Elvin Hsieh playing the Stradivarius violin that was already owned by UCLA

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Elvin Hsieh, a student at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, playing the Stradivarius violin that was already owned by UCLA. A second Stradivarius was donated to the school by the Twiford Foundation.

UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music violin students will have an expanded collection of rare and extraordinary instruments on which to study, practice and perform thanks to the generous donation of a 12-piece collection of fine bows and violins from the Twiford Foundation.

The instruments include 1700s masterpieces such as violins made by Antonio Stradivarius and Sanctus Seraphin, and bows made by Nikolai Kittel and Francois Tourte. The collection as a whole is valued at nearly $3.5 million. The Twiford Foundation also established a fund for the maintenance and repair of the instruments.

Elvin Hsieh
Third-year student Elvin Hsieh.
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“Any school in the world would dream of having these instruments in their possession, and we feel very lucky and grateful to be trusted with such an honor,” said Movses Pogossian, professor of violin at the school of music. “These treasures of art are also high-precision tools designed for our craft, and they will give our string students the most valuable opportunity to make beautiful music.”

UCLA already owns one Stradivarius violin — the “Duke of Alcantara,” which was made in 1732 — and with the new gift, the campus will be home to two of only 248 known remaining Stradivarius violins in the world.

“It is impossible to overstate how much future generations of UCLA musicians will learn from these kinds of experiences,” Pogossian said. “When I was a young student at the Moscow Conservatory, I was given the great honor to play on a Stradivarius for two years; that experience taught me priceless lessons about my craft that I continue to apply to this day.”

The collection originated with Lavern “L.” John Twiford. His brother, Glen Twiford, graduated from UCLA in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in art. Arthur D. Ehrenreich, the Twiford family’s attorney, helped establish the Twiford Foundation, for which he served as president.

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Lynn Running presents violin bows to Movses Pogossian
Lynn Running of the Twiford Foundation presents Professor Movses Pogossian with the violin bows that are part of the donated collection.
Credit: Juan Tallo

A majority of the collection is already with the school, where it has been used by students over the past year. One of the items is a violin bow made by W.E. Hill & Sons.

“The Hill bow has been an incredible honor for me to play,” said Mariko De Napoli, a violinist who earned her bachelor’s degree in music at UCLA in 2019. “It has shown me the potential that my sound has. It has opened up my violin’s ‘ring,’ and it pulls both a warm sweetness and a depth that I had never heard my violin create before.”

Eileen Strempel, dean of the school of music, said faculty and students are thrilled by the unique learning opportunities the gift will create.

“We owe a large debt of gratitude to the Twiford Foundation, Mr. Ehrenreich and Lynn Running for their vision and determination in bringing this beautiful collection to UCLA,” she said. “Their generosity will have an invaluable impact on our students as they hone their craft for many years to come.”