Tom Blackburn was born in West Ham, London, in 1944, and studied with Hungarian violinist Marta Eitler. Many years later, Eitler would become one of Blackburn's first customers.
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied piano, organ, composition, and violin, he played in numerous West End shows and performed/taught as a freelance violinist in the early 1960s.
Blackburn’s interest in stringed instruments led him to Nice, France, where he trained as a luthier. He decided to devote his career to violin making, opening Blackburn Stringed Instruments in South Kensington in 1969. He ran the business for over 50 years, and as of April of this year, its website reports that it is no longer trading.
Some of his famed customers included violinists Lydia Mordkovich, Dona Lee Croft, and Maurice Hasson. Among notable sales include the negotiation of a 1570 Gasparo da Salò viola, now played by Berlin Philharmonic principal violist Amihai Grosz.
"Restoration is intriguing in all of its forms, and one never stops learning or finding new ways to attain a solution," said Blackburn. "Restoration has a moral component. Do as little as possible; don’t strive to improve on the work of the manufacturer. The setup of instruments is one of my favorite things to do… We must remain as neutral as possible here, but having spent so many years as a professional violinist gives you that extra inner understanding."
Our condolences to Mr. Blackburn's family, friends, and colleagues.