VC INTERVIEW | KUN Shoulder Relaxation Celebrates fiftieth Birthday!

Marina Kun (Photograph credit score: Kaja Tirrul)


The primary KUN shoulder relaxation patent was granted to Joseph Kun 50 years in the past. The Czech violin pedagogue and inventor had immigrated to Ottawa the place he met his spouse, Marina. Collectively, they developed the Kun enterprise and model, which is now a staple for string gamers all over the world.

To assist rejoice the corporate’s fiftieth anniversary, The Violin Channel, is giving freely 5 KUN Bravo collapsible shoulder rests this week. Launched in 1999, it’s a favourite {of professional} violinists together with James Ehnes, Lara St. John, Kelly Corridor-Tompkins, and plenty of extra.

We chatted with Marina Kun and her daughter, Juliana Farha, concerning the recollections created within the firm’s 50 years.


In 1972, your then-to-be husband, Joseph Kun, printed a design patent for what would turn out to be the Kun Authentic shoulder relaxation. You began working with him, hand-making and advertising and marketing the shoulder relaxation quickly after that. Since 50 years have handed, what are a few of your favourite recollections from creating the corporate?

Marina: Our first workshop was a nondescript constructing at a busy intersection in downtown Ottawa. Hardly inspiring, however it was the place we gathered handy assemble the primary Kun rests which have been produced from metallic. I even recruited my younger youngsters to assist! Joseph would supply the shoulder rests to gamers who got here to the store, and I have to say they took off comparatively shortly. Violinists took to them right away, which inspired us to assume large.

After all, we knew nothing about plastics or injection molding however we managed to discover a firm to work with about two hours from Ottawa. Evidently, they knew nothing about taking part in the violin however they have been actually simply there to breed what we have been already making.

GEWA shortly grew to become our unique wholesaler in Germany as a result of they have been the one firm that noticed the potential of our product. In reality, just a few years in the past I used to be approached at a commerce honest by the proprietor of one of many corporations that turned us down. He instructed me it was one in all his largest enterprise regrets!

I do recall the primary time I noticed a shoulder relaxation on the instrument of a participant on a European stage. Wow! It was then I actually understood that we had made a reference to hundreds of gamers all over the world, from our small store in Ottawa.


How would you outline KUN in 5 phrases?

Julia: Progressive, meticulous, native, pioneering, formidable.


KUN has all the time put gamers’ consolation as a precedence in its shoulder relaxation designs. Would you say this is likely one of the predominant the explanation why KUN is so in style amongst violinists and violists all over the world?

Marina: Completely. From its starting, the Kun relaxation was conceived as a manner of creating taking part in extra snug and eliminating the bodily issues that end result from an exercise the physique wasn’t constructed for. We usually meet gamers who inform us that their shoulder relaxation seems like a part of their instrument, they usually can’t think about taking part in with out it. Later, we discovered that elevating the instrument off the shoulder also can improve its sound, which was fantastic. Nonetheless, participant consolation was all the time our high precedence. However the different large purpose for the recognition of Kun rests is as a result of they’re so dependable, and that’s been essential to us. Gamers work out in a short time that purchasing low cost copies is a false-economy as a result of they break so quick.


What have been a number of the main challenges you confronted whereas operating such a profitable and world-known firm for 50 years?

Marina: Properly, the largest problem is actually the unlawful copies of our product. On a sensible degree, it’s irritating that Kun is obliged to commit a lot time and vitality to easily defending its personal concepts. Maybe large corporations like Apple have the sources for that, however for a small family-run enterprise like ours, it may be onerous. It’s additionally exhausting for me to know how anybody might construct a enterprise that simply copies different folks’s innovations and exploits their advertising and marketing.

One other problem is that plenty of folks come to us with concepts and really robust opinions however it may be troublesome to gauge the place there’s an actual urge for food out there. Our premium Bravo relaxation has been an enormous success, however I’m undecided our carbon fiber Voce mannequin discovered its viewers. It actually had its devotees and many individuals have been disillusioned once we discontinued it, however it by no means actually hit its stride regardless of the usage of actually progressive supplies and a completely new mechanism, in an award-winning design.


(Photograph credit score: Kaja Tirrul)


Who have been a few of your main inventive companions through the years?

Marina: We’ve tended to maintain our efforts native, so we’re very longstanding supporters of Chamberfest in Ottawa, in addition to 13 Strings, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, and Music and Past. We’ve additionally been sponsors of the Banff Worldwide String Quartet Competitors, and I sat on the board of Canada’s Nationwide Youth Orchestra for a few years.

