Peter Seman, 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.
Petio Kostov, Vice President
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Paul Zafer is the Concertmaster of the Chicago Sinfonietta, a member of the Chicago Philharmonic, and the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra in Wisconsin. He is currently on the faculty of Wheaton College, and Camp Musical des Laurentides in Quebec, Canada. Zafer is a chamber music coach for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Music Institute of Chicago Academy as well as an orchestral coach for the Orchestras at DePaul University.
A native Canadian, Zafer made his solo debut with the Calgary Philharmonic at age 14. He also has appeared as featured soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and the Chicago Sinfonietta, and most recently in March 2019.
Zafer has played violin in a wide range of ensembles. He has performed as concertmaster with Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Peninsula Music Festival, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Lincoln Symphony of Nebraska, Elgin Symphony, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Lion King National Tour. He has also played with the English Chamber Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Music of the Baroque, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Opera, Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.
In addition to performing, Zafer has worked with student musicians as a private instructor, coach, and mentor. He has coached ensembles at North Park University, CCPA-Roosevelt University, Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, and has given Masterclasses at Stanford University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Missouri–St. Louis, Northern Illinois University and the Rockford Music Academy. He has taught at North Park University, DePaul Community Music Division and the Birch Creek Summer Music Camp.
Zafer earned an Artist Diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, a Bachelor of Music in Performance from the University of Toronto, and a Masters of Music from Northern Illinois University. He and his wife Betty Lewis reside in Wilmette, Illinois.
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.