On March 5, assistant professor of violin Lee Joiner took a nature walk at Wicklow Gap in southern Dublin, leaving his expensive Kuttner violin in the car. When he returned to his car at 2:45 p.m., Joiner saw that someone had broken into his rental car’s passenger window and stolen his violin. His violin was the only Kuttner made in Ireland.
Touring Europe to research bows, Joiner went to Ireland to meet world famous bow maker Noel Burke in Carlow, the “Garden County,” south of Dublin. Joiner tested Burke’s bows on his violin, interested in the classic bow based on earlier styles rather than in the more modern bows. Burke plans to make Joiner one this summer. Joiner had been in Germany and traveled on to Italy after his loss in Ireland. He returned to the states on Sunday.
Normally, Joiner would never leave an instrument alone in a vehicle. But put at ease by the mountainous Irish countryside, he left the Kuttner in the passenger seat. “I had planned to go drop off the violin where I would be staying. The time was getting late and I ended up parking and taking a trail above Wicklow Gap, the highest point on the road,” he said in an email.
Joiner added, “In the states I am very careful about taking the violin in with me and not leaving it in the car unattended. The circumstances of being in what seemed like a fairly remote and very beautiful place in the mountains made me let my guard down. I am from Colorado and I guess my love of the mountains got the best of me.”
Last Wednesday while in Cremona, Italy, Joiner called in and spoke about his loss to Ray D’Arcy on his Irish radio show. It had been six days since the theft at that point. “I saw a sign on my way back to the car that said, ‘Don’t leave purses or passports in the car.’” Joiner told D’Arcy, “If I had gone that way I would’ve seen the sign, and it would’ve immediately have told me, ‘Don’t go any further.’”
“It was disbelief,” Joiner said to D’Arcy, referencing when he saw the broken car window and empty passenger seat. With a dead cell phone and without a violin, Joiner headed down the mountain.
To make matters worse, Joiner landed a flat tire as he left Wicklow Gap. A passerby stopped to help and accompanied him to the Garda police station in Rathdrum, where Joiner filed a police report. Instead of returning to The Hague the following morning, Joiner visited the U.S. Embassy to report his stolen passport.
“I was greatly helped in getting the word out in Ireland by the bow maker posting the news on his Facebook page,” Joiner said. “I had also stayed the first night with a teacher of Irish fiddle who circulated the news in that community.” Joiner also thanked a local couple with whom he stayed and who sent out word about the theft.
Joiner added, “When I contacted Francis Kuttner in San Francisco the day after it happened, he had already heard. Word travels fast!”
The whereabouts of Joiner’s violin are still unknown. While the violin professor does have another professional violin, he said he preferred the Kuttner. As a musician, his instrument was “priceless” to him. Financially, the violin was insured. Up to this point, Joiner has been the first and only owner of the violin, made in 1993.
In a comment on Facebook, his wife Linda Joiner said, “The Irish police and the community south of Dublin have been amazingly kind and helpful. We haven’t given up the possibility of the violin being found.”