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John Juzek (né Janek Jůzek, aka Jan, aka Johann;1892 Písek, Czech Republic – approx 1965 Schönbach, Czech Republic) was a Czechoslovak merchant, widely known in North America as an exporter of violins, violas, cellos, and double basses made and labeled under his anglicized name, "John Juzek," crafted mostly by guilds and various independent makers in the Bohemia region of the Czechoslovakia and Germany border.
The John Juzek trademark, brand, and line of orchestral string instruments endures today through the original ninety-nine-year-old family-owned wholesaler, Metropolitan Music Co., currently owned and managed by the heirs of Robert Juzek (1894–1975), a founding partner and sibling of John Juzek.
The string instruments
The John Juzek imprint on the labels inside the F-holes reflect an import-to-the-U.S trade name, not the craftsman. The city and country imprint reflects the location of Juzek's shops, mostly in Prague before World War II. From 1920 through the 1970s, the craftsmen were from the Bohemia region on both sides of the German-Czechoslovak border. Extant instruments from the 1920s have labels reading "Jan Juzek," the Czech version of his given name, yet other parts of the label, "Violin Maker in Prague," are spelled in English.
- Label colors
Janek Juzek, himself, was a violin maker, and crafted instruments in his own shop in Prague sometime between 1910 and 1920, using wood from torn down houses and churches, when he could find it, otherwise from the Carpathian Mountains, which formed the eastern border of Czechoslovakia. For the Master Art series, Juzek adopted standard patterns of classic violin lutheirs, including:
- Guarnerius: Guarnerian outline, soundholes slightly elongated; Stradivarian scroll
- Nicolò Gagliano
As demand for string instruments in North America increased, John Juzek purchased violins violas, cellos, and double bases from craftsmen, mostly from Schönbach, and, according to advertising literature of Czechoslovak to build instruments fitting his specifications.
- Manufacturing and export
In the early 1900s, John Juzek ran a factory in Schönbach, Czechoslovakia (renamed Luby after World War II), where the John Juzek labeled instruments were crafted. Juzek also was the export merchant for independent craftsmen, for whom the instruments were also labeled with the John Juzek name.
- Manufacturing region
Schönbach, well known for violinmaking, was once dubbed the "Austrian Cremona" when Bohemia was part of Austria-Hungary. From 1880 to the beginning of World War II, and even through the 1970s, Bohemia was a thriving area in eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia, where student-quality violin making flourished as a supplier to North America. To support the town's industry, Schönbach founded the Violin Making School, founded in 1908 as an addition to the Schönbach Music School founded in 1873.
A nearby town, Markneukirchen (5 miles / 8.6 kilometers from Schönbach), produced about seven million violins, violas, cellos, and basses from 1880 to 1914. Markneukirchen, during that era, was the financial center of the German music industry and before 1914, it had more millionaires per capita than any other city in Germany. Markneukirchen, with a population of 7,847 in 1900, produced and exported so many instruments to the United States that it was home to an American Consulate with a trade attaché. The rapid rise and subsequent fall of sales to the U.S. was driven by strong U.S. currency and low labor costs in Bohemia region of Czechoslovakia.
In 1900, Schönbach gained access to electricity and was connected to a railway network. In the following years, more than 3,000 craftsmen were employed as violin makers — annual production increased to 150,000 units. In the summer of 1927, the Luthier monument was unveiled in Schönbach, memorializing all the unknown violin makers and producers of musical instruments who have made outstanding contributions in Schönbach. During The Great Depression and World War II violin making in Schönbach declined dramatically. Immediately following World War II, almost all luthiers of German descent living in Czechoslovakia were deported. Most settled in either Bubenreuth or Erlangen.
- Export and distribution
The instruments were sold in North America, mostly in the New York City area, exclusively through Metropolitan Music Co. (originally named Czechoslovak Musical Instruments Company), a New York City firm founded in 1920 by Robert J. Juzek (1894–1975) Robert's four brothers were involved in the business in various capacities:
- John Juzek
- William Juzek (1905–1942)
- Jerry Juzek (né Jaromir Juzek; 1901–1991)
- Charles Juzek (né Karel Juzek; 1896–1979)
Before the founding of Czechoslovak Musical Instruments Company, Robert Juzek had traveled to New York aboard the SS Imperator, arriving March 2, 1920, as a secretary for the Czecho Slovak Commercial Corp., located at 59 Pearl Street, New York City, a Czechoslovak exporter of orchestral instruments.