On the lutherie entrance, a few years in the past now I did handle to steer the VSA to carry its annual conference outdoors the US for the primary time ever!

Additionally, over the previous few years, we now have assembled a beautiful worldwide checklist of Kun Featured Artists — well-known violinists and violists throughout musical genres who’ve used our merchandise for a few years. A few of them have agreed to trial our new mannequin when the protypes are prepared, and we’re very eager to get their suggestions.


You’ve got been supporting quite a few music organizations, lots of whom work with the youthful generations. Are you able to inform us extra about your philanthropic work and why it’s so essential to you?

Marina: When it comes to efficiency, I suppose I felt that Chamberfest’s aspiration to deliver top-notch worldwide artists to Ottawa would improve the town’s cultural providing, and I wished to assist that. However actually, I wished to share my love of music. I’ve had a love of classical music from a really younger age. We didn’t take heed to classical music in my residence, however in elementary college we had music appreciation courses and that appeared to set off my curiosity. After which in my teenagers I began to take a extra energetic curiosity and would generally go to concert events by myself.

I used to be additionally actually impressed by the work of Jose Antonio Abreu, the founding father of El Sistema in Venezuela and lots of the music schooling charities we assist are modeled on that method, the place the main focus is much less on turning into musicians, and extra on seeing your self and the chances of your personal life in another way.

Juliana: We’ve additionally turn out to be extra actively concerned locally by doing extra than simply donating shoulder rests to those organizations. As an example, we’ve labored with OrKidstra to get the enter of their college students in creating new merchandise for younger folks. Additionally, through the pandemic once we have been all struggling to maintain our voices out on the earth, we dedicated “highlight” weeks on our social channels to focus on Orkidstra and Sistema Toronto’s work in affecting social change via music schooling.

Along with our work with El Sistema packages, we now have supported a wide range of charitable organizations internationally. This contains the Belgian-based Music Fund, which collects musical devices, has them restored, after which distributes them to its companions, and the Jerusalemite Youth Cultural Discussion board, which has responded to the challenges confronted by younger Palestinians in East Jerusalem via an formidable vary of arts packages and actions geared toward younger youngsters locally.

Operations Supervisor Christine Monsour and Normal Supervisor Hector Marquez (Photograph credit score: Kaja Tirrul)


How does it really feel to be celebrating this main milestone?

Marina: Frankly, it hit me like a ton of bricks as a result of I wasn’t counting the years. It was Juliana who did the arithmetic and jogged my memory! I used to be stunned it had been so lengthy — it positive doesn’t really feel like half a century. Nonetheless, it’s very gratifying that so many gamers all over the world proceed to hunt out and worth our merchandise a lot, and that lecturers proceed to suggest them. There’s much more competitors than there was in our early years, to not point out extra copies, so the truth that we’re nonetheless going robust at this stage is superb.


Are you able to inform us concerning the celebratory live performance that can happen on July thirtieth? What can listeners count on to listen to?

Juliana: We’re actually enthusiastic about this live performance, and it’s been within the works for some time. It’s a part of Chamberfest in Ottawa, they usually’ve been very gracious about permitting us to take part within the programming. That is been beautiful as we wished the live performance to replicate the historical past of Kun and the household behind it.

We’re additionally actually happy that the performers embrace two incredible Kun Featured Artists, Lara St John, and Kelly Corridor-Tompkins.

As for the music, we’re celebrating Joseph Kun’s Czech and Hungarian heritage with Dvorak and Bartok, and our family background with a bit by the French-Lebanese composer, Bechara El-Khoury. My mom’s longstanding love of something Latin will come courtesy of the women-led Afro-Cuban ensemble OKAN. And we’re thrilled to be presenting ‘White Mans Cattle’ by the Indigenous cellist and composer, Cris Derksen. I believe the live performance will likely be a dynamic and energetic mash-up!


What’s in retailer for the way forward for KUN?

Juliana: For a few years now, we’ve been engaged on Kun Seven, a totally new mannequin, which is able to launch later this yr. It’s been beset by delays, partly due to Covid but in addition as a result of its performance is formidable. As soon as the Seven launches, we plan to discover a few concepts for extra modest however important modifications to our present fashions. On the identical time, we’re very eager to supply complementary merchandise, and commenced exploring a few of these concepts in earnest earlier than Covid began. I’m actually wanting ahead to returning to that train.