A Legacy of Playing It Forward

A Legacy of Playing It Forward

Benning Violins is helping to make a difference in the lives of hardened inmates and nuns alike

For Hans and Nancy Benning, of Benning Violins, a violin shop in Los Angeles, making fine instruments for the world’s finest players is a four-generation family tradition—and so is giving back to the global community, in their case to orphans, incarcerated juveniles, and countless others in need in Baja, Mexico.

In their 70s, neither has retired from the lutherie business. Yet, as they have for more than 35 years, the Bennings continue to dedicate their time and considerable talent to build buildings — German-born Hans was a carpenter before he turned his skills to fashioning violins, cellos, and violas — and inspire music-making by teaching and donating scores of instruments to an orphanage and mission in the coastal village of Vicente Guerrero, about 175 miles south of Tijuana.

Along the way, they met, mentored, and nurtured a young talent, Tito Quiroz. Then eight years old, now 28 and an attorney, as well as a violinist, Quiroz has taken “the blessing, the teaching, and the values” he received from the Bennings to carry their legacy of service forward.

Six years ago, Quiroz founded a music school in Ensenada, Baja’s third-largest city, and commemorated his mentors by naming it the Benning Academia de Musica. By the end of the first year, the academy had 80 students and ten teachers—today, it boasts 700 students and more than 40 instructors.