Nate Saunders is passionate about the two Cordelias in his life.

One is his wife, with whom he has three sons. The second is his violin, which he made by hand, painstakingly, during a two-year apprenticeship in a violin shop.

Saunders, 51, of Fairfield, plays his Cordelia violin while performing in the Augusta Symphony Orchestra, whose season begins this weekend.

Both Cordelias have been part of his life for nearly three decades.

Saunders named the first violin he ever made after the woman who he would later marry because of the bond he formed with the wooden instrument as he carved it, one tiny shave of wood after another, and then fine-tuned its distinctive sound and personality.

“It’s special,” Saunders said. “You’ve taken this instrument all the way from a block of wood, all the way through the process. Every piece of wood is different. You’ve got to fine tune it to optimize it. You spend so much time making them.”


He added, “Naming it makes it personal for me.”

Making the violin fulfilled something that was, at the time, missing from his life.

Saunders grew up in a very musical family and, he said, had always been intrigued by fine woodworking.

After three years at the University of Maine studying mechanical engineering, he became disenfranchised with the heavily analytical work of his studies and decided he wanted to work with his hands instead.

He spent the next two years at a violin-making school, The Chimneys Violin Shop in Boiling Springs, Pa., studying the fine art of making the delicate wooden instruments.

He spent the first year working 40 hours a week making three violin molds and working on practice tops and backs. He said the master violin makers at the shop used as much knowledge from the past as possible, while incorporating modern acoustics in tuning the top and back plates of the violins for the best sound resonance.


“When completed and put in the hands of a musician, the instruments come alive and have a real personality,” Saunders said.

After his time at the violin shop, he returned to college and finished his degree.

He now works as a field services manager for the state Drinking Water Program.

A few years ago Saunders heard from a friend that the Augusta Symphony Orchestra was looking for musicians. Despite describing himself as lacking in the ability to read music well, Saunders joined up and said doing so has provided something else that was missing for him: playing the music he loves with a symphony orchestra.

“We all have full-time lives outside the symphony, but we still get together and give it our heart and soul,” Saunders said of playing with the approximately 50 musicians of the orchestra. “We do our best and the result can be great. There is great passion from the players.”

The orchestra’s season starts Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. concert at Hope Baptist Church in Manchester. The concert will consist of Sibelius’s “Finlandia,” Haydn’s Symphony No. 85, “La Reine,” and Dvorak Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”


A couple of years ago, after not making a single violin for some 25 years, Saunders started setting up the necessary jigs and molds to make three new violins.

Saunders estimates it will take years, start to finish, to make the violins.

He plans to name them after his sons — Joshua, Samuel and Matthew.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


The Augusta Symphony Orchestra’s season opening performance is Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at the Hope Baptist Church on U.S. Route 202 in Manchester.

The symphony will play another concert Sunday at 3 p.m. at the High Street Congregational Church in Auburn.

Tickets are $10 at the door for adults. Students and children are free.

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