The Handcrafted Violins of
James Alexander Huziak
1906 - 1996


James Alexander Huziak was born on or about the 25th of March, 1906, in the Logberg District approximately 30 miles east of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The fifth of eight children of immigrant parents from Eastern Europe,  he spent his early years in a very rural setting among other newcomers of Ukrainian and Icelandic descent.

The end of the Great War found him finishing up his brief education (a Ukrainian kid in an English school was not a great combination at the time).  By the age of 12 he was spending weekends fiddling at local dances1.

Jim worked many odd jobs throughout the area, including self-employment as a painter.  The 30's found him helping his eldest brother Wasyl build numerous area churches, and between 1942 and 1957, he undertook a number of contracts for the finishing of the interiors, including decorative ornamentation, icons and murals.  Included was the interior of Our Lady of Assumption church near Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, now preserved as the Kaposvar National Historic Site.  He later established a small jewellery business in Broadview and then Yorkton, finally working as a finishing carpenter for a local homebuilder from the early 60's until his retirement in 1971.

Jim built his first violin in 19352, although it was in 1947 when he first was "able to buy good tools & wood for violins"1.  By the time of his retirement, he had built about a dozen violins; then, with more time on his hands, he upped the pace to complete one, two and once even three in a year.  In addition, he carved a couple of smaller versions for grandchildren, including a 5-1/4" to challenge the then-current record in the Guinness Book of World Records.  While the majority of the wood used in his violins was purchased from professional supply companies, he used every opportunity to source it locally - not by felling a nearby spruce or maple, but by raiding already well-seasoned wood sources.  Old threshing machines, and even an old counter from a local hardware store, are currently living a second life as musical instruments.       

In total, Jim Huziak produced about 50 violins; we're not sure exactly how many as he was a far better craftsman than accountant.

In spite of his early beginnings at country dances, he was especially fond of classical music, with a special admiration for Fritz Kreisler.  Although not a religious man, it was perhaps his many years of painting under the acoustically-rich domes of country churches that was behind his wish to some day hear his violins played there.

Although he did not produce his violins specifically for sale, he was not adverse to parting with them if  they were going into the hands of talented players.  Many violinists of varying skills would stop by his workshop where they got to spend an afternoon trying out as many as they liked with no pressure to buy.  His asking price of $2000 was beyond the reach of the average amateur violinist in the 70s and 80s, but it helped ensure that his instruments found their way into the hands of serious players.

Jim Huziak completed his last violin in 1996, the year he passed away suddenly from a heart attack.

The family has the majority of his most recent violins on hand, but they are unfortunately played only infrequently.  Occasionally during a quiet evening, one will hear the mournful note of a tuning peg slipping as a lonely violin plaintively calls for attention.  They deserve more.

The family is attempting to locate and document all of his violins (we currently know they are spread as far as Toronto, Ontario through Seattle, Washington, USA).  One nearer to home was recently assessed at many times it's original selling price.  As for the ones we have here, our goal is to get each violin into the hands of a violinist where it can only get better.

Some day a few will find their way unto the stage of a country music show, or maybe a performance in a cathedral or concert hall.  Jim Huziak would have liked that very much.

1 Newspaper clipping (Yorkton Enterprise or Regina Leader Post), 1974 or early 1975.
2 Yorkton Enterprise, Feb.25, 1985.  Other sources list his first violin as being built in 1938.

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