Ever since the 1950’s we’ve been in love with our automobiles. After WWII ended soldiers came back wanting their own cars and auto manufacturers were ready to please. Before then people used to walk in hoards downtown to shop and socialize but that disappeared with the opening of suburban malls in the ‘60’s. Luckily biking, walking and downtown has come back. Now people hang above State Street on 200 South at Bar X, Cedars of Lebanon and Taqueria 27 or mosey down Main Street for yummies from Evas, chops at Lamb’s or breakfast at the Royal Eatery. If you’re one of the folks who have rediscovered strolling downtown then you’ve certainly walked past the corner of glass windows of The Violin and Bow Making School of Peter Paul Prier. There you see beautiful unvarnished instruments being made or hanging on the walls in various stages of creation. Just imagine making a fine instrument yourself-hundreds of hours of designing, carving, sanding, gluing, varnishing, drying wood into a thing of beauty. Peter Prier was one of the world best at making violins, cellos and violas. Sadly our city has lost him, as he passed June 15th at the age of 73.
Peter was born in Germany and began playing the violin at seven years of age. He loved the instrument and entered the Violin Making School in Mittenwald and worked making violins in a shop Stuttgart. In 1960 after graduating from school, he immigrated to the U.S. to work at the Pearce Music Company in SLC and play violin with the Utah Symphony. He had to give both up after enlisting in the military during WWII but came back and picked up his fiddle with the symphony and began caring for the instruments and needs of the string section of his fellow musicians. He opened his own violin shop in Salt Lake City and in 1972 he established the Violin Making School of America and also a Bow Maker’s school. Prier made constructed 160 violins, 17 violas, 29 cellos, 2 basses, and 3 guitars of classical design. Musicians and concert soloists such as Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Joseph Silverstein, violinist and conductor, and solo violinist Daniel Heifetz as well as many others play Peter Paul Prier’s instruments.
His sons will carry on the family tradition and we will continue to see intensely focused men and women in the windows of the school making lovely creations. A friend told me once that during their interview for enrollment at the school Peter asked an unusual question: “What did the doorknob look like when you entered the room?” The master luthier was a necessary and proud stickler for details.