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HomeIsrael and SocietyJewish Music and ArtsLuthier - Robbie Zev Ludwick
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Luthier - Robbie Zev Ludwick    

Luthier - Robbie Zev Ludwick

The Levites in the Holy Temple will need a righteous luthier to build and maintain precision string instruments for them. Robbie Zev Ludwick is definitely their man…


Soon, G-d willing, we’ll be blessed with Moshiach, the full redemption of our people, and the rebuilding of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Music plays a key part in the Holy Temple, and string instruments play a key part in the Temple music. The Levites, the musicians of the Holy Temple, are demanding perfectionists. Their music is designed to ignite the soul and to sanctify Hashem’s name. The reason we don’t lament the Temple more than we do is because we don’t know what we’re missing. The world’s greatest string ensemble is novice and boring compared to the 24-part harmonies of the Levite harps, lyres, and violins. So, when it comes to performing in the Holy Temple, there is no room for compromise. The Levites will need the best precision-hand made string instruments, those of super-Stradivarius quality that can literally laugh and cry with their sweet strains. They’ll need top, daily maintenance of those instruments too. Not only will they need the world’s best luthiers (those who build string instruments), but they’ll need righteous G-d fearing luthiers as well.

Is there such a person?
Hashem can no longer delay building the Holy Temple on the grounds that there’s no righteous luthier to take care of the Levites’ string instruments. Thank G-d, we found one. His name is Robbie Zev Ludwick of Ludwick's Lutherie in Silver Spring , Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. He is an indescribably special individual, one whose hands are meticulously at work while his heart and soul are filled with music and the love of Judaism and Chassidic tradition.
Breslev Israel: Robbie, how did you get into lutherie?
Robbie Zev: I am a musician and have a background in woodworking from back in my high school days. I always had a desire to build instruments, but really did not have the follow-through. One day, I decided to check online and see how I could get hooked up in an apprenticeship program in a shop. I was hired by a Banjo Maker, but after the first day, his insurance told him it would be too expensive for him to take me on. I was disappointed but still determined, so I continued my search. After a few weeks, I was ready to give up this dream when the hand of Hashem touched the situation. On the last day that I was looking, I did an internet search for the word “Luthier” and an ad popped up saying that a violin repairman was needed at The Potter Violin Company in Maryland! I called and they were amazed...they had put up the ad only moments before.  I told them my background, and was honest and said that I had no formal training. My enthusiasm made a difference, I told them I would sweep floors, clean instruments, even scrub bathrooms just to get my foot in the door. Three interviews later, I ended up in the shipping department, where I also cleaned and strung violins. The owner,  who is the epitome of Chesed, told me that he would personally train me once a week and that eventually I would move up to repairs. After only 5 weeks, the repairman there moved back to Italy and I moved out of the Shipping basement to start my full time, hands-on training. What usually takes 4-6 years to complete, I completed in 3.5 years with a lot of sweat and determination, and yes a little blood, earning me the status of Journeyman Luthier. A special thanks to my mentor, ex boss, and now lifelong friend, L. Dalton Potter!
 "I am a musician and have a background in woodworking from back in my high school days..."
Breslev Israel: As a full-fledged craftsman, what did you do then?
Robbie Zev: I moved from there to managing a Double Bass shop, where I did everything from repairs to sales and public relations.
Breslev Israel: What made you decide to start your own shop?
Robbie Zev: I had a desire to build a state-of-the-art workshop, one that would cater to the Jewish market that 10 years ago used to make up 50% of violin shops’ business, but now has dwindled down to 25%. My community and others around the country need someone they can relate to, one who knows the needs of the professional musician and students alike. Really, Hashem did all the planning for me. All of a sudden people were seeking my services and Ludwick’s Lutherie was born!
