Baroque Violin Shop owner Paul Bartel was an enthusiastic ambassador for music

Paul Bartel playing his Stradivarius violin, made in 1680

Paul Bartel was passionate about strings and equally passionate about sharing his love of classical music with students. The violinist, music educator, owner of the Baroque Violin Shop and founder of the Wyoming Fine Arts Center is remembered by Cincinnati’s music community as being generous, humble and always supportive.

‘He was a guy who was larger than life, always giving, always caring, always seeming to have boundless energy,” said Milan Dukic, executive director of the Wyoming Fine Arts Center since 2008. “In the early days of the center, if there was a shortfall, Paul wrote a check. He believed in the mission of having a community center and of having kids learn music.”

Mr. Bartel died on July 27 after a long battle with cancer. He was 67.

Mr. Bartel often spoke about how playing the violin in school became the inspiration for what he would become, Dukic said.

He was born in Columbus, OH. A 1972 graduate of Miami University, Mr. Bartel taught violin students and repaired instruments on the side while still a student in Oxford, OH. He taught strings at Finneytown School District for seven years, continuing to repair musical instruments in his spare time.

Paul Bartel in his workshop at the Baroque Violin Shop

With a vision to support young string players and school music programs by providing high quality instruments at low cost, he resigned from teaching to devote himself full-time to the Baroque Violin Shop, then in his Finneytown home.

As the business expanded, Mr. Bartel purchased the historic, 1805 Carrie-Jessup House in Finneytown in 1990, and spent six months restoring it. Over the years, the shop’s musical instrument rentals, repairs and sales have boomed, making the business one of the largest in the country, with a substantial inventory of stringed instruments.

The shop rents and sells violins, violas, cellos and basses to thousands of students and professionals in 50 states. There are 7,000 to 9,000 rental instruments in use at any given time, said CFO Stephen Heck, Mr. Bartel’s son-in-law.

“What I really respected about him was that he was quiet about his generosity. Most things people never knew about, because he didn’t want himself to be a focus,” Heck said. “He never did things to enhance his business. That was only secondary and never the focus.”

An example of that quiet generosity was a scholarship fund that he and his wife, Jan, established to underwrite music lessons for under-served but talented young people.

“He was initially going to give away three violins, bows and cases, valued at about $5,000 each. He ended up giving away almost 20 sets, totaling around $75,000, just because he was inspired from all the stories that people from across the country sent to him,” Heck said.

In 1995, Mr. Bartel purchased the 1850s-era former Masonic Lodge on Wyoming Ave. from the city of Wyoming, with the idea of transforming it into a community arts center. Empty and in need of repair, he told “Wyoming Living” how he had hired local Boy Scouts to help clean and paint it. He conducted a massive renovation at his own expense. It opened that fall as the nonprofit Cincinnati String Academy, which evolved into the nonprofit Wyoming Fine Arts Center.

It was visionary. Today, nearly 1,000 people, including students, parents and collaborating organizations, participate each week in a diverse menu in music, dance, theater, visual art and arts summer camps, taught by more than 30 professional teachers. The collaborative programs involve many other local arts non-profits: Linton Chamber Music PB&J concerts, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Prep Department, Playhouse in the Park, Springfield Township’s ArtsConnect and Cincinnati Public Libraries. Resident organizations for whom Wyoming Fine Arts Center is also a home include the Flying Cloud Academy of Vintage Dance, Cincinnati Contradancers, and the Cincinnati Civic Orchestra, one of the oldest all-volunteer orchestras in the nation.

New free art programs in several Cincinnati Public Library branches are partly funded with an Impact Grant from ArtsWave.

“Just think,” Dukic said, “None of this would come to be without Paul.”

Paul Bartel with wife Jan and other family members at the dedication of the Paul Bartel Ballroom, Wyoming Fine Arts Center

In 2001, without fanfare, Mr. Bartel donated the building to the nonprofit organization. Several months ago, the Wyoming Fine Arts Center board honored him by naming the 300-seat ballroom the Paul Bartel Ballroom.

“One thing about Paul is that he never wanted to be in the limelight. He’d be honored and humbled that so many people cared,” Dukic said.

Mr. Bartel was an enthusiastic ambassador for music education, often taking his prized 1680 Stradivarius violin to schools across the region to play for students. When Wyoming’s school board proposed canceling fourth-grade string instruction, he rallied parent support to save it.

