If you have ever wondered around the trade shows such as Musikmesse Frankfurt or Mondomusica Cremona, you could not have missed Ahmet! You are simply drawn by this most sincere beaming smile and welcoming greeting every single time without fail! Then you ask him to tell you more about the humidifiers, and you can easily stay there for hours! Did I initially know the importance of humidifiers for my own instrument?! The answer is no! As a violin student, it was important to pay some attention to looking after your instrument, which basically boiled down to adding another soft cloth into your case in the winter time and keeping it from direct sunlight in the summer months. Nobody was thinking about the impact that the weather conditions actually have on the wood itself; rather just getting annoyed with constantly having to re-tune your instrument until it somehow became more stable and responsive, often simply by being left at room temperature. And did anyone really think after a three-hour performance, ‘yes, I now need to clean my instrument?!’ Again, the answer is almost never a ‘yes’!
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And how did Ahmet come up with the Stretto® products? By his own invaluable experience as a professional musician whose career spans over 35 years! Even though most of his career was spent as an orchestral viola player in the Zurich Symphony Orchestra (and Ahmet would be first to tell you all the viola jokes!), his music career started back in Turkey, his country of origin, as a jazz musician. Ahmet grew up with a classical music all around him thanks to his father who was a famous violinist at the time. Still, he found himself drawn towards composition and piano studies winning the Berkley Scholarship for Jazz, which sadly, he wasn’t able to follow up. Instead, his music career took a turn in the direction of warm sound and deeper undertones of viola, which then led him to a chamber music summer course with conductor George Hurst in England, follow by two years of study with Walter Gerhardt at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.It is just wonderful to listen to Ahmet telling you about his amazing experience of playing in the orchestra at the William Walton Anniversary concert under the baton of Sir Adrian Boult back in the 1970s! Imagine the sheer exuberance of that long-gone era and what it would have been like as a musician in such an orchestra! Although, it is interesting to note that Ahmet considers that the job of a musician hasn’t changed that much over the past few decades, and that the same problems that he and his colleagues faced then are still pretty much shared and endured by orchestral musicians nowadays. The long hours of practicing, rehearsing, travelling across the globe and giving back-to-back concerts month after month are still with us. This fully packed and very busy performing diary started to have an effect on their instruments, especially when the tours crossed many time zones and performances occurred in many different climates.
It would be no exaggeration to say that it started wreaking havoc with their instruments. It was not unusual to see instruments coming unglued on these tours to the point of desperation for both the musicians and the orchestra as a whole. All these unfortunate incidents started Ahmet thinking about what could be done to prevent these happenings. After many conversations consulting with a good friend of his (who also happened to be the chemist), he came up with the simplest, yet the most effective solution on how to maintain the perfect level of humidity in the instrument cases, be it violin, viola, cello or double bass. Even now, when you look at the compact nature of his humidifiers and think of them as such a small accessory, which fits so perfectly well in any case, of the compact size of a hydrometer that will constantly measure how wet or dry the air is inside of your case, you know this could have been only achieved by someone who passionately cares about the instruments, as well as the musicians.