Violin buried in World War I, dug up to be played in Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - They say a violin plays better with age. If that's true, this one has had 100 years to fine tune perfection.

This isn't just a story about an instrument, it's a story about survival; the strings that hold families together and the grip it has on hope.

In 1915, a French craftsman built this violin, but the fate of his finest creation was in the crushing grip of World War One.

"It was buried to keep the Germans from getting it," confessed David Ridenhour.

The luthier buried it in a grave alongside the body of a dead soldier.

"Actually dug the violin out of the ground," Ridenhour continued.

Now, more than ever, he was determined to put the once silenced instrument into the hands of someone ready for the songs this violin was so desperate to sing.

"She was a talented player and he wanted her to have something that was worthy of her talent and that's why he brought the violin back from there," he said.

She was Miss Hannah, a talented musician who went on to teach her prodigy, Knoxville's Carol Ridenhour, how to play the instrument the way it deserved to be played

"And my mother inherited the violin. And from then on she played it all through high school," added David.

Miss Hannah died in the 1940s. Carol didn't play much after that.

"She put it up and never touched it again. She didn't stay with it," he said.

Maybe it was too hard to keep it up after losing her beloved teacher. David can only hear a few faint memories of the violin playing in his mother's hands, but now that's all he has left.

But, there are still miles left in the music.

Brought to life out of a grave dug in war, surviving to keep the stories of the strings alive, with a will strong enough to weave it's beat into the soul, connecting generations of families who will never meet face to face.

"Family is strong and that's all we ever have," he said.

As strong as wood and wire.

"We just want to see someone happy who can enjoy what she did. As long as it's able to be passed down until it disintegrates," added Ridenhour.

David and his family donated the violin to the Joy of Music School in Knoxville. The school is raising money to repair the instrument so it can be played by one of its students.