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Whether the music is pop, rhythm and blues, country, rock, bluegrass or classical, musicians should have top-quality instruments to get the perfect sound. The cost of instruments can be astronomical and unapproachable for rising, talented artists. 

Melissa White is a violin soloist and chamber musician who recently performed in the D.C. area for the Library of Congress with the Harlem Quartet, a group of string musicians she co-founded. Wherever she performs, White’s constant companion is “The Oliveira” c1780 Ferdinando Gagliano violin that is hers to play through a unique investment from Strumenti, a funding organization for acquiring exquisite, rare string instruments. Contained in the full name of the violin is “c1780,” which tells the age of White’s violin.

“I saw the violin first on ‘Sesame Street’ when I was 4. Itzhak Pearlman was the guest. I fell in love with the way it fit his chin,” said White, who recently was the featured violinist with the National Philharmonic

Making Dreams Come True 

Strumenti is a new organization founded in 2022. The co-founders and managing directors of Strumenti are Steve Obenski and Jim Kelly. Their mission for Strumenti is straightforward and personal.

“Ever since I’ve been in the violin business, I’ve had people struggle with being able to afford what they need. It’s been this constant cycle,” said Kelly, president and CEO of the National Philharmonic and a violist himself.

Through Strumenti, violins, violas and cellos are identified with the assurance that the instruments will be performed by promising musicians and not tucked away in a private collection or museum. Instruments are to be used by artists who otherwise could not afford them. The price range for a violin, similar to the quality of what an artist like White would play, can cost between $250,000 to 500,000.

When White first played “The Oliveira” Gagliano c1780 violin, she immediately heard and felt the difference. White embraces the reality that she is playing an old Italian violin that had been in the hands of legendary players.

“It has a large sound, and these are all characteristics that are difficult to craft into a wooden box,” White said. “That’s what makes it so valuable.” 

Committed to People and Music 

Kelly and Obenski have become matchmakers by sourcing string instruments for musicians eager to show love. 

As a lawyer and a voracious researcher, Obenski studied different business structures created for people to buy collectibles like cars, watches, wine and other high-end items. Strumenti’s investment structure is like buying real estate but a musician can pay it off as they are able. In the end, a musician can own the instrument or put the “violin equity” toward a new one.

When White was offered the opportunity to secure a violin through Strumenti, Kelly and Obenski went with her to an instrument dealer in New York. Twelve violins were evaluated.

“I remember her playing it a little. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she tried it,” Obenski said about “The Oliveira” violin. 

Strumenti looks to have the same relationship with their second violinist, a 13-year-old prodigy in California. It’s a strong start for a unique approach to funding dreams for string musicians.

Learn more about Strumenti on their website, Keep up with White through her website,

Brenda Siler photo

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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