This is a story about redemption and a violin.
And a request for your help.
My daughter’s cherished violin was recently stolen from our tour bus in Rome, Italy while we were visiting the area around the Vatican.
Here are the details about what happened, and some context around why it’s so important for us to get the violin back. The violin is insured, and we understand the process for making a claim and using the insurance money to shop for another violin.
However, as most dedicated musicians understand, your instrument becomes a part of you, a core element of the development of your talents. Your instrument’s personality evolves alongside your own by way of the hours and hours of practice and performance time you spend with it. For a violinist who practices for hours every day, the violin becomes an extension of yourself.
With that in mind, let me introduce you to the situation…
This is my daughter, Maylee.
Maylee has been playing the violin since just before her 2nd birthday. The joys of being associated with music have been a very significant part of her life. Although she is a proficient musician on the harp, piano, ukulele, guitar, banjo, and viola, the violin is the instrument she loves.
The video below is from a recent recital, where Maylee played a solo from one of the Suzuki books.
Recently Maylee’s “final” violin (the one she expected to use for the rest of her life) was “stolen” from our tour bus in Rome, Italy, just outside of the Vatican. Having to leave Italy without this special violin has been devasting for her, for reasons understandable from the description she wrote about why this particular violin, which she has been playing for the past four years and had planned to be her partner for life, has so much meaning for her.
I asked Maylee to describe the impact the stolen violin has had on her. I’m including her explanation of her attachment to that violin below…
The Sentimental Value of Maylee’s Violin
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
It has been clear to me as I’ve watched my daughter develop her skills as an aspiring violinist working with an old, redeemed instrument that she has learned how important second chances are, including extra chances given to us every day by our Master, the Savior, to try again to be better, to be a little closer to perfection.
This violin represents to her what it means to have another chance to be better, especially when acted upon by the touch of the Master’s hand.
A Bus “Robbery” The Second Day of Our Italy Tour
My daughter has studied in Korrine Hamblin’s Suzuki violin studio in Nashville, Tennessee for the past three years. Several months ago, Korrine’s mom, LeeAndra Lowe, coordinated a performance tour through Italy by employing a musical tour company called Classical Movements. Classical Movements contracted with Parenti Bus company based in Rome, Italy, to transport the musicians and their families during the tour.
We were told going into the trip that the bus company was very competent at security, and the violinists in the studio were expected to bring their instruments with them. The tour company was supposedly very experienced at keeping musical instruments safe for tour groups in Rome.
We made the mistake of bringing Maylee’s violin, with all of its sentiment and personal meaning, along and blithely expecting that the Parenti Bus company would ensure that it was safe.
On the first day of the tour, Saturday, June 11, 2022, the group returned after lunch to the tour bus, which met us in the parking garage just outside the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. As the first couple members of the group boarded the bus, they found that their belongings weren’t where they left them prior to lunch. As more people boarded the bus, others joined in the discussion, asking where their violins went.
Only after several distraught members of the group came back off the bus in a panic, looking for help to determine whether their instruments might have been placed below the bus, the driver of the bus, an Italian fellow named Antonio, mentioned to our tour guide that he had parked the bus outside of the secure area to avoid paying a $40 parking fee and that he had locked the bus and left it for only 10 minutes to get a sandwich. Antonio said that he noticed that someone may have entered the bus while he was gone, and that they had to have broken into the bus since he had left it locked.
One of the other adults and I asked the bus driver to show us where there was any evidence of a break-in, as there was clearly no damage done to the bus door or any of the area around the door that would indicate someone had tampered with it. As those who had lost their precious belongings, including my daughter, processed the idea that they had been robbed, Antonio showed no sign of remorse, instead casually staring at the group with a shady smirk on his face.
I’m certain that Antonio was involved in the heist. I have tried to figure out how we could get access to his phone to see who he had been communicating with leading up to the theft, but there has been no cooperation from the police or anyone else to simply confiscate his phone to check on that.
I took the video below just after we found out that the instruments and other items were stolen from the bus.
There are several questions that have not been answered about what happened to allow people to get onto the bus and make off with my daughter’s violin along with several others that had sentimental value.
Some Unanswered Questions About What Happened
Parenti Bus claims to have been in the business of doing bus tours in Rome for decades. They claim that the driver has been working for them for many years and that this is the first time something like this has happened.
If that is true, then here are some questions that should be answered…
- Did the bus driver not understand how common it is for people to steal from tour groups in Rome, and that the area around the Vatican is one of the most common areas of theft?
- Why did the bus driver decide to park the bus in an unsecured area in an attempt to save the $40 parking fee for the secured area?
- After parking the bus in an unsecured area, why would this seasoned bus driver then decide to leave the bus unattended?
- If the bus was actually broken into, why were there no signs of forced entry?
I find it hard to believe what Parenti Bus and the bus driver said about what had happened. I am nearly certain that the bus driver coordinated the theft, and that he knows who took the instruments.
It frustrates me that I don’t know how to get the Rome police or anyone else who might have authority to investigate the bus driver.
Instead, I am trying to work through the Rome music community and related shops, music teachers, etc. to try to track down the missing violin.
Identifying Maylee’s Violin
If you have any connection to Italy or to the music community in Europe, and would like to help us keep an eye out for Maylee’s violin, I’m providing some identifying information that you’re welcome to share with anyone you know in the Rome area or in other parts of Italy, as it’s hard to tell where this instrument might turn up.
A miracle similar to the one we’re hoping for happened, ironically, to the woman who helped Maylee choose her violin. Jenny Oaks Baker’s daughter had her cello stolen in Pisa in 2017, and she was able to get it back with the help of a highly observant and quick-thinking music store owner, who thought it was strange that someone was trying to sell a cello for much less than what he knew it to be worth, and who observed markings on the cello that he was able to identify.
The violin appraisal gives some useful information that can be used to identify the violin.
Through the f-holes of the violin, the name of the violin’s creator, H Emile Blondelet, is visible on a sticker on the back of the violin, as is the word “Paris” and the year 1922. It is possible that the year says 1924 according to the appraisal below. The purchase receipt says 1922, and my daughter remembers that being the year listed on the violin, so there is a good possibility that the year information on the appraisal below is off by two years.
Maker: H Emile Blondelet
Year: 1922 (possibly 1924)
Here are some close-up images of my daughter’s violin.
In the image below, I have circled the parts of the violin where you can see the “scars” that had been repaired as a part of this violin’s redemption from being damaged.
Here is a second image that shows the violin from a slightly different perspective.
If you have any information that can help us locate this violin, please share it with me using the contact form below.