‘Hear the fruit of labor and sacrifice’

A first-year engineering student hears music from a four-month project for the first time.

By Sarah Bakeman

Gerald Pardun was leaning over the rough wooden desk he had made in a workshop class two years ago. With his knees pressed against the underside to stabilize his uneven legs, the surface still couldn’t hold a pencil without it rolling. The yellow overhead light bulb had burned out, leaving only the light from the lamp in her room. Either way, a chisel in one hand and a knife in the other, Pardun worked on his latest project: a violin.

Before the first-year mechanical engineering student from Danbury, Wisconsin even started collecting wood for the project, Pardun recalled driving a gravelly Danbury road that required four-wheel drive. At the end was the house of family friends Jim and John Halmond. It was a shabby three story building with folding foam cushions instead of beds and no running water.

This house was where Pardun realized that an instrument is the most beautiful thing that can be built.

The whole house of the elderly brothers, including the bathroom, was filled with racks of hand-made guitars. Some with 20 types of wood. Some with intricate designs, such as peaks, carved into the front. Some wrapped in towels on the floor, left unvarnished in the excitement of new projects.

“I’ve always admired what they do and the things they’ve created,” Pardun said. “They’re a little crazy, but they’re geniuses.”

With the Halmond brothers, a love for western swing and an endless pandemic in mind, Pardun planned his project. He had collected tulip wood from his family’s property in Danbury. He had figured out how to use a bending iron to mold the instrument. He had spent hundreds of hours browsing books borrowed from the Halmonds and watching YouTube videos.

In late winter and early spring 2021, Pardun completed his final year of high school online. School days meant spending six hours after violin lessons, often until midnight. On weekends, Pardun worked 12 hours a day at the wobbly office.

Freshman Gerald Pardun holds the violin in his Getsch dormitory. Pardun had the instrument delivered to campus in hopes of hearing someone play it. “I don’t think I’m going to build another one because it’s exhausting and I don’t think I’ll ever have that much time,” Pardun said. “And I have no interest in learning to play the violin.” | Photo by Bryson Rosell.

“It was an obsession, and it probably wasn’t the best thing for me to do,” he said. “I felt like it had stopped wanting to build this, and it started to become, ‘I have to prove to myself that I can do it. “”

With the sculpted volute, the rosettes cut, and the measurements taken and adjusted, every addition to the instrument risked ruining the work previously done. Rags and super glue hastily fixed the burn marks, blood stains, and splinters, but Pardun can still report a number of slips on the final product.

“It definitely stays with you… Every mistake is a permanent thing which, although you can hide it very well, is still there. It adds character, but you still feel like you’ve messed up something you worked so hard for. “

Gerald Pardun

Then came the hour of the net. A thin channel had to be carved around the perimeter of the upper and lower plates before being filled with alternation ebony, maple, ebony to create dark and light lines. With just his knife and hand-made chisel, this process alone took Pardun four 12-hour days, eyes straining and the buzz of breaking Bad play in the background.

“I don’t really like using power tools because I feel like it’s too too fast, and if I make a mistake, the effects of that mistake are way too severe,” Pardun said. “There are a lot of shortcuts I could have taken that I didn’t take just because of my anxiety about power tools. “

With a Dremel power tool, this carving could have taken as little as 20 minutes. In many cases, these black and white lines are simply painted, but Pardun felt that cutting this corner would be an injustice to his earlier work.

By March, the pieces had been sculpted and the varnish had smoothed out the remaining pores of the wood. With one project completed, Pardun applied for and received a scholarship worth around $ 1,000.

“If I didn’t count the money I invested, I made about $ 3 an hour,” Pardun said. “It’s not great, but for a hobby it’s wonderful to get paid for something I was going to do anyway.”

As Pardun moved to Getsch Hall in September, his mother returned to the Bethel campus to deliver some afterthought. Among the load were extra flannels, a stovetop coffee percolator and his violin. Without a bow or even knowing how to play it, Pardun placed the violin in the bottom drawer of his dresser.

After an unsuccessful attempt to tune the violin in the Getsch Common Room, Pardun brought her creation to Assistant Violin Professor Angela Hanson, who opened her case to grab a bow, also revealing her cherry red violin bearing the inscription ” 1790 “, the year it was built.

As Hanson tuned the pegs of Pardun’s yellow tulip wood violin, she noted the “GGP 2020,” her initials and the year the violin was created, engraved on the inside.

Mozart’s “Concerto No. 5” vibrated through the strings that Pardun had looped as Hanson moved his bow back and forth. To Pardun, the song sounded like the end of his life spent in a swivel chair at a store classroom desk.

“Hearing it is the fruit of work and sacrifice,” Pardun said. “I have really changed as a person. I don’t know if it was in a positive or a negative way, but I have changed and I am as I am now.


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