By the 1930s, the Czechoslovak Musical Instruments Company in New York City was selling violins, violas, cellos, double basses, mandolins, banjo mandolins, ukuleles, banjo ukuleles, tenor ukuleles, tiples, banjos, tenor banjos, and guitars.
After World War II ended, John Juzek no longer was connected with Metropolitan Music Co. Robert Juzek began making all the contracts directly with the shops. When Robert Juzek died in 1975, his son, Bob Juzek (né Robert Juzek; born 1938) became the president. Metropolitan Music Co. is now managed by Bob's two sons, Rob and Adam, the third generation family of the founder. The current John Juzek string instruments are made in Europe and China.
- John Juzek — Bohemia, Czechoslovakia
- 1920 to 1941
- Prague & Schönbach, Czechoslovakia
- 1941 to ?
Metropolitan Music Co.
- Robert Juzek — USA
- Czechoslovak Musical Instruments Company
- 1920 to about 1932
- 1342 Second Avenue (between 70th & 71st Streets), New York City
- 1932 to about 1937
- Metropolitan Music Co.
- 1358 First Avenue (between 72nd & 73 Streets), New York City
- (name change occurred after to the move, before 1935)
- 1937 to 1974
- 222 Fourth Avenue (between 32nd & 33rd Streets), New York City
- 1974 to 1977
- 1977 to present
Metropolitan Music Co. hired and sponsored several immigrant luthiers, including:
- Alfons Frantisek Vavra (born 1936) — immigrated from Schönbach to the United States in 1968.
- Peter Eibert (1926–2013) — trained by Heinrich Lang in Nuremberg from the age of 14; he moved to New York in the 1960s to work for the Juzek Family; Eibert is a Master Violin and Bow maker as well as a restorer of Violin Family Instruments; he currently has a violin shop in Garnerville, New York
- John Sipko (born 1953) — worked for the Juzek family, then later worked for Jack Loeb at Ideal Instrument Co. Inc.
Publications of Metropolitan Music Co.
- The Simplicity of Violin Playing, by Robert Juzek, Metropolitan Music Co.
- All violin technique: complete method for all violinists, from beginning to highest artistic perfection, by Robert Juzek, Metropolitan Music Co. (©1951) OCLC 1687599
- Professional hints on repair, Metropolitan Music Co. (©1948) OCLC 224056797
- Czechoslovak Musical Instruments Co. (1920)
- 32 pages of violins, bows, parts, strings, etc.
- Czechoslovak Music Co., Delux hardbound catalog (1931)
- 166 pages; includes Eugene Ormandy violin testimonial
- Czechoslovak Musical Instruments Co. (1931)
- Metropolitan Music Co. Musical Merchandise: Wholesale Catalogue No. 10, (1935) Smithsonian #45 OCLC 441855139, 58784198
- 210 pages, 9.5 by 12 inches.; black and white, and color illustrations; includes illustrations of violins, accordions, guitars, banjos, ukuleles, mandolins, clarinets, drums, bassoons, whistles, cellos, clarinets, English horns, French horns, harmonicas, clarinets, oboes, piccolos, pitch pipes, saxophones, sousaphones, trombones, trumpets, violins, and zithers; features bowed stringed instruments made by John Juzek of Prague
- Metropolitan Music Co. Catalogue No. 19. (1960), Smithsonian #221
Notable musicians who own John Juzek instruments
- Reid Anderson, double bass (circa 1930s)
- Lisle Atkinson, double bass
- John Patitucci, double bass (circa 1935; Czechoslovakia)
- Jay Hungerford, double bass
- Ron Carter, double bass
- Christian McBride, double bass
- Steve Bailey, double bass
- Keith DeStafano, 1920s double bass
- Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, double bass, 1962 Juzek 5-string with low B
- Mark Helias, double bass, 1930 Juzek
- Avery Sharpe, double bass
- Leon Lee Dorsey, double bass, circa 1910s
- David Finck, double bass
- Kenny Davis, double bass
- Ari Roland, double bass
- Mikel Combs, (circa 1920; Czechoslovakia)
- Lynn Seaton, double bass
- F Raymond Hauver, double bass
- Buster Williams, double bass
The Finer violin cornered basses with Juzek labels were made by the Wilfer family: Anton Wilfer (1901–1976) (pre-WWII), Wenzl B. Wilfer (post-WWII thru the 1970s) — and now Emanuel Wilfer. They were first made in Czechoslovakia; but after WWII, they moved across over the border to Germany. The Gamba shaped basses as well as the plywood basses were supplied by the Benedict Lang I shop in Schönbach pre-World War II and B. Lang II in Mittenwald post-World War II.
