and Nathan in making instruments.
Nathan, whose generation isn't known for long attention spans, began his project many months ago with a mold that has been in the family for decades. He wet the wood for the ribs, bent it with an iron, chiseled the top and went to work on the scroll and fingerboard. The bar, he said, has been set "pretty high."
If he stays on course, he thinks his violin will be done by Christmas.