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Annapolis Native Rebecca Hannigan combines her passion for music and art through violin making and repair. After studying violin performance and violin repair in Nashville, Tennessee and playing abroad in various quartets Rebecca returned home to open up her own repair shop.

When Rebecca Hannigan was 7 she begged her parents for violin lessons for a year until they gave in.

When she was 10, she knew.

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“I wanted to be a violinist when I grow up, and that’s exactly what I did.”

While getting her bachelor’s in violin performance from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, she started working in a violin repair shop on Nashville’s fabled Music Row.

Hannigan, who turns 30 this week, is the face of Annapolis Bows and Violins. At the one-woman repair shop she opened last year on State Circle— the only one of its kind in Annapolis— Hannigan fixes, restores and rents violins of all sizes.

“It combines my love of playing, my love of art, with fixing things and making things better.”

Though string instruments, surgery and car shops aren’t usually thought of together, Hannigan considers herself a bit of a doctor and mechanic.

Rebecca Hannigan carefully rehairs a violin bow at Annapolis Bows and Violins, her shop in downtown Annapolis. Rebecca combines her passion for music and art through violin repair, while playing on the side.
Rebecca Hannigan carefully rehairs a violin bow at Annapolis Bows and Violins, her shop in downtown Annapolis. Rebecca combines her passion for music and art through violin repair, while playing on the side. (Thalia Juarez / Capital Gazette)

“Musicians will have these complicated pieces of equipment that they play every day, like their car that they drive every day, but they don’t know how it works. They only know if something’s going wrong,” she said. “If there’s a buzz, if something’s rattling, if something’s not sounding right, then they take it to the mechanic and go ‘Please don’t charge me an arm and a leg for this, and how fast can you turn it around.’”

Hannigan specializes in bow re-hairs — akin to a car’s oil change. Casual players need them once a year but professionals need monthly bow work. It’s a meticulous process, getting the horse hairs straight and taut.

With the dry winter weather, she’s also had a lot of cracked instruments to fix. Most jobs take about a week or two, except her specialty one-hour re-hairs.

After moving home last year, the Annapolis native realized there was no violin repair shop in the area. She knew she could fix that, too.

While Hannigan’s shop is new, her method is as old as violins themselves.

“Most everything is done the same way it was done 300-500 years ago — aside from adding superglue every once in a while to reinforce things.”

Annapolis Native Rebecca Hannigan combines her passion for music and art through violin making and repair. After studying violin performance and violin repair in Nashville, Tennessee and playing abroad in various quartets Rebecca returned home to open up her own repair shop.
Annapolis Native Rebecca Hannigan combines her passion for music and art through violin making and repair. After studying violin performance and violin repair in Nashville, Tennessee and playing abroad in various quartets Rebecca returned home to open up her own repair shop. (Thalia Juarez / Capital Gazette)

Hannigan wears her passion on her sleeve. A tattoo on her wrist reads, “ars sine scientia nihil est” — Art without science is nothing.

To make a violin more than a hunk of wood and hair, and a song more than a series of noises, a blend of artistic talent, technique and knowledge is required.

“If all you’re doing is scientific math, then why wouldn’t computers just take over symphony orchestra positions? You need both.”

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Hannigan serves the Annapolis string community, including the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra (she played in during childhood) and students from string programs all over the county.

The violin has taken Hannigan around world, performing in her off-season on cruise ships. She’ll spend this summer playing a cruise around the Mediterranean.

Whatever the issue or wherever her travels, Hannigan’s mission is always to make an instrument work better than ever.

“The world needs fixers too,” she said, “just as much as they need creators.”

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