Peter’s lifelong passion for building and playing violins began when he was growing up on Long Island, New York. A self-taught left-handed violinist, he began playing summers in upstate New York. 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 (Peter has been a passionate fan of Stéphane Grappelli since his youth).
Although the band was achieving local success, after 10 years Peter wanted to focus on building the instruments he so loved, and in 1984 he moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago School of Violin Making (CSVM). While enrolled there 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. Since settling into the store’s new, larger space at 4447 Oakton St., Peter is particularly excited about the recent launch of the Seman Violins online store.
Peter’s passion for building exceptional violins has led him to make copies of some of the world’s greatest instruments. His most recent include:
- A copy of the Stradivarius used by Yuan-Qing Yu, Assistant Concertmaster for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
- A copy of the “ex Soldat” Guarneri Del Gesu 1742 owned by Rachel Barton Pine and made for Gallia Kastner, which Kastner played when she placed first in the 2015 Cooper International Violin Competition.
- A custom five-string violin for David Ragsdale of the band Kansas.
- A copy, currently in progress, of a B. Guadagnini , Turin 1781 owned by CSO violinist Francis Akos.
Peter’s projects extend beyond violin-making as well – as a longtime player of Bluegrass, he has recently built two mandolins.
He is past president of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers (AFVBM) 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 Calipygian Players.