The US Federal Ivory Ban and Musical Instruments

September 23, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Entertainment

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) director has worked with the Obama Administration to set in place strict rules that coincide with the Endangered Species Act and African Elephant Conservation Act against stringed instruments containing illegally sourced ivory. Many stringed instruments such as cellos and violins use ivory in the tips and frogs of violin bows and in the pegs and tailpieces on the instrument itself. Ivory is a durable and strong material that, when properly cared for on a high quality instrument, can last hundreds of years. However, these new law restrictions make it difficult for musicians who own instruments with any type of ivory to travel across countries or state lines.

As of February 25, 2014, instruments and bows containing ivory were not permitted into the USA. American musicians who were performing inter continentally were not allowed to bring back their instruments while returning home. The original law pertained to instruments purchased since February 26, 1976. Therefore, even if the instrument was made and sold legally, the new law forbade the return of these instruments to the states.

These new restrictions were placed because the Endangered Species Act recognizes African and Asian elephants as a highly threatened population. Legislation has stated that ivory over one hundred years old is classified as “antique” and is considered legal. Therefore, the only ivory that can be considered antique and legal is mammoth ivory or fossil ivory. However, any instrument or bow containing ivory will be confiscated at the US border until it is proven (by the musician) to be antique. If proof cannot be given immediately, the instrument in question will be confiscated and eventually destroyed. This new law states that selling an instrument with ivory, or replacing a broken part with ivory is charged as trafficking an endangered species. This crime can result in large fines and even jail.

On May 15, 2014, an important revision was made to the ivory regulations. The revision stated that it was permissible to travel with instruments and bows containing ivory purchased before February 25, 2014. Although this solves the previous issue, it complicates the job of instrument makers and musicians for the future.

Musicians and instrument makers are appealing for a more reasonable law and set of restrictions, urging legislation to permit travel of instruments containing ivory that were legally made and sold. May period instruments containing ivory are extremely expensive as well as highly valued and most musicians do not have a substitute instrument of equal quality.

Studio City Music was the vision of Paul Toenniges, born in De Kalb, Illinois in 1908. Paul began his studies of instrument making under the promptings of Carl Becker Sr., his brother-in-law. He worked alongside some of the greatest names in American violinmakers and restorers while working at William Lewis & Son in Chicago from 1926 to 1940. While there, Paul established himself as an excellent repairman and fine bass maker. He moved to Los Angeles in 1945, where he worked at the Rudolf Wurlitzer branch from 1946 to 1950. Finally, in 1950, Paul opened his own shop, which he named Studio City Music.

Paul ran a simple family-owned and operated business along with his wife, Ruth, and two daughters, Nancy and Jane. Nancy Toenniges showed a remarkable talent in restoration at an early age and it was decided that she should attend the Violinmaking School in Mittenwald, Germany to further her education.

While in Mittenwald, Nancy met her future husband, Hans Benning, also a student in the violinmaking school. Together they returned to Studio City Music in 1964 to continue the legacy of their shop.

Hans Benning continued his studies working for a time with Carl Becker Sr. in Chicago and with others in the California area, such as Raymond Del Prado and Frank Kovanda.

Eventually, in 1978, Hans and Nancy Benning took over Studio City Music when Paul retired. The longevity of Studio City Music seems very much intact now that Hans’ and Nancy’s son, Eric Benning, has come to work for them and intends on running the shop for the third generation.

Eric Benning began making his first violin when he was 9-years-old and completed it when he was only 11, working only Saturdays and holidays. Studying under his father Hans until he was 25, Eric began studying with renowned violinmaker Carl Becker Jr., of Chicago.

View Finding Bespoke: “The Violinmaker” A film by Michael Bernard, featuring Benning Violins.

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Please contact us with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment. From the beginner to the professional, our knowledgeable staff, comprised of skilled luthiers and professional string players, is efficient and quality-conscious and offers warm and personalized attention.

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Located in Studio City, Benning Violins is the premiere violin shop in Los Angeles, offering a selection of fine and master crafted violins, violas, cellos and bows for the beginner, student and professional, as well as bow rehairs, rental, instrument rep.

This author has published 24 articles so far.

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