In the 10 years that Rozanne DeLoach has repaired stringed instruments, she has encountered violins broken, bruised, and battered in every way imaginable. She has seen a viola that a kid drilled four holes into. She restored a cello that had a wasps’ nest in the body.
“You stick around this business long enough and you will encounter a rattlesnake tail in a fiddle,” DeLoach says. “I can’t fully explain why. It’s just a thing.”
DeLoach owns Caraway Strings. If you live in Richardson and if your son or daughter plays a stringed instrument, there’s a good chance that you’ve gone to DeLoach for a rental or repair. She learned the luthier craft from her father, Wayne Caraway. After college, DeLoach lamented her unused degree in electronic media. She needed a skill, something that had worth. Caraway mentored her at his shop, teaching her how to make a violin sing.
Whether it’s a mysterious buzzing or the ubiquitous snapped string or busted bow, Caraway taught her how to fix it. Particularly frustrating was learning how to position a sound post inside the violin, which requires a delicate touch, like constructing a ship in a bottle. With practice, DeLoach gained confidence and opened her own shop. This new career gave dad and daughter something to talk about, a mutual interest. They grew closer.
In 2010, Caraway was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor. As her father grew weaker, DeLoach split time between his shop and her own, working to keep both alive. “I was under the gun to do a week’s worth of repairs during short visits to his shop, as there was no one else able to do the work,” DeLoach says. “There was a sense of all of us falling behind.”
One July morning as she was working at his shop, she received a call from her mother. Her father had died. She stood alone at his workbench, the place where he’d taught her how to earn a living.
DeLoach trained another person to do repairs and helped her mother take over her father’s company. Afterward, she refocused her efforts at her own shop. “While I felt a deep sense of obligation to that place, I was relieved to let go.”
Today, DeLoach works quietly in her shop, where she rents instruments to more than 450 students. She restrings violins and refinishes scratches. The sound post, which once frustrated her, she positions with ease, as if it were a natural reflex.
She thinks about her father, who saved DeLoach from her post-college wilderness. “I learned how to set up sound posts because of him,” she says. “He is my life’s muse. I want to write books about him. I want to share stories about him. He’s the best guy that ever lived.”