John W. Geoffrey Fushi, 1943–2012
John W. Geoffrey Fushi, known throughout the strings world as Geoffrey Fushi, died of a heart attack at his home in Chicago, April 13. The cofounder of Bein & Fushi, one of the world’s most prominent restorers and dealers of violins, Geoffrey Fushi was a larger-than-life figure with a flair for storytelling who hobnobbed with many of the biggest names in music, from Itzhak Perlman to Isaac Stern. Fushi’s most enduring accomplishment may have been his drive to match up-and-coming musicians with stringed instruments equal to their talent through a philanthropic organization he cofounded, the Stradivari Society.Established in 1985 by Fushi and philanthropist Mary Galvin, the Stradivari Society has played a key role in the early careers of stars ranging from violinist Joshua Bell to cellist Matt Haimovitz. One of the first loans involved a 10-year-old violinist brought to Fushi’s attention by Juilliard’s noted violin teacher Dorothy DeLay. The petite prodigy needed an excellent violin, and Bein, Fushi, and Galvin put the del Gesù “David” in the hands of Midori, who went on to conquer Tanglewood and then the string world. As a violin dealer, with his business partner of over 30 years, Robert Bein, Fushi dealt in huge number of extraordinary violins, violas, and cellos.
The violin shop also was named in a high-profile lawsuit brought by the estate of the late British millionaire Gerald Segelman in one of the most notorious cases of violin fraud in modern times, before all charges were dropped in 2002.
Fushi exhibited a long and abiding interest in violins, even providing four rare Italian fiddles for a 2010 project that placed the valuable instruments inside a CAT scanner at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago so that luthiers could better understand their construction. “Geoff really went out on a limb relative to the way shops typically operate to allow and actively participate in this research project,” says violin maker Terry Borman, who worked on the project.
As Philippe Quint, recipient of “Ruby,” a 1708 Strad on loan to him through the Stradivari Society, puts it, “Geoff’s love of violins was his true love. Yes, it was his business, but he was successful because it was his love.”
A memorial is scheduled for June 2, 2012, in Chicago. Details will be available soon from Bein & Fushi.
—Patrick Sullivan, with Greg Cahill