Jimmy Dugdale ’05
Majored in history
Assistant Luthier, Sullivan Violins
Jimmy Dugdale describes his journey from Illinois College to violin maker as a “long road,” but an amazing sequence of events and opportunities.
“My liberal arts degree helped me have the confidence to try anything ..."
Faced with a challenging job market following graduation, Dugdale was given an opportunity to work outside of his field of study. “When I graduated from IC with a degree in history, my plan was to teach high school history and coach soccer, but finding a job was difficult at the time.” Instead, he accepted a position with Spaeth Design, a scenic design company based in New York City, as a scenic carpenter. The company specializes in animatronic window displays seen during the holidays in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. It was during this time in New York that Dugdale discovered a void in his life.
“Before I always had soccer practice, but now I found myself with extra time on my hands and some discretionary income, so I decided to take up the violin. My grandmother had played, so there was a violin in the family that was not being used, and it was on her instrument that I started to learn.” It was his interest in wood working and the supportive suggestion of his violin instructor, originally from the Chicago area, that led to his enrollment in the Chicago School of Violin Making. Following a very intensive three and a half year program, Dugdale graduated and immediately was offered his current position with Sullivan Violins.
“I love the craftsmanship of this work and enjoy the idea of perfection,” says Dugdale. “I’m dyslexic, which can be challenging, but when it comes to construction and building things, I can see everything in my mind, and everything just makes sense so I’m much happier building very precise objects all day than sending out emails.”
When asked how his degree and experiences at Illinois College helped him get where he is today, Dugdale says,“My liberal arts degree helped me have the confidence to try anything, to see and solve problems from many different angles, and it keeps me interested in life, always looking for new things to do and enjoy. Plus, my professors at IC, notably Robert Kunath and Randy Norris, taught me a lot about seeing a dream and chasing it.”