Breslev Israel: What are your aspirations, Robbie?
Robbie Zev: (Big smile) I definitely want to be the official Luthier in the Beit HaMikdash. (Photo, left – string instruments of the Beit Hamikdash). By the way, my mother, may her holy soul be blessed, is the daughter of a Levite - that probably explains why music and musical instruments are so much a part of me. For that reason, I always strive to better myself, especially in the music area. For that reason, I am now furthering my education under the mentorship of another giant in the violin world and Chesed department, Howard Needham. So, I am now building my own violins for sale.
Breslev Israel: From scratch?
Robbie Zev: For sure.
Breslev Israel : What services does your shop provide?
Robbie Zev: I do repairs, restorations, set-ups, and sales of new instruments, including violins, violas, cellos, and double basses and sales of their accessories. I also will ship to anywhere in the world! Now, I am in the process of building the Robbie Zev Ludwick line of fine violins. I am also helping my friend and fellow band mate Johnny Rushmore of Rushmore Guitars in building his one of a kind,one-piece guitar. I do the hand shaping of the necks.
Breslev Israel: You mentioned you are a musician; do you play professionally?
Robbie Zev:  Yes. Mandolin is my main instrument, and I’m part of a traditional Bluegrass band with some national recording artists named “The Zion Mountain Boys.” I also write original songs about Bible heroes which the Good Lord has blessed me with! We play generally around the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.A., but will travel!
Breslev Israel: What other instruments do you play?
Robbie Zev: I play banjo, double bass , electric bass, fiddle (enough to check my work), guitar, and mandolin.
Breslev Israel: I understand you are a Baal Teshuva, what started you on your religious path and your involvement with Breslev?
Robbie Zev: I am blessed to have a Rabbi and spiritual guide who has been in my corner since the beginning, Rabbi Lazer Brody, who happens to be my oldest brother! Despite our different last names, we have the same parents. Lazer goes by my Mama’s maiden name, Brody. We come from 10 generations of Chassidic Rabbis, which ended in the Holocaust. Lazer has continued the Brody legacy! In 1999, I came to Israel for my nephew's wedding. I was a complete hippie! Lazer took us to the Ari’s Mikvah the night before the wedding which was to be held on Lag B’omer. I didn’t know what a mikvah was, but was told that this water would remove my sins (and I had plenty of them). What a refreshing (cold) experience.
Breslev Israel: Then what happened?
Robbie Zev: When I came out of the water, my brother said, “Anyone who dips in this mikvah will do teshuva!” Thanks for telling me after the fact, bro! I was a little upset to say the least, but took it in stride. From there it was a trip to daven at Rebbe Shimon’s gravesite in Meron. Wow! What energy on Lag B’omer eve! I was blown away. From there, I was hanging with the Breslevers at my nephew’s wedding. Their love of life and song and smiles won me over. And to top it off, I got a big Bracha from the Melitzer Rebbe of Ashdod, and he blessed me that I make Teshuva! I came back to the States, and still was not religious, but without me being aware, I gradually accepted one mitzvah at a time and a year later was fully observant, with Mikvah and everything! Anyway, thank G-d for my brother’s teachings and Rabbi Shalom Arush. Their books and CDs tied me with a real connection to Rebbe Nachman. I started feeling that Breslev is in my blood, and then the puzzle piece finally completed my picture - Lazer told me that our great grandfather, Rabbi Mendel Litwak, may his soul be blessed, from the Ukraine was a big Rav and one of Rebbe Natan’s main pupils! Now it all makes sense! While I’m talking about roots, I have also to thank my maternal grandmother from Grodno, Poland who helped raise me, Kaylie Brody, may her soul be blessed, who instilled in me a love of Judaism from early on, she was my best friend!
Breslev Israel: Thank you, Robbie, for taking the time to speak with us. We wish you big success, and hope to see you soon in Jerusalem taking care of the string instruments in the rebuilt Holy Temple, amen!  
You can contact Robbie Zev Ludwick and Ludwick’s Lutherie by email at LudwicksLutherie@me.com or by telephone at 301-412-3758.

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  May we all find both HaShem and our Tafkid
Mordechai Estner12/23/2008 8:21:50 PM
  A Fantastic article!
Ira Cohen12/23/2008 1:08:00 AM

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