British Columbia Musician’s Swift Thinking Leads to Recovery of Stolen Italian Violin

by Madonna

In a scenario that strikes fear into the heart of any musician, Mitch Howanyk encountered a musician’s worst nightmare: discovering his instrument had been stolen while packing up after a gig. This unfortunate incident unfolded recently in downtown Kelowna.

Mitchell, a violinist and vocalist for the well-regarded B.C.-based ensemble Kentucky Eileen, found himself in this predicament on the evening of August 2nd. Wrapping up a performance in Kelowna, he left his vehicle parked in a lane. Somewhere within the hustle of loading and unloading gear, it’s suspected that a stealthy thief absconded with his violin and case from the car. Regrettably, no surveillance footage was available of the vicinity, situated off Wilson Avenue in Kelowna.

The disheartening discovery awaited Mitch the following day, just as he was preparing for another gig. This particular violin boasts Italian origins, dating back to the 1840s. Distinguished by its one-piece back, the instrument also features a mic pickup jack and a gold fine tuner. The case accompanying it held three bows.

While information regarding the instrument’s maker isn’t readily accessible, Italian-crafted violins from that era, when in good condition, often command prices exceeding $25,000 CAD. Mitch’s choice of housing—a carbon fiber BAM case—adds another approximate $1,000 CAD to the equation.

However, the violin’s significance far transcends its monetary value for Mitch. He revealed to the press that he had acquired the instrument from a departed friend and fellow musician, imbuing it with profound sentimental importance.

Following the theft, Mitch promptly alerted the RCMP, who subsequently issued a public appeal for information regarding the incident.

A Resolute Rescue

A mere day after reporting the theft, Mitch remarkably managed to reclaim the stolen violin, his success resulting in part from serendipity. He and a friend embarked on a quest through the neighborhoods, their search encompassing the breadth of Kelowna and Vernon. The goal was to retrace Mitch’s steps from the evening of the gig and locate any traces of the cherished violin.

Their pursuit, conducted both on foot and via cycling expeditions through Kelowna’s encampment-laden areas and the Okanagan Trail, bore fruit when a homeless man approached Mitch. The stranger pointed the musician toward Kelowna’s downtown Queensway bus loop.

Upon reaching the suggested location, Mitch identified a man carrying a silver-hued violin case. The man eventually set the case on the ground, prompting Mitch and his companion into action. While his friend engaged the man in conversation, Mitch seized the opportunity, reclaiming his violin. With their prize in hand, the pair quickly departed.

The man, visibly perturbed, claimed he had purchased the instrument for a mere $20. “I don’t wish to be a vigilante,” Mitch stated to a CBC Radio host, “but what’s rightfully mine is mine.”

The violin has accompanied Mitch on performances spanning the country and abroad, as well as during his teaching endeavors in Kelowna. While the neck and strings suffered some harm during this misadventure, Mitch remains undeterred, determined to restore the instrument to its former glory and continue playing it.

“I am hopeful that I can breathe new life into it, even better than before,” Mitch affirmed. “Its melodic voice will endure.”

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