Jim Trudaeu is a 91-year-old Cheyenne resident with a unique and mesmerizing life story. He is a military veteran and an award-winning violin builder.
He once taught at Laramie County Community College and is now making a generous and unique donation to the college’s Fine Arts program. He plans to donate several of his award-winning violins to the music program and for display in the new performing arts center after construction is completed.
Trudeau began building violins in 1990 with the support of his late wife. He has never been trained to play violin and only knows how to play one song, which is very common with many violin builders, he said.
It took three years for him to finish the construction of his first instrument. He frequently entered his work in violin-makers contests in Tucson, Arizona. His first violin was awarded 79 points out of a possible 94 in the tone part of the competition, which was a high mark for a first-time builder. He has also won a bronze medal at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in 2002.
After that first violin, he was able to produce one each year. His most recent instrument was his 13th violin, but it is left unfinished and he will not be the one to finish its construction. After his wife passed away, he decided to stop crafting the instruments. She was the reason he began and she was the reason he kept building.
A violin is a very complex and detailed instrument. One scrape too much and t
he entire instrument can be ruined. Trudeau bought $176 worth of wood to build his first violin. There are special tools and adhesives that must be used. Every aspect of a violin’s creation has to be exact and correct; there is one small piece of wood that is stationed inside the violin that can only be put in place after the rest of the body is constructed. It has to be in the exact right spot or the vibrations of the strings can tear apart the whole instrument. His wife used to say that he had “the patience of Job.”
Trudeau and his wife had no children for him to pass on his craft. When he made the decision to stop building, he gave many of his tools to students who showed a lot of promise and love for the craft. He said he did not want the tools to grow rusty and unused.
This is also why he wishes to donate the instruments to the college, he said. He added that he hopes that their display in the performing arts center will be appreciated by the students who will walk through those halls. He is also hopeful that students who are studying the violin will get the chance to play the instruments that he spent years of his life creating.