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About Us


Our Story

Frederick W. Oster Fine Violins, on the Avenue of the Arts in Center City, Philadelphia ~ Established in 1974

Fred Oster established his Philadelphia musical instruments studio in 1974.  It was a natural extension of his interest in playing music, and all things musical.  Within short order he became a consultant for the musical instruments department of Sotheby, Parke Bernet, and then in 1979 for the firm of  Phillips, Son & Neale in New York.  From 1981 until 1987 he was the New York  Department Head of the Musical Instruments Department for the auction firm of Christie, Manson & Woods,  and subsequently served as a consultant to Christie’s for many years.  He is also a regular appraiser on the PBS television production Antiques Roadshow, and has appeared on these programs for 23 seasons.  

Fred brought this experience to bear in his own shop and Frederick W. Oster Fine Violins grew to serve musicians of all levels.  Our work has always been informed and enriched by the community of musicians and music makers, customers, craftspeople, and colleagues from this neighborhood and worldwide who we have worked with.


Who We Are

A Dedicated Team

You will receive very personal attention in our shop. We’re dedicated to doing well what we do, building expertise in the instruments, and working one-on-one with people to help them find an instrument that gives the greatest satisfaction for their needs and preferences. This may sound simple, but we understand that finding the right instrument is a different process for every musician.

Our dedicated personnel possess a breadth and legacy of knowledge and experience we all find satisfying and enjoyable to share. Our founder and namesake Fred Oster devotes a great deal of attention to instrument identification and works with clients to provide appraisals and certifications, in answer to their needs. Catherine Jacobs works alongside everyone in the shop to help manage issues ranging from instrument care to accessory selection and data logistics. Our cheerful and capable Assistant Manager Samantha X Cody pairs a keen intellect honed by her background in physics with  her talents in the artistic realm.  She is an accomplished and versatile violinist.  In addition, Sam is a successful author who writes in a most engaging way.  Among her wide-ranging responsibilities, Sam coordinates client appointments for instrument trials, repairs, and evaluations. Samantha is especially involved in assisting clients with instrument selection.


The Luthiers

Craftspeople and Music Makers

Sarah W. Peck is a noted restorer of both classical and baroque instruments. She is a graduate of West Dean College in England and was for many years a restorer with William Monical & Son before opening her own workshop. She is especially devoted to working on early instruments in all their complexity and variety.

John Thorell is a talented cellist and luthier with degrees from Indiana University and the violin making program of North Bennett Street School. In addition to making violins, violas, and celli he is an excellent restorer who approaches every project with a thoughtful eye to pragmatic, structural, acoustical and aesthetic concerns.

Bowmaker Stephen Salchow trained as a bow maker with his father William Salchow of New York City. He balances his craftsmanship between restoration and maintenance of old bows, a pursuit that provides excellent insight into the characteristics of old master bows, and making bows. Stephen’s other great passion is playing the viola.


Our Building's Story

Unique Instruments in a Unique Building

Fred Oster established the shop in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood in 1974.  Four years later, the move was made to larger accommodations on Walnut Street in Center City. In 1983 the shop moved again to a four story Pine Street house built in 1860. The building, with its wonderful four-story walnut staircase, was built as the home of a prominent judge, later serving as a school for the fine and musical arts, and in the 1960’s as Zest Records’ recording studio.

In 2008 we moved to our current premises at 507 South Broad Street, on Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. This brick and brownstone Aesthetic style mansion with beautiful woodwork, stained glass and period tiles was built in 1882 for James Dundas and Alice Lippincott. With its stately terracotta embellished facade, it’s hard to miss the building. We also have one of the great Philadelphia Mural Arts Project murals on our north wall. For a detailed history about this building, visit our BUILDING BLOG.  Clearly, we like old buildings. They’re an extension of our admiration for artfully crafted creations. The sense of history in a building with unique architectural appointments makes for a great space to peruse, enjoy and listen to instruments. We hope you will have the opportunity to visit and find an instrument that is just right for you!