Case Study is a new series in which we ask musicians to tell us a bit more about their approach to music making—and life!—by opening their instrument cases to us and letting us peek inside. Today, we're featuring Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra violinist Eva Burmeister.

We met up with Eva—who performs with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra during the regular season—just as rehearsals for the Mostly Mozart Festival were kicking off. Hidden amongst the rosin, mutes, and earplugs, we found that the most useful items she carries with her aren't items at all. They are the words of advice and motivation passed to Eva from her teachers and colleagues, which she now shares with her own students.

Case Study: Violinist Eva Burmeister
Photo and graphics by Dan Gomes
The contents of Eva Burmeister's violin case with numeric labels

1. Violin – Eva got this particular violin as a teenager. It is a modern Italian violin (circa 1910) made by Annibale Fagnola. One of Eva's violin teachers helped her and her parents scour shops in New York to help find the perfect instrument. 

Fun Fact: Before Eva owned this instrument, a worm bore into the wood on the back of the violin. This is purely cosmetic, but it does drop the collector's value of the instrument. 

2. Bow – This Tubbs bow was purchased about a year after her violin. Eva searched for a bow that would best bring out the sound she was looking for. She also keeps a spare French bow for certain occasions, or when her primary bow is in the shop. 

3. Lesson Books – Eva teaches violin, and these are her preferred method books for beginners to intermediate-level students.

4. Shoulder Rest – Eva uses a Kun shoulder rest that allows her to finely adjust the position of her violin against her neck.


Case Study: Violinist Eva Burmeister
Courtesy of Eva Burmeister
Note from Eva Burmeister's teacher, dated January 2, 2005

5. Note from Her Teacher – "Never give up! Each loss is gain, in knowledge, wisdom, understanding." Eva's high school teacher and close mentor (who helped Eva to find her violin) sent this note to Eva while she was living in Germany, encouraging resilience after an unsuccessful audition. Eva keeps it with her for motivation, and passes on the same advice to her students today.

6. Keys – Two keys: one is for locking Eva's violin case. The other is a tool used to tighten the hardware on her violin.

7. Mutes – Eva has a variety of mutes that produce different sounds and are used for different settings. The large mute is a practice mute that Eva uses when she's playing at home while her young sons sleep, or in hotel rooms while traveling.

8. Peg Compound – Violin pegs can come loose or jam as the violin swells and contracts due to humidity. This compound lubricates the pegs, allowing Eva to properly tune the instrument.

9. Rubber bands – Eva uses what she calls "bow seatbelts" to teach her students how to hold the bow properly and keep their small hands from crawling up the stick.

10. Cloth – Used to clean the violin and remove rosin from the instrument’s strings.

11. Tissues – Eva lives and plays in Pittsburgh, where winters can be rather tough and sniffles are common. She often keeps tissues within reach on her stand.

12. Hairbands – In addition to "never give up," Eva's high school teacher had another cardinal rule: keep your hair away from your face when playing. Eva always keeps spare hair bands with her for that reason.

13. Pencils – A variety of pencils. Eva's favorite is the white one which has a nice soft and dark marking, making it easy to erase on music. She found it after a Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra rehearsal and, after asking around, decided to keep it. However, after some of our own Case Study sleuthing, we think we may know who it belongs to…

14. Chapstick – Similar to the tissues, this is a must for the rough winter months in Pittsburgh.

15. Earplugs – As a Metropolitan Opera colleague once told her, "If you want to hear the voice of your grandchildren, you should put these in."

16. Rosin – Eva's preferred style of rosin, Melos, comes from Greece.

17. Spare Strings – Eva uses a variety of different string types to help produce the overall sound she's looking for. One time, playing in a dress rehearsal with Emanuel Ax, a piece on Eva's violin broke, causing all of her strings to pop, so she keeps a whole set handy.

18. Case – This Musafia violin case was made in Carmona, Italy. Eva likes it because it's lightweight without compromising on safety and durability. The case's maker claims that if it were to be run over by a car, the instrument would remain intact. Needless to say, Eva won't be testing this claim anytime soon.

About the Artist

Currently a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, violinist Eva Burmeister is a graduate of The Juilliard School & Columbia University. She was the first American woman to win a position in the renowned Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, where she was a member of the first violin section for seven years. Beyond music, Eva loves to sail, play tennis, read, garden, and cook.