Jessie Gilbert, President
Joined the Chicago School of Violin Making Board of Directors in 2004. She graduated from CSVM in 2002. Before entering the school she worked for 30 years as a psychotherapist, specializing in work with children and their families. Jessie received her BA from Harvard University in 1970 and her MA in Social Work from the University of Chicago in 1973. She lives in Chicago, IL with her husband Alan, an attorney. After, 12 years of working on bows, she has retired from her workbench and is focused on fundraising and finding new ways to strengthen and nurture our fine school.
Peter Seman, Vice President
Peter joined the Board in 2018. He is a self-taught left-handed violinist, with a lifelong passion for building and playing violins. After high school he attended the School for Fine Arts at Buffalo State College, but left school to play in a band that played traditional Bluegrass and Gypsy Jazz.
In 1984 he moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago School of Violin Making. While enrolled he also worked for several local violin shops, where he developed repair skills and learned the intricacies of bow re-hairing. After graduating the school he opened his own shop with a partner in 1989. Since then, Seman Violins has grown from the original two people to nine, all of whom have either graduated from the CSVM or are now attending it.
Peter is past board president of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers and currently serves on its foundation board, a nonprofit that is publishing a book about the history of violin making in America entitled The American Violin. He also serves on the board of Callipygian Players.
John Sagos, Treasurer
John joined the Chicago School of Violin Making Board of Directors in 2018. John is a Senior Manager of Information Technology, responsible for Global Corporate Financial Systems at Baxter Healthcare Corporation. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Boston University’s School of Management. John also studied Viola Performance with Burton Fine at the New England Conservatory of Music, and has played professionally with the Northwest Indiana Symphony, Elgin Symphony, and Lake Forest Symphony. While no longer playing professionally, he is still an avid amateur chamber musician on both viola and violin, and has recently taken up the ukulele. John is also the President of the Board of Directors of Third Coast Baroque, a new and highly acclaimed period instrument and vocal ensemble in the Chicago area.
Robyn Sullivan, Secretary
Robyn Sullivan received a BA in Music from Skidmore College in 2004, and in 2009 she became a proud graduate of CSVM. Since completing her violin making studies she has worked in a variety of shops in the greater Chicagoland and Milwaukee areas. In 2016, Robyn was a key participant in the school’s first benefit, organizing and managing the catering services. She currently works out of her home shop in Evanston, and is also a violist in the Evanston Symphony Orchestra. Robyn joined the Board in 2019 and now serves as Board Secretary.
Sara is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University and earned a JD from the University of Iowa College of Law. She practices law in Chicago at Chapman and Cutler LLP, where she focuses on representation of banks and financial institutions in litigation and regulatory affairs. Sara also serves as the firm's Pro Bono Counsel, where she manages the firm's volunteer contributions to legal aid organizations throughout the country. Sara has been an avid jazz and classical musician for over 20 years, and has taught lessons and performed as an amateur bassist with orchestras and jazz bands throughout Illinois and Iowa.
Joined the Chicago School of Violin Making Board of Directors in 2011. His study of violin making began in Bulgaria under Vladimir Naidenov. He continued his studies at the CSVM under Tschu Ho Lee and Rebecca Elliott, graduating in 1997. During and after his studies at the school, he assisted Tschu Ho Lee with repair and restoration as well as instrument-making. Petio was an instructor at the school from 1998 to 2001. He is also a co-founder of Classic Violins Corp. where he currently handles repairs and restorations, recently dedicating most of his time to making new instruments. He is a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers and the Violin Society of America, where he has won awards and recognitions.
Tschu Ho Lee, Director Emeritus
Mr. Lee is the Director-Emeritus of the Chicago School of Violin Making. He was born in Seoul, Korea. He was a violinist for the KBS Symphony Orchestra in Seoul, Korea from 1956 until 1963, prior to his study of sculpture at Hong-Ik University. He graduated from the Mittenwald Violin Making School, which he attended from 1964 to 1967. From 1967 to 1970 he was the assistant to Mittenwald violin maker Josef Kantuscher. In 1968 Mr. Lee received a Master's Certificate (Geigenbau Meister) with Gold Medal from the German Government.
