Tetsuo Matsuda was born in a village in Akita, Japan in 1945. In the small village the main source of entertainment was music, and Matsuda’s family members and neighbors sang folk songs constantly. In his twenties, he moved to Tokyo where he worked in construction to make ends meet. Matsuda also began working as an apprentice to his landlord, who owned a guitar shop. In Tokyo Matsuda fell in love with classical music. He worked tirelessly at the guitar shop learning everything he could about constructing stringed instruments. At the same time, he also took guitar and violin lessons to grow his understanding of sound quality.
Eventually Matsuda’s boss invited him to travel with him to Spain to visit European luthiers. After the trip he became set on studying violin making in Europe. In 1977 he finally achieved his dream when he moved to Italy and enrolled in a violin making school in Cremona. Matsuda was an extremely dedicated student. He conducted research on every aspect of violin construction and experimented with various techniques of old masters and conemporary makers. His work improved quickly. Mastuda won a fifth place award at the Wieniawski Competition in 1981 and second place at the Cremona Competition in 1982.
After his graduation, Matsuda moved to Chicago to work at a violin shop where he had some connections. Inspired by the vibrant music scene in Chicago, Matsuda synthesized his knowledge of Italian violin making with the techniques of modern American makers. He won a gold medal from the Violin Society of America in 1984. In 1993, he established his own shop in Chicago. Today, Matsuda is a master luthier. He has presented his work internationally to great acclaim.
In his own words: ” With my eyes closed, whenever I mused over what violin sound is, my uncle’s singing voice, not too strong yet tenacious and far reaching, started resounding through my head and I felt that I heard his voice overlapped with the sound of the famous Italian violins. Thinking about colors of varnish reminds me of splendidly colored leaves in autumn in the country mountains. Looking back upon my past, I say to myself that though I was brought up in an environment without a history of instrument manufacture, my instincts were fostered in that mountain village of mine.”