VC INTERVIEW | Peter Bahng - The maker of CECILIA Rosin at Cremona in America
The Violin Channel recently caught up with Peter Bahng, founder of Cremona in America and the maker of the revolutionary American-based CECILIA Rosin (Formerly known as ANDREA rosin)
Peter, Please tell us about the history of Cecilia Rosin?
Perhaps, this is a good opportunity to share the story that has been left untold for the past 23 years of my family’s rosin business.
The spark that created the new CECILIA Rosin line occurred back in 1998 when I was a young budding violinist. One day during my visit at my parents’ place, I was practicing my violin at my father’s workshop where he spent much of his time for research on string instrument varnish with various ingredients, many of them coming from a variety of tree saps. While I was practicing, I wanted to experiment with rosin to make my playing easier. I knew that there was some commonality between varnish and rosin, and my youthful curiosity was peaked.
I started experimenting with small crumbles of different rosins in my father’s workshop, and I stumbled on a compound that did just that, and improved my sound as well. I told my parents about my experiment, and my father Andrea, my mother Cecilia and I had a discussion to explore whether we could commercialize the product. Soon after, I had to come back to the US to attend college at the Cleveland Institute of Music, but my parents eventually found a manufacturer and created a partnership to make and market the original “Tartini” rosin in 2001. A legend was born.
After the original “Tartini” rosin came to be, unfortunately, it went through a series different partnerships due to business conflicts that resulted in name changes (Tartini to Andrea) and the like. The quality of the product also often suffered. Towards the end of this bumpy road, there were two different businesses making the “Andrea” rosin with different formulas. The rosin started losing its faithful following and popularity amongst retailers and musicians alike due to the inconsistency in supply chains and its quality. After 2007, the production of “Andrea” was completely discontinued.
Fast forward to the present: I still have vivid memories of the feel and the sound of the original formulas, and my mother Cecilia, who was always the glue in our family, kept the original recipe in safekeeping. In 2009, while living as a professional violinist in New York, I founded Cremona in America to revive the “Andrea” rosin with the original formula with my mother’s help and built on them from the perspective of an uncompromising professional musician. I brought out my youthful interest in rosin and developed a number of new formulas as well. I made more than 200,000 cakes of “Andrea” rosin until 2019 when I changed the name of my rosin to CECILIA.
Sadly my mother passed away unexpectedly in 2019. I remain committed to manufacturing world-renowned rosins under the new brand name CECILIA in honor of my late mother. CECILIA, coincidently, is also the patron saint of musicians: It just seemed like the right name for an important component for serious string players. My rosin production is now only under the name CECILIA. (My rosin production under the name “Andrea” has been completely ceased since the beginning of 2020) The new CECILIA Rosin Collection offers the original extremely popular SOLO as well as A Piacere and Sanctus. In addition, a new “Signature Formula” has been developed as the flagship of the CECILIA Rosin Collection. Of course, I will not claim that the new “Signature Formula” is the “BEST” of my rosin collection as it is solely a matter of preference, but it has been definitely getting a lot of attention from professional musicians throughout the world.
How does it differ to other rosins available on the market?
We have so many rosin options on the market now to choose from, and a lot of them are great. The CECILIA Rosin Collection offers four options each for violin, viola, and cello, and they are all different.
I never advertise my products as the “best” rosin because the choice of rosin is very personal. However, my approach with the CECILIA Rosin Collection is to encourage musicians to keep searching and experiencing something new, different, and more special, in hopes of discovering and ultimately expanding the possibilities of their instruments.
The CECILIA Rosin Collection was developed with the highest quality natural ingredients, which were selected after scientific research and countless experiments to fully understand how the bow hair works on the strings. As a result, each formula has its own color and characteristic of sound.
What are the most important qualities when choosing quality rosin?
First of all, it is important to understand how rosin works on bow hair before making a selection. There are many misconceptions of rosin, which can often result in wrong choices and misuses of rosin.