Mr. Lee moved to the United States in 1970 and began work at Kenneth Warren & Son, Ltd. As a violin maker and restorer. He was the co-founder of the original K. Warren and Son School of Violin Making in 1975. In 1983 Mr. Lee took over the school and changed the name to the Chicago School of Violin Making. He continued as Director of the Chicago School of Violin Making until 2003, when the school became a non-profit corporation. He was named Director-Emeritus of the school and continues in an advisory capacity to the students.
Mr. Lee was a workmanship judge at the 13th International Competition of the Violin Society of America in November 1998 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and also at the 17th Violin Society of America International Competition in Baltimore, Maryland in November 2006.
He has made more than 300 instruments including violins, violas, and cellos and continues to build new instruments for a worldwide market. He is a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers.
A 1982 graduate of the Kenneth Warren & Son School of Violin Making (now the Chicago School of Violin Making), Rodney Mohr joined the Chicago School of Violin Making Board of Directors in 2014. He worked for Kenneth Warren and Son during school and upon graduation worked for bow maker John Norwood Lee in Chicago. In 1985 Rodney and his wife Ann, also a CSVM graduate, established Mohr & Mohr in Mansfield, Ohio. Their daughter Katherine has joined the business as the first second-generation female bow maker in the United States.
Rodney is co-director of the Oberlin Bow Restoration Workshop in Oberlin, Ohio, has taught at the North Bennett Street School in Boston and has given numerous demonstrations at the Chicago School of Violin Making. He also hosts his own bow rehairing, restoration and making workshops at his studio in Ashland, Ohio. He received the third prize at the International dé Paris Competition and has received numerous certificates for workmanship from various international competitions. Rodney has won three gold medals for bass bows from various Violin Society of America competitions, earning him the title Hors’ Concours. He has also earned the degree of Master of Bow Making from the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers and has made more than 800 bows.
Rodney is a past-president of the Board of Directors of the Violin Society of America and the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. He has also been a bow judge and panel participant for Violin Society of America competitions and conventions.
Elizabeth La Porte
Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Macalester College and is a 2011 graduate of the Chicago School of Violin Making. After finishing the program, Elizabeth developed her skills in violin and bow repair and restoration at several respected shops in the Chicago area.
In 2015, Elizabeth joined the internationally renowned workshop of Rare Violins of New York. Working daily with fine instruments and accomplished musicians inspires and informs her continued violin making.
As a professional in the field, Elizabeth has worked to strengthen engagement and communication among violin makers and restorers. She has supplemented the education of CSVM students as a guest lecturer, and joined the School’s Board of Directors in 2019. She is eager to help students develop professional relationships, and to promote the Chicago School’s mission of education and fine craftsmanship.
Kathryn Puls is an Associate at Chapman and Cutler LLP, where she works in the firm’s Banking and Financial Services Department. Prior to joining Chapman in 2018, she practiced in-house for one of the world’s largest financial institutions. Throughout her career she has been active in pro bono initiatives including veterans benefits appeals, asylum, and domestic violence matters. Kathryn is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School. During law school, she volunteered in the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons clinical program, handling post-conviction matters. Kathryn has been a musician for over 20 years, and plays several instruments, including the violin.
James A. Warren
President of the firm of Kenneth Warren & Son, Ltd., of Chicago, IL. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a BA degree in Business Administration, he joined the Warren firm in 1975. He was actively involved in forming the Kenneth Warren & Son School of Violin Making in 1975 (now the Chicago School of Violin Making) and served as its President from 1976 to 1982. A member of the Appraisers Association of America, he serves as his firm's sole expert for matters of authenticity. He has sponsored a number of research projects on historic violin makers and is involved in a project to co-author a book about bow maker Francois Xavier Tourte. Jim also serves on the Board of Directors of the Violin Society of America.
Jim is a graduate of DePauw University and holds an LLB from Harvard Law School. He practiced law in Chicago for 40 years and was a partner in the firm of Chapman and Cutler, specializing in trust and estate law, income, gift and estate tax matters and organization and administration of not-for-profit corporations. He is a Fellow, American College of Trust and Estate Counsel; Academician, International Academy of Estate and Trust Law; and listed in each edition (until retirement) of Naifeh and Smith, The Best Lawyers in America. Jim is an author, lecturer and legislative draftsman in the fields of trust, estate and tax law. He has been an avid amateur chamber music player for 50 years, a collector of books on the history and construction of the violin and related stringed instruments, and a member of the Violin Society of America since 1992. Jim also plays harmonica, banjo, folk and country fiddle.