In 1658 a young Italian boy named Antonio was apprenticed to the great violin maker Nicolas Amati. Legend has it, that like his townsfolk, Antonio loved music. Cremona was a town in which musical ability was highly valued. But poor Antonio was not a very accomplished musician. When he tried singing his friends nicknamed him “squeaky voice”. When he tried to learn the violin he was all thumbs. About the only thing Antonio could do was to whittle on a block of wood with his knife.
One day Antonio sat whittling by the roadside as three of his very musical friends were busking. The air filled with their beautiful playing and singing. One gentlemen stopped longer than any of the others and even asked the friends to sing a song again. After they finished he dropped a gold coin into the hand of the singer. Then he moved on down the street.
A gold coin was a princely sum for a street singer. “Who was he?” asked Antonio. “It was Amati,” his friends proudly replied. “Nicolo Amati, the greatest violin maker in all of Italy!”
That planted a thought in young Antonio’s mind. The next morning he went to Nicolo Amati’s house and waited for he great master to come out. When Amati opened the door, Antonio bounded up and told him that he wanted to become a violin maker. “I cannot sing and I cannot play, but I can carve.” Would Amati take him on as an apprentice?
Amati agreed and the eleven year old went to work for him. Years later Nicolo died and Antonio took over the business. Antonio’s full name? Antonio Straviari, the greatest violin maker of all time.
Antonio couldn’t sing, Antonio couldn’t play, but he could carve. That was his gift.