My background as a musician has been integral to my success as a luthier. I know how an instrument is supposed to feel in the hand, and I have a good sense of how the mechanics of playing affects the way an instrument responds.
I know I have to keep my clients happy – I'll probably be sitting next to one at rehearsal!
Hope to see you on stage, in the audience, or here at the shop.
- Raymond Palmer
Raymond Palmer earned his degree in lutherie from the Violin Making School of America. He then moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2007 to work as an apprentice to master luthier Terry Borman. While an apprentice, he focused solely on hand crafting professional level instruments. Soon, local teachers and symphony musicians began bringing their instruments and their students’ instruments to him for repair and requesting that he expand to include retail and rental instruments.
It became apparent that there was a need for a full-time dedicated violin shop in Northwest Arkansas. Mr. Palmer opened Fayetteville Violin Shop in 2009, which later became Palmer Violin Shop when he moved to Rogers in 2010. In response to growing demand for an inventory of cellos and basses, as well as a growing rental program, the shop moved in 2019 to its current 6200 square foot location on Poplar Place in Rogers.
The Palmer Violin Shop specializes in affordable, high-quality violins, violas, cellos, and basses for beginning, advancing, and professional musicians. It is the only shop in Arkansas that is owned and operated by a professionally trained luthier, and every instrument the shop sells or rents undergoes his intense scrutiny and is set up to his exacting specifications – which for a musician means an instrument of high quality, excellent sound, and ease of playing. We work with students, teachers, and professionals in our region and coast to coast. We believe that musicians of all levels deserve an instrument that helps, not hinders.
The Palmer Violin Shop also provides expert repair and restoration services by our professional luthier and workshop staff, and a complete line of bows, cases, and accessories.
Raymond Palmer began his lifelong interest in the violin at age 5, when he began taking violin lessons from his mother, who taught the Suzuki method. He continued to play through his school years, switching to the viola around the sixth grade. Upon graduation from high school, he enrolled in college as a viola performance major.
It was around this time that he became interested in the craftsmanship that went into the instruments he was playing. He’d always been a tinkerer, and the world of lutherie seemed fascinating. He researched the various ways to learn the trade and happened upon the Violin Making School of America.
It was a perfect fit, so after he completed his degree, he moved to Salt Lake City and enrolled. He was one of the few students who had the opportunity to work in the violin shop that was associated with the school, Peter Prier and Sons Violins. It was an excellent hands-on education that supplemented his school training.
Upon graduating from the school in 2007, he declined to pursue job opportunities in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and a couple other large metropolitan areas and instead took a position as an apprentice to a master violin maker in Fayetteville, Arkansas named Terry Borman. Mr. Palmer preferred the woods and rivers to hectic urban life, so the college town in the Ozarks seemed like it would be a good fit.
The apprenticeship ended, business grew, and somewhat to his surprise, he found himself running a full-time violin shop. The shop has evolved from a small workshop in a house in Fayetteville to the larger, somewhat more customer-friendly location in Rogers.
When he’s not behind his bench at the shop, he enjoys mountain biking, traveling, fishing, hiking, and camping with his family. He is a member of the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra and a proud supporter of all musical endeavors in Northwest Arkansas. He also plays with an old time string band (the Old 78s).
In addition to his training from the Violin Making School of America, Mr. Palmer attends workshops from time to time to learn more about the latest technology and trends in instrument making and repair, and to gain competency in areas beyond his original training. He’s a member of the Violin Society of America and has attended the VSA’s Summer Restoration Workshop. He’s also become skilled at doing more advanced bow repair work by attending the workshop run by one of the contemporary masters of bow making and restoration, Lynn Hannings.
Melanie Palmer is a life-long musician, beginning on Suzuki method piano at age 5 before switching to saxophone in middle school. She holds a music degree from the University of Arkansas and has played a variety of instruments in student and professional wind ensembles, jazz bands, and smaller groups.
Her primary love is the baritone saxophone, which she currently plays with the Old 78s. Melanie joined Palmer Violin Shop in 2014 as Office Manager. She enjoys working with the shop’s rental client families and hearing the shop’s youngest clients play the pieces she grew up playing.
Andrew Thompson has been making music for over 25 years. He began playing violin, and soon picked up guitar and bass guitar. He studied music performance and composition in college where he took up viola. After completing a masters degree in viola, he focused on composing and arranging.
Andrew has always been interested in how instruments work and had the opportunity to work with skilled guitar and banjo repairmen that sparked his interest in the field of luthiery. He currently enjoys working as an assistant to Raymond Palmer, assisting in basic repairs and set-up work.
Outside of the workshop, he works in his home studio putting his ability on a wide variety of instruments to use behind the microphone. He specializes in layering multiple tracks of strings together to recreate the sound of a full string orchestra. When not recording for other artists, he composes songs in a variety of Afro-Cuban styles, as well as faithfully recreating classic video game tunes on real instruments.