Some of the Master Art Copy violins and cellos imprinted with higher numbers dated in the 1950s and 1960s were made by Roman Teller (died 1974), who moved to Erlangen, West Germany after World War II.
John Juzek managed the production and export of Bohemian crafted string instruments to New York City in the aftermath of World War I, through duress of the Great Depression of the early 1930s, the subsequent Nazi occupation that began in 1939, and World War II. Czechoslovakia, the name and the country, did not exist until 1918; and it ended in 1993 when the Czech Republic was formed.
Písek, the town where John Juzek and his five siblings were born, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that existed from 1867 to 1918. In 1919, one year after the founding of Czechoslovakia, the Treaty of St. Germain triggered civil unrest between the Sudeten German population and the new Czechoslovak administration. From 1939 to 1945 Czechoslovakia was forcibly divided and partially incorporated into Nazi Germany. Schönbach, the main staging area where Juzek operated when the brand was founded in 1920, was part of Sudetenland, which from 1939 to 1945, was annexed to Germany as part of Hitler's Nazi occupation. In 1946, many people of Schönbach were displaced (see commentary under "Manufacturing region," above).
In 1921, Jan Juzek was single and resided in Pisek, Czech Republic. In 1930, he was married to Ella (born 1909 Pisek) and together they lived in Schönbach. In 1936, he was living in Kolín, 34 miles east of Prague.
- John Juzek and Metropolitan Music Co., Metropolitan Music Co. website
- Violins by Juzek, Etude, Volume 71, Page 52 (1953)
- "Land Battle Across A Generation," The Record (Bergen County), August 20, 1999
- Label: Jan Juzek, Violin Maker in Prague, No. 9, 1923
- Violin identification and price guide, Vol. 1, by Roy Ehrhardt, Kansas City, MO: Heart of America Press, pg. 24 (1977) OCLC 3155230, 82633270
- The Etude, Theodore Presser, Vol. 70, Issues 7-12, Page 52
- The Violin Makers of Bohemia: Including Craftsmen of Moravia and Slovakia, Karel Jalovec, London: Anglo-Italian publication, pps. 116 & 149 (1959) OCLC 1654419, 16450830
- Universal Dictionary of Violin & Bow Makers, by William Henley, Brighton, England: Amati Pub. Ltd. (1957) OCLC 747834101
- Encyclopedia of Violin-Makers, (Vol. 1 of 2 Vols.), edited by Karel Jalovec, London: Paul Hamlyn (1968) OCLC 458871
- "German-Factory Fiddles: The Mystery of Origin," by Richard Ward, Richmond, CA: Strings (magazine), November 16, 2012
- Commerce Reports, Roy D. Chapin, U.S. Secretary of Commerce (1932), Vol. 2, pg. 87
- "Robert Juzek," The Music Trades, Vol. 123, 1975, pg. 107
- "85 years of violin-making excellence: Metropolitan Music and the Juzek family celebrates an anniversary with a sharpened focus on serving the needs of stringed instrument players everywhere" (company profile), The Music Trades, Vol. 153, No. 1, February 1, 2005
- "William Juzek" (obituary), New York Times, July 7, 1942
- SS Imperator Manifest, U.S. Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival, March 2, 1920, Ellis Island Foundation archives
- Journal of the Violin Society of America, Queens College Press, Vol. 6, pg. 156
- "Patitucci's Gear," Jazz Times Vol. 25, Issues 1-5, 1995
- "Juzek Basses ... (aka Lang or Wilfer or?", by Kenneth L. Smith (born 1951), Ken's Corner (online bass forums sponsored by Ken Smith Basses, Ltd., Perkasie, Pennsylvania www
.smithbassforums .com), January 20, 2006Note: Smith is a bass luthier; his information is from (i) conversations with Bobby Juzek and Peter Eibert (1926–2013) — who worked for Juzek in New York City as well as Heinrich Lang in Nuremberg — and (ii) first-hand familiarity with basses with the Wilfer and Lang labels and other labels connected with Juzek basses (retrieved July 6, 2016)