The University of New Mexico is making music history through the first university-based violin-making and folk music revitalization program in America.
The New Mexico Musical Heritage Project is a unique studio and classroom environment in which students can learn both the art of playing and the craft ofmaking violins within the rich New Mexican cultural and historical context. Peter White, an English and American Studies professor, folklorist, and former UNM administrator, is the director of this interdisciplinary program. He is also an American and European-trained violin-maker. In the tradition of many craftsman before him and through the generosity of UNM, its donors, and the State of New Mexico Legislature, he has created a studio and classroom in which to pass his knowledge on to UNM students.
There is substantial evidence that the European violin was crafted first in America by the Pueblo peoples and the Hispanic settlers in early 17th century New Mexico. The Franciscan priests and artisans of Mexico in all probability taught Native Americans and New Mexican colonists how to make violins many decades before violin making was introduced to New Englanders and even before the birth of the most famous makers of 17th century Cremona, Italy.
Both for liturgical and ritual services and at social functions and dances, the violin has been central to the cultural history of this state. Tomas Lozano's book, Cantemos al Alba, John D. Robb's Hispanic Folk Music of New Mexico and the Southwest, and Weigle and White's The Lore of New Mexico, among many other studies, comfirm the long and fabulously interestin history of violin playing in New Mexico.
Today the traditions of making and playing the violin for folk or ritual performance are in great jeopardy in New Mexico, with only a handful of elders in the Hispanic and Native communities in New Mexico still able to pass on the tradition of folk and ritual violin music in the state.
We wish to thank all our contributors throughout New Mexico who have helped make this program possible. Thanks so much.