What's in a Name? Everything for SHAR's John Cheng Violins
In this week's blog post, I quote from Romeo & Juliet and talk about the stink eye, Apple computers, and globalization. Then I share praise for our John Cheng line of violins from Strings Magazine. Intrigued? Read on.
Although I usually give the stink eye to essays or blogs that begin with an overused quote, I'm going to break one of my own rules. Here goes, a favorite from Romeo & Juliet: What's in a name? For SHAR's John Cheng violins, a whole lot. The John Cheng name is a big, risky move for us because we're celebrating the fact that these violins are manufactured in China. This isn't the Carlo Lamberti, the Otto Ernst Fischer, or the Karl Joseph Schneider, which are all Italian- or German-branded instruments. The John Cheng is a Chinese-made and Chinese-branded instrument.
Many violinists are coming around to reality of high-level, Chinese-manufactured instruments, but it's still a controversial subject. The shift of jobs from the U.S. to elsewhere is all over the news and in fiery political speeches. In a recent article in the NY Times on the shift of Apple's American engineering jobs to overseas sites in China, Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher suggest that it's not the wage differences between the U.S. and elsewhere that allows for high-quality products to be manufactured at low cost in China but rather the growing middle class of engineers and skilled workers overseas. The U.S. just can't compete with the sheer number of engineers in China.
Obviously, the world is changing. Americans used to think of Chinese-made goods as cheap, or, more accurately, cheaply made. That's no longer the case. Apple -- which is one of the world's most innovative companies, largely because it deeply cares about quality and user experience -- has shifted its manufacturing operations to China. That fact can be scary, but it should also push us to rethink our assumptions about the quality of Chinese manufacturing.
What makes Apple's products so pleasing is their attention to the minutest details of user experience. That's what we hoped to achieve with our John Cheng line, from the European-sourced spruce and maple wood of these violins to their thinner thumb-side necks. The way we achieve this attention to detail is through a close relationship with the John Cheng workshop in Beijing and the careful setup of the instruments in Ann Arbor.
We were really, really happy, then, to read a review of the John Cheng line in Strings Magazine. Our careful setup is one of the major points of praise Greg Orwell gives our John Cheng line of violins in his review. (Orwell also praises the sound, wood, and styling of both the Stradivari and Limited Edition models.) It's all music to our ears, since we've worked so hard to have skilled luthiers and craftspeople in our Beijing and Ann Arbor workshops. Globalization is scary, but we can still pay attention to the details of craftsmanship, from the source of the wood to the placement of the bridge.
And it's hard to give the stink eye to that.