Musician Anya Burgess Crafts Impeccable Violins In Louisiana

She creates the instruments for musicians of all experience levels in classical and Cajun bands in Louisiana and beyond.

Sola Violins Owner

Paul Kieu

Lafayette, Louisiana, is known as the heart of Cajun country, with its music influenced by the early Acadian settlers, traditionally sung in French. Performers play carefully crafted violins like the ones made by Anya Burgess, owner of Sola Violins.

Burgess grew up in Boston, studying at Indiana University and later apprenticing under luthier Otis Tomas in Nova Scotia. Her background in classical music prepared her for this line of work and she started her company out of her home in 2002.

“I went into the violin work, luthier work and violin making and violin repair, mainly because I just really loved playing,” says Burgess.

It's not uncommon to see her and her team through the glass doors of the shop in downtown Lafayette that opened in 2014, carefully crafting the instruments for musicians of all experience levels in classical and Cajun bands in Louisiana and beyond.

"When I moved here, there really wasn't anybody else at that time who was doing violin work,” Burgess recalls.

But that’s changed in the last few years.

“There's probably more violin makers than you would guess. It's not a dying art by any means. And I've heard some people say that right now it's kind of like the new golden age of violin making [like the Stradivarius era].”

These days, Burgess’ associate Chris Segura does much of the building while she focuses on repairs, which keep her busy. Musicians from across the country get their prized violins fine tuned by Burgess.

“One a year is considered pretty good output for somebody who's not trying to make their living at it. Full time makers can make six or 80, but not a production level,” says Burgess. “With violins, it's almost entirely built by hand, hand tools. And it's a really slow process, very detail oriented process.” They use soft spruce wood and the back and sides made from maple.

Violin parts

Lance LeBlanc

In addition to being a maker, Burgess is an acclaimed musician in her own right.

“I guess I've been playing fiddle for a long time, but in terms of the professional side of being a musician was when I joined the Magnolia Sisters in 2002. The other band that I'm in is called Bonsoir Catin and we started in 2005. And both are Cajun bands. Both bands have traveled all
over the world and both have been nominated for Grammy Awards.”

The music of Acadiana is particularly special, unlike what you’ll find elsewhere in Louisiana, incorporating the fiddle and accordion. And you don’t have to go far to find it.

“You can find good local music seven nights a week. Definitely. There's a lot of great bands right now. It's largely Cajun music and Zydeco music comes from this area. And Lafayette, I guess would you'd call kind of the epicenter of it all.”

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