Anya Burgess, owner of Sola Violins, a full-service violin shop in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana joined Jan Swift of Discover Lafayette to discuss her journey and career in music.
Anya moved to Acadiana in 2000 as a Teach for America instructor. Growing up in Winchester, Massachusetts, she knew very little about our region. But her desire to “land somewhere different” led her to teach at Washington Elementary School in St. Landry Parish, and she has remained here ever since.
Growing up playing classical music, she was exposed to more traditional Appalachian and Irish music when she studied folklore at Indiana University. She picked up the violin during her college days, after being trained in piano in her younger days.
Anya settled in the Arnaudville area and still lives in the region on five acres on the Bayou Teche with her two boys and her husband, Richard Burgess. She loves the space they have which allows the kids to run around. She also maintains a shop behind her home where she originally repaired and built violins until she opened a full-service shop, Sola Violins, in downtown Lafayette. The moves allowed for the expansion of inventory and services and great accessibility for most of her clientele who travel from Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Alexandria, and beyond.
One of the only violin shops in the state, Sola Violins specializes in the restoration, rentals, and sales of violin family instruments. Their clientele includes everyone from students to professionals and Cajun to classical players.
Anya is also a violinmaker, having learned how to make violins in college. Surprisingly, our area has a great number of violin players, and as Anya says, “In this region, we may have one of the most per capita of violin players!” She is a board member of the Violin Society of America.
A great deal of Sola Violins’ business involves the complete restoration of instruments. Symphony players, people who inherit instruments, and people bringing in instruments damaged by the elements are included in her clientele. She works on all instruments included in the violin family including the viola and cello, as well as the occasional member of the bass family of instruments. The store also offers accessories, books and other accouterments needed to play the instruments. Sola Violins offers guidance for teachers and you can reference the list of local string teachers here.
Interestingly, COVID has affected the type of business Sola Violins attracts, but not the volume of business. Anya has found herself just as busy in 2020 as in years past, but this year has seen more rentals of instruments than sales, as people have picked up instruments to pass the time. Anya rents to people of all ages and notes it is very affordable to rent an instrument as you determine before purchasing if the choice was the right fit.
A lifelong musician, Anya plays the fiddle with two Grammy-nominated Cajun bands, Bonsoir Catin and the Magnolia Sisters. She is the newest member of Magnolia Sisters, which she joined eighteen years ago. The band was first nominated for a Grammy in 2010 and again in 2015. Fellow band members include Anne Savoy, Jane Vidrine, and Lisa Trahan. She also plays alongside Bonsoir, Catin band members Kristi Guillory, Christine Balfa, Maegan Berard, Ashley Hayes Steele, and Danny DeVillier. Bonsoir, Catin was also nominated for a Grammy in 2015 and Anya recalled with delight the experience of traveling to the awards ceremony with both bands.
The COVID shutdown has prevented both bands from performing in 2020, but Anya feels that “once we’re back on stage, it will be much richer.” Her band mates are her best friends.
Anya praised the Downtown Development Authority team for its work to promote local business and to attract new vendors along the downtown Lafayette corridor. In late January, Anya and Sola Violins will be working with Mitzi Guidry of Lilou, a downtown consignment shop, to present a Sunday brunch featuring local violinists as the entertainment.
As our interview wound down, we asked Anya Burgess to select two of her favorite melodies from her two bands. We closed with the playing of Clos de Coton by the Magnolia Sisters, followed by Baby Please Don’t Go by Bonsoir, Catin.
Thank you, Anya Burgess, for sharing your story and incredible passion for music with our listeners! For more information on Sola Violins located at 100 E. Vermilion Street, Suite 102, please visit https://www.solaviolins.com.