Eleanor Taylor can recall her daughter crying just three times. This was one of those occasions, and the deeply saddest.
“Amelia was distraught, absolutely distraught,” says Eleanor. “It was like a death.”
That’s because some “slick Italian thief” had stolen Amelia’s violin. “They are absolute experts at what they do.” But Amelia’s was not just any violin. “Amelia has lost part of who and what she is. The violin was an extension of her arm. It was how she communicated.”
And how she expressed love and joy. Amelia even played the violin at her own wedding.
Then this week the global string community was put on the look-out. “International stolen violin alert,” shouted Amelia’s post on theviolinchannel.com
“1927 August Friedrich Herrmann violin – Milano, Italy, [PLEASE SHARE]”.
Amelia, 27, is from Tauranga and she’s accomplished. She picked up her first violin aged just nine years old – learning through the Suzuki method, that renowned curriculum devised by a Japanese violinist and pedagogue.
Amelia completed her bachelor’s degree in performance violin at the University of Waikato before moving to America to complete a master’s degree in music and specialist in violin performance at perhaps that country’s most prestigious music school, The University of Michigan.
But her hopes and dreams were derailed on a train – the Trenitalia Intercity between Rimini in northern Italy and Milan six weeks ago.
“I was in a compartment and had stored my violin overhead. I fell asleep. I didn’t mean to but I was exhausted, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.”
Tired, excited and newly married – and that gave the ‘slick’ opportunist thief his chance. And when she arrived at the station, the Milano Centrale, the violin was gone. Stolen.
“They obviously targeted her,” says Eleanor. “They would have known it was of value.”
The instrument was in a distinctive grey BAM carbon fibre high-tech contoured case – which was covered in a black quilting. And alongside the violin an equally distinctive gold mounted bow with a tortoiseshell frog.
Of considerable value on several levels. Her mother purchased the violin at auction in Australia for Amelia when she was just 15. “It cost $8000 then and is probably worth closer to $30,000 now.”
A renowned Cambridge luthier lavished some love on the violin. “He tweaked it, worked it and all of a sudden we had a violin that was just beautiful; a beautiful rich, warm sound.”
“The violin’s incredibly special to me,” explains Amelia. “Most musicians start upgrading their instruments at university. I didn’t need to because I had found such an amazing instrument.”
Amelia had been at an international chamber music festival – rehearsing many hours, receiving coaching, performing concerts nearly every day. “The festival launches us into our professional careers after university,” says Amelia.
But now Amelia has lost a part of her and the career launch is stalled until she finds a replacement. She has been advised she should look for an equivalent or better violin otherwise she will always pine for the stolen instrument.
That means another substantial investment – her teacher at the University of Michigan has selected a violin, but it will cost $US48,000.
Friend and supporters have already pledged $14,000. There is a crowd funding page at www.gofundme.com/amelia-taylor039s-violin-fund
Amelia could do with some help. Because she says she didn’t get any from Italian police when reporting the theft. “My experience with them was terrible. They just rolled their eyes at me and called me stupid. I am normally quite shy and I never thought I would be screaming in public at the police.”
While she waits for a replacement violin, Amelia is building a Suzuki Studio, teaching programmes for chamber music, and violin group lessons for children that can’t afford private lessons.
She is has three students in Tauranga that she teaches via Skype. And she still finds time to practise three hours a day, rehearse and prepare for auditions.
But she has left a significant part of herself in Italy. And it hurts.