A Gift of Music

The newly varnished bodies of stringed instruments dry in the sun

An alumnus craftsman and his wife present Eastern with a tuneful, long-lived contribution.

By Eastern Magazine

Lynn Nelson ’69 is a luthier; i.e., a maker of stringed musical instruments. During a Thanksgiving event in Hargreaves Hall earlier this year, Lynn and his wife, Gail, presented the university with a gift as unique as it was generous—a string-quartet’s worth of instruments: two violins, a viola and a cello, each exclusively for use by Eastern’s music department.

“We are so honored to receive these works of art, which I trust our students and faculty will use to express their art for generations to come,” said master of ceremonies Shari Clarke, the vice president of diversity and inclusion at EWU.

EWU Stringed instrument gift
Eastern’s “quartet” of instruments hang on ball-bearing turnbuckles while soaking up the sun after their final application of varnish. Photo courtesy of Lynn Nelson.


EWU and music run in Nelson’s blood. After earning a degree from the university in music education, Nelson moved to Oregon and worked in K-12 education for many years. But back in the 1980s he made a transition to his true passion: repairing and crafting stringed instruments.

Years later, fueled by that passion, Nelson used maple from the Swiss Alps and spruce from Bavaria and Austria to begin work on Eastern’s new pieces. The end result? A truly valuable gift designed to last far beyond the tenure of students studying music at Eastern now.

“In my three decades as a luthier,” Nelson says, “it was common to work on one hundred and two-hundred-year-old instruments. I say this because I have the expectation that these instruments should survive at Eastern at least three centuries.”

In the meantime, two students and two faculty members were awarded the inaugural performance with the instruments. Faculty members Julia Salerno and John Marshall joined graduate students Alexis Andrus and Nicole Leach in an arrangement of the tune “Waltzing Matilda.”