Violin company inspires music creativity in kids
Legal News Reporter
Published: March 10, 2016
Akron native Rozanna Lee Weinberger said she grew up dreaming of one day being accepted to The Juilliard School.
She started playing piano at 4, viola at 9 and was composing music in first and second grade.
“I entered several different citywide contests for composers because of the encouragement of my music teacher Mrs. Hess at Schumacher Elementary School,” said Weinberger. “I won first prize for several years consecutively.
“I come from a musical family. My mother was an opera singer and my three older brothers each played an instrument. Growing up we would have family concerts.”
Weinberger’s childhood friend Mary Nurches Ciesa said visiting her home was like going to a music studio.
“Her entire upstairs was filled with musical instruments, music stands and sheet music,” said Ciesa, a nurse practitioner who lives in Bath Township.
“Rozanna was a very talented young girl,” said Elizabeth Guran, senior lecturer in the Department of Disaster Science & Emergency Services at The University of Akron. “We grew up two blocks from one another and I always envisioned her going on to accomplish great things.”
Today Weinberger lives in New York City and co-owns Rozanna’s Violins. Her journey to entrepreneurship is only part of the story.
While attending Firestone High School, Weinberger performed in the Akron Youth Symphony Orchestra and took lessons at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
She received her bachelor’s degree in music performance from the prestigious Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
“After Peabody I went to the University of Western Ontario to work on my master’s degree and was one of the first Americans to perform at the Canadian Opera Company.”
Weinberger completed her master’s degree at Juilliard, going on to have concertos written for her. She also performed on the runway during Fashion Week in New York City, on Broadway, in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and at many other events.
In 2010, she started Rozanna’s Violins to help “nurture children’s creativity and imagination.” The high-quality colorful violins feature unique designs created by artists from all over the world.
Weinberger said it made sense that while children might not understand the value of a wood violin they would be “inspired to play on instruments that resonate with their creative imaginations.”
She said the idea for the company first occurred to her after reading an article in The New York Times about Juilliard graduates who were unable to find work.
“It led me to believe that students needed to be taught at a young age to be more creative and to think ‘outside the box,’” said Weinberger. “I wanted to find a way to engage them not only in the sound of the music but through visuals.
“So many students coming out of the conservatories today have a cut-and-dry approach,” she said. “They want to play in an orchestra or maybe teach, but they can’t think much beyond that. By cultivating their creativity early on, my hope is that they will come up with more unique ways to use their training.
“This is especially important in today’s climate since many traditional classical music opportunities are waning while opportunities to perform all kinds of music genres continue to open up for players.”
Although her instrument was always the viola, Weinberger said she could also play violin.
However she said, “I could not build a company based on the viola.”
Weinberger said a few years before she considered starting her business she had been sketching decals and designs for violins. But it was not until she met her partner Craig Berger that the pieces fit together.
Berger provided the initial cash infusion to get the idea off the ground, taking on a managerial and strategic role.
“I met Rozanna in New York and I felt her passion for this project,” said Berger. “Her goal is to encourage and motivate students to practice and learn music. There’s a lot of competition out there with people making music on the computer. We’re traditionalists.
“I’ve assisted with operations and marketing but Rozanna is really the lead. The company is her life.”
Today Rozanna’s Violins can be found on zulily.com and in major stores like Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend and Sam Ash.
“We were very lucky in the beginning because zulily.com had a huge marketing presence,” she said. “We had a limited budget, but being able to attract a large company gave us a huge marketing presence.”
“Unlike some products, a lot of people don’t want to buy an instrument off a website without having the chance to touch it and play it,” said Berger. “That’s why it’s so important to get our instruments into the stores.”
In 2015, the company moved most of its operations to St. Louis Music in Missouri, one of the largest distributors of musical instruments and accessories in North America. “The violins are made in China but completed in St. Louis,” Weinberger said. “We are fortunate that a company with this prestige sees the value in what we’re doing and is helping us to consolidate our operations in one place, which was very much needed.”
She said the company has “more than doubled in sales with each year since 2010.” The Blue Lighting Violin is one of the most popular. There is also one containing snowflakes that comes with sheet music from the movie “Frozen.” Customers can also buy a wide variety of designer decals that are sold separately.
Violin prices range from $299 to $399.
While the company has a website, Facebook page and blog, Weinberger said going to trade shows is one of the best ways to attract new distributors.
Each year, she attends the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show in Anaheim, California as well as the Texas Music Educators Association convention and the American String Teachers Association conference.
“Getting face time with distributors makes a world of difference,” said Weinberger. “NAMM is an important trade show for us. This year I did a deal with a distributor who wants me to design a violin to go with the sheet music to ‘Star Wars.’
“Not only is that an exciting opportunity, this violin along with the snowflake violin sold with the music to ‘Frozen,’ represent industry firsts in terms of what has been done with the violin.”
In the near future, Rozanna’s Violins plans to offer designer violas and cellos.
Ciesa said she is very proud of Weinberger “for starting her own company. She is so inspired by the power of music that she wants to inspire children to pick up a violin that may look and feel intriguing.”
She said Weinberger has not forgotten her Akron roots. “I wrote a children’s book called, ‘Dina Prima the Ballerina’ and it was performed by the Wayne Center Ballet last April.
“I asked Rozanna to record a piece of violin music that sounded like a glimmer of hope,” said Ciesa. “Rozanna produced a beautiful piece of music that was used in the production to transition from one scene to the next.
“Rozanna knows about having a glimmer of hope to make her dreams come true. She broke her neck at school,” said Ciesa. “For a viola/violin player, this was a tragedy. Yet, she overcame that problem and became a phenomenal musician and now business owner.”
Weinberger said Akron played an important role in cultivating her talent.
“I was fortunate enough to go to a school where music was considered important,” said Weinberger. “Unfortunately you don’t see that much anymore. I still remember the elation of playing in the Akron Youth Symphony Orchestra and my grade school teacher Mrs. Hess who saw my unusual talents and helped to foster them.”