I don't know exactly when the idea of a viola bank occurred to me. It came out of my "think tank" several years ago as the culmination, I believe of a lifetime of playing the viola, teaching at various points,
developing a fine instrument business with an emphasis on violas and bows and watching the state of music education in our country.The various music programs that exist publicly and privately always seemed to cater to and foster the development of a few select instruments (like the violin, flute, clarinet ,cello or piano).

I feel fortunate to have started my musical studies in a public school
on the viola, probably the exception in the 1960's.My father used to
listen to the WQXR String Quartet on the radio in N.Y.C. post WW11 and
loved the sound of the viola and the cello. So, I started the viola and
my sister Jackie started the cello . Today we are both professional
musicians and owe gratitude to my father and the public school program
in Bay shore,L.I. where Howard Lee Koch inspired and taught generations of string players. He was the founder of the Long Island String Festival, the Suffolk County Music Festival, the South Shore
Symphony(which he conducted).He was a tour ode force of string playing on Long Island.I began the viola after just moving to Bayshore from N.Y.C. as I entered 5th grade  and almost immediately became a member of the Apple Blossom String Quartet. An auspicious introduction to chamber music! Imagine being in a quartet in elementary
school!After about five years of study I was fortunate to become a
student of one of the greatest violists of the 20th century-Lillian
Fuchs. Lillian Fuchs possessed a sound that was awe inspiring- the
essence and spirit of the viola. What I heard in her viola voice was the
most magnificent, human quality that is innate in the viola.

Everytime I have entered a public school as a professional musician I am
aware of my gratitude for the incredible public school education I had
as a child. A few years ago I finally came up with a way to give back to
the legacy I was given. In a moment of frustration with the lack of
young violists in any orchestra on any level, in any age group(including
elementary, junior and senior high, college) and the disparity of
numbers studying viola compared to violin, cello or bass,I had a vision.
What could I do to help this situation? I've been a professional violist
for almost 40 years and also developed a fine instrument business
specializing in violas and bows over the last 30 years. Maybe it was a
natural connection between my performing, teaching and viola business
that steered me to this idea.

What if a Bank could be set up where instruments are available to all
students to borrow when economics, cutbacks, lack of interest or
knowledge of the viola prevents equal opportunity to students or
teachers wanting to study or teach the viola? Often, I believe children don't start on the viola because there either isn't a string program, there are no instruments available or they simply have not heard a beautiful viola sound to inspire them to say--I want to play the viola!

We have so many fine teachers and performers who may give of their time to introduce the viola to young aspiring instrumentalists through various outreach programs. On a more concrete note, we need equipment or tools to create music and my ideas for creating this resource follow.

 The Simple Plan

My idea is to have on hand  a large amount of various small sized violas
for beginners to encourage a "bumper crop" of new young violists.
Community music schools, public schools,colleges, conservatories, and
even private students can borrow from the Viola Bank when there is a
need. Better instruments donated may be used for more advanced players or may be sold to facilitate purchasing larger amounts of small violas.

An investment in the Viola Bank will not reap monetary dividends. My
hope and dream is to encourage and inspire people to invest in our
greatest resource as human beings--creativity. The dividends earned will
be a "bumper crop" of little young seedling violists as well as
furthering the studies of more advanced players.

How can one invest?

I envisioned a non-profit umbrella organization that could administer as well as accept monetary and instrument and bow donations in order that the plan benefits young violists and contributors alike. The American Viola society has graciously and with great enthusiasm embraced my concept and has offered to give time and energy to administering, organizing, publicizing and hosting the Viola Bank idea.                       

Violists,amateur and professional alike,teachers, collectors, dealers,
violin makers, bow makers and friends of the viola may make a monetary
contribution or donate a viola or bow to the Bank to be used by an
aspiring violist anywhere in the United States where there is a genuine
financial need or possibly a desire to promote the necessity for violists.

In actuality, any musical merchandise may be donated that can be sold
privately, through a shop, or at auction and proceeds go to the Viola
Bank for purchase and possibly administrative costs.This could include
violins, violas, cellos, basses, bows, music and books, autographs, photos, and musical ephemera. In fact any other instruments could be donated and a tax benefit given to the donors.

I encourage all interested teachers,players, dealers and collectors, friends of the viola---to look in their closets, cabinets, under their beds, in their workshops and vaults and consider recycling an instrument or a bow once played or never played and help insure the future of music and the world by helping create more music. Where would an orchestra or string quartet be without the rich, dark inner voice of the viola?


             Sandy Robbins