Michèle Ashley was raised in the U.S. and completed her secondary education in France, studying cello as well as ethnomusicology. She attended the International School of Violinmaking in Cremona Italy at the age of 19 where she studied under the tutelage of G.B. Morassi and Pietro Sgarabotto. Graduating in 1975, she established her own violin making shop, first in the foothills outside of Parma, and later in the city of Verona, where she studied briefly with Renato Scrollavezza, and afterwards apprenticed with Mario Gadda of Mantova for whom she worked and made copies for many years. Many of her instruments of that period are being played on in major symphonies throughout Europe and Asia.
In 1985 she transferred her activity to Boston, Massachusetts, where she has worked out of her own shop making violins and violas, but focusing primarily on cellos. To date she has made over 130 instruments owned and played by symphony musicians across the US, as well as by students and faculty of the Curtis Institute, the New England Conservatory, and the Julliard School of Music. In 2004, she opened a second shop in Montreal, Quebec, and lives and works between Canada and the US.
In 1992, Orlando Cole of the Curtis Institute (former member of the Curtis Quartet) commissioned her to make a copy of his renowned cello, the 1739 Montagnana “Sleeping Beauty.” In the same year, she made another copy of an exquisite Nicolo Amati cello dated 1672 for the owner of that instrument. These two instruments, along with several models based on the Venetian maker Matteo Goffriller, are the prototypes that she has been working with for the past few years. She has also made copies of Bernard Greenhouse’s 1707 Stradivari, and is presently working on a magnificent example of the work of David Tecchler. She has made several instruments modeled on a Guadagnini cello that belongs to Carter Brey, first cellist of the New York Philharmonic. This instrument has a somewhat shorter string length which provides a comfortable reach for a player with a smaller hand while at the same producing a beautiful, even quality which projects easily in a large concert hall.
Ashley’s instruments are recognized for their powerful, even, and focused response and their broad, rich, tonal qualities. Players take pleasure in the comfort and ease of execution which her instruments provide. If you would like to try an instrument, please write or call for an appointment.