MAURICE BOUETTE was the inspired founder and director of the Newark School of Violin Making, in Nottinghamshire, and saw it become one of the most important of its kind. Today, his ex-students are employed in workshops all over the world, and entry into the school is highly competitive.
Bouette was born into a musical family who were also craftsmen, and started violin making through evening classes with William Luff, one of the best-known British luthiers. For many years he worked on his own, repairing and making instruments, and one of his first important commissions came from the late Lionel Tertis for a viola.
In 1962, Bouette took over Luff's evening classes in Ealing and Northwood and, in 1972, accepted the challenge of starting a new school of violin making at Newark Technical College. At first, he was teaching full-time with Wilfred Saunders, helping out one day a week: he then advertised for another full-time lecturer and was fortunate in finding Glen Collins, William Luff's nephew. Under this happy association, the school went from strength to strength and now enjoys worldwide recognition. Bouette also organised a Festival of Violin Making at Newark, which became an international event. The school takes only 12 students - of any nationality - who are trained for three years in every aspect of making and restoring. During this time they are taken regularly to the London salerooms before auctions so that they can handle the instruments personally.
Bouette was admired and respected by his students for his patience and enthusiasm. Of his students, he said in 1977: 'When they leave us, if they are any good, they are capable of going out to any workshop and earning money for their employers immediately.'
He also reflected: 'When the day comes for me to retire . . . I would like to know that the Newark School of Violin Making was settled and on its feet, ready to carry on for countless years, as the great schools on the Continent. I would not have any more worries . . . I could come back to my house, make instruments, surrounded by this lovely countryside, which is so very important, take the dogs out for walks . . . sell wood, go to the village pub at lunchtime . . . It would be grand.'
When this came about in 1982, Bouette was as good as his word and unashamedly enjoyed his retirement. He still carried on the wood business he had always run from his house and continued to receive makers who, confident in the extent of his knowledge on the subject, would come from all over to find a select piece of wood for a special instrument.
Bouette also had another passion - bowls. He was captain of the local club, and recently the proud winner of the club cup, an award that made him as happy as any of his achievements as a teacher. The family tradition continues in Bouette's son, Martin, one of his best pupils and a fine maker in his own right.