Seman Violins has been serving the greater Chicago area for more than 20 years. We pride ourselves in our expertise and experience in the old-world craft of building quality, custom instruments, and restoring instruments as close to their original states as possible. Our customers appreciate the fine level of detail that makes up the heart of our work, and have come to expect nothing but the best in our products, services, and care.
Meet the shop makers behind the music.
Peter’s lifelong passion for building and playing violins began when he was growing up on Long Island, NY. 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 for 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). After graduating from CSVM, 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 CSVM or are current students.
A valued member of Seman Violins since 2006 and a graduate of the CSVM, Noah is a dedicated violin maker who enjoys helping players of all ages and abilities find their next instrument or bow. With years of experience as a string musician, instrument builder, repair person, and salesperson, Noah excels in matching clients with their ideal instrument or bow, and loves the reward of adjusting instruments to get the perfect sound and fit.
In his building, Noah focuses primarily on violins on a modified Stradivarius pattern and Violas based on a Franz Kinberg model. His instruments are played by professionals and aspiring professionals in both the United States and abroad.
When not engrossed in all things strings, Noah enjoys cooking, cycling, playing the banjo, and most importantly, his family.
Heeyoung Kang works on most high-end instruments that come to the shop, including Stradivari, Guarneri, and Amati. Born in Korea, where he played drums in the national police band, Heeyoung moved to the U.S. in 1991 and graduated from the Chicago School of Violin Making in 1995. He has been with Seman Violins since 1993, making him the longest-standing member of the team.
Heeyoung builds violins, violas, and cellos modeled after Stradivari. But it is his repair work, with a particular expertise in touch-up, that has earned him the gratitude of customers far and wide. When violist David Pankratz had an accident that broke the neck off his instrument, it was Heeyoung who did a neck graft that restored the instrument to like-new playability. “Thank you for your masterful and beautiful work restoring my sad but now very happy viola," wrote Pankratz. Other grateful customers include members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
When he is not repairing or building instruments, Heeyoung enjoys working in his vegetable garden.
Kristin Siegfried Ballenger
Kristin grew up in Aurora, IL, playing all types of music. After a few summers at Interlochen, she became enamored with the viola. She graduated in 2009 with a music degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, where she played in the Illinois Wesleyan Civic Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Winds, Titan Band, and various chamber groups. She then moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago School of Violin Making and graduated from there in 2012. While in school, she was selected to attend the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers Conference and see beautiful examples of Amati and his followers. Now she enjoys building violins and violas, and especially loves adjusting violas. With such a variety of shapes and sizes, each one is a challenge.
When not at the shop, Kristin is an active player in the Fox Valley Orchestra, and she likes to cycle, travel, and make desserts.
Drew grew up in North Aurora, IL, and became interested in instrument-making from seeing his guitar being repaired at the local guitar shop. He attended a guitar-building workshop at Vermont Instruments School of Lutherie in 2009. A year later, he attended the stringed-instrument repair program at Southeast Technical College in Red Wing, MN. From there, Drew went on to study at the Chicago School of Violin Making, where he graduated in 2014. Drew plays multiple instruments, including classical guitar and percussion. He also is on the Artistic Team of New Moon Opera Company, heading up set design and front-of-house. Drew joined the Seman Violins team in January 2014.
Daniella grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and started playing piano when she was six. After high school, she studied for a year abroad in Israel and then returned to study music at Yeshiva University Stern College. After graduating with a degree in music, Daniella moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago School of Violin Making, where she graduated in the summer of 2012. Daniella joined Seman Violins early in 2014 and is in the process of working on three different models.
In her free time, Daniella loves to spend time with her family, play piano, watch sports, and exercise.