For example, do not look for rosin with “no dust” because that does not exist. The surface texture of bow hair scrapes and raises the particles off the solid rosin cake, and these raised fine rosin particles we call “dust” will cling to the cuticle and coat the surface of the bow hair. These particles eventually come off as you play the instrument. Unless the rosin is really bad quality, you would see too much dust only if you excessively apply the rosin, or the bow hair is old so the rosin particles cannot cling to the cuticles of the hair surface.
A good cake of rosin should be easy to apply to the bow. You should not need to scratch the rosin surface with sandpaper to start it. Also, the rosin should last a good amount of time. There are some informative videos on the CECILIA Rosin’s official website that you may find helpful.
I encourage you to look for a rosin that can fulfill more than just the basic purpose. Rosins can be formulated to provide various sound textures and colors that you can incorporate with other components of your instrument, and you can expand your search into more technically sophisticated formula-based rosins like CECILIA Rosin.
Also, the most expensive is not always the best! As a violinist myself for the past 35 years, this is something I have been wanting to share with those who tend to look for the newest gadgets for their instruments. To be quite frank, you can use a good $10 JADE or Bernardel rosin, which could be an ideal combination for some instruments and strings. The choice of rosins available on the market is overwhelming.
Whether your rosin is $15 or $50, the important thing is to discover various sound possibilities on your instrument by incorporating such sophisticated accessories, which will ideally lead to creating your unique voice showcasing your individual sound concept and musical approach.
Again, choice of rosin and strings is very personal. The same rosin can feel different in sound and bowing sensation depending on the various combinations of the instrument, the bow and the strings. Your preference can also change while you continue to develop your skills and musicianship. I recommend you to take time to experience the broad range of available options until you find your ideal performance setup.
What are the differences between violin, viola, and cello rosins? Why is this important?
The main reason is the differences in their string thicknesses and the amounts of bow hair. When the strings are thicker and longer, you obviously need more contact and grip from the bow, and our bows are already designed accordingly. Cello has thicker and longer strings, so its bow is heavier and stiffer with more bow hair to gain more contact and grip on the strings.
CECILIA Rosin offers separate rosin formulas with different levels of grip and texture for violin, viola and cello to optimally accommodate the interactions between the strings and the bow according to their physical specifications. My old ANDREA “SOLO” rosin for cello was so popular because it drastically increased the grip of the bow without losing the sound quality under the high pressure. The same rosin is now CECILIA “SOLO,” and the new “Signature Formula” will provide even more contact to the strings with richer and fuller tone texture.
Is double bass rosin also in the pipeline?
Not in the near future. Honestly, my knowledge on double bass is too limited, and I do not want to make “just another rosin” to fill in the spot.
You mentioned the new Cecilia Rosin spreader. Tell us about this? And what kind of feedback have you received?
When you rosin the bow, not all rosin particles cling to the hair evenly and an excessive amount of rosin particles “just sit and float” on the surface of hair. As result, much of the rosin particles end up being wasted, leaving an unnecessary mess once you draw the bow on the string.
This new essential device is a simple and effective solution for these problems as it enhances the quality of your daily stringed instrument playing experience. A piece of uniquely formed plastic combining a set of built-in combs and a piece of special foam will evenly and thoroughly spread the rosin particles between the strands of bow hair. The teeth of the combs on two sides are purposely misaligned in order to provide a finer combing effect. It is also designed to be conveniently attached to the bottom of the CECILIA rosin after each use, but it can be used with any other rosin on the market.
My colleagues were fascinated by the idea because many of them did not realize why they were having such issues. They were also surprised by the effect they experienced from using the spreader, and I was surprised to find that some double bass players were more excited about this product.
Where can we purchase Cecilia Rosin?
The pandemic has disrupted the distribution lines tremendously this year, but CECILIA Rosin can be found at major online and local music stores worldwide. Cremona in America also has its own online store to assist those who cannot find CECILIA Rosin near them. Additionally, everyone who purchases CECILIA rosin will be given a complimentary rosin spreader through 12/31/20.