Joseph Curtin is a violin-maker and researcher who has built instruments for some of the most distinguished artists of our time, including Erick Friedman, Ilya Kaler, Cho-Liang Lin, Elmar Oliveira, Yehudi Menuhin, and Ruggiero Ricci. In 2005, Curtin was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013, the “ex-Ricci” Curtin & Alf violin sold in auction for $132,000, a world record price for work by living makers.
Curtin was born in Toronto, Canada, and started violin lessons at twelve. He went on to study music and philosophy at the University of Toronto, then took up viola with the Israeli soloist Rivka Golani. In 1977, he began to learn violin-making under the guidance of Otto Erdesz. Curtin subsequently worked as a maker in Toronto, Paris, and Cremona before establishing the firm of Curtin & Alf in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1985. Twelve years later, he opened his own studios.
Curtin codirects the VSA Oberlin Acoustics Workshop with string designer Fan-Chia Tao. His work with Claudia Fritz and Fan Tao has led to three papers on blind-testing violins published in the Periodical of the National Academy of Sciences. A frequent contributor to The Strad and Strings magazines, Curtin has lectured internationally on the art and science of violin-making, and has delivered physics colloquia at Stanford, Princeton, and Cornell Universities, and at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. He lives with his wife, composer and sculptor Jesse Richards, in their home on the Huron river.