“He had a charismatic personality,” said Alberta Schneider, retired Wyoming Schools strings teacher. “The kids were always thrilled and excited when he came in to demonstrate the violins. He was a real presence in the music world. I don’t think there was any strings teacher in Ohio who didn’t know who Paul Bartel was. It’s a big loss to our community.”

Photos provided by Baroque Violin Shop and the Wyoming Fine Arts Center

An expert in his field, Mr. Bartel taught classes on instrument maintenance and repair at a weeklong annual workshop at Ohio State.

Mr. Bartel was devoted to his family. He owned property in Indiana and enjoyed sharing it with the Boy Scouts for hunting, target practice and camping, said his son-in-law.

Mr. Bartel is survived by his wife, Jan of Wyoming, and six children: Jason (wife Mandy) of Wyoming; Brad (wife Claire) of Cincinnati; Francie (husband Carl) of Indianapolis; Carolyn (husband Stephen) of Cincinnati; Jeremy (wife Tasha) of Dayton; Emily (husband Max) of Nashville and 15 grandchildren.

Mr. Bartel’s life will be celebrated in a memorial concert, 1:30 p.m. Saturday Aug. 3, at Wyoming Fine Arts Center, 322 Wyoming Ave.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Paul and Jan Bartel Scholarship Fund at



10 thoughts on “Baroque Violin Shop owner Paul Bartel was an enthusiastic ambassador for music

  1. Thank you for a wonderful article about my brother. He indeed was a humble man with a heart of gold. He loved his family. He even went to the hospital when our mother was in ICU for back surgery to play his violin after hours.


  2. I knew Paul from Boy Scouts of America Troop 482. Both of Paul’s boys Jason and Jeremy were Scouts. Paul jumped right into the fire going on numerous High Adventure trips with the troop. And serving as a leader and teacher. He will be dearly missed.


  3. Paul was truly one of a kind! Love him and his family. Celebrate his life because that’s what Paul would want. Love you all and prayers.


  4. Janelle;Thank you for your remberance of Paul.He will be missed by many in the Wyoming Community and the Greater Cincinnati Musical World..Paul made a difference.May his memory always be for a blessing.


  5. It breaks my heart to learn that Baroque Violin Shop owner Paul Bartel has died. My cello came from his shop in Cincinnati and he encouraged me to start playing the cello again after a 25 year hiatus.

    He also gave me an official “Bearcat cello,” with a drawing of the Bearcats mascot on the front, when I stepped down from the presidency of UC. It will always be among my most cherished gifts.

    RIP my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have several wonderful Paul memories: –When I was a student at Xavier, I became one of the many people who Paul has casually passed his Stradivarius to. I held it in my hands and felt a connection to history. –Later, when I was a strings teacher, he once spontaneously spent twenty minutes in a parking lot helping me with my bowing technique. –I loved watching him interact with his bass-playing son at a recruiting session for my fifth graders: He asked his son to play some jazz, and his son played a short textbook jazz fragment. Paul said “How about something… y’know, interesting”, after which his son stepped it up and ably played a wonderful little section of a song.


  7. Paul was always exceptional and involved. He was always personable. Often, the string section kept to itself in an orchestra. Paul was friends with everyone. As a fellow high school musician I saw Paul involved in Columbus Youth Symphony ( 3 or 4 years) , Regional Orchestra, ( 3 or 4 years), All State Orchestra, (at least twice), even the Ohio State Fair Orchestra. (again, multiple times) He was always active, and all the comments about him being quiet and behind the scenes are true. He was a humble, good guy. A really good guy.
    Who else would let a Horn player hold a Strad? RIP


  8. Paul Bartel dejo un granito de amor en la comunidad hispana tambien gracias a el pudimos rentar un cello a un precio economico. recuerdo cuando nos arreglo el cello que rentabamos para mi hijo y tomo el tiempo para platicar con el y enseñarle como guardar y cuidar su cello con mucha paciensia y cariño. “Gracias Paul” …. Bendiciones y oraciones para su familia🙏


  9. I didn’t even know Paul had cancer until ten minutes ago. I’m two years younger than Paul, and I was a couple of years behind him at Miami. Two quick stories about him. I went to his junior recital, and I heard him play a passacaglia from a collection of pieces titled “Violin Music from the Earliest Period.” It was marvelous, and I started practicing it the next day. I played the same piece on my junior recital two years later. About that time, I was starting to play the viola as well to make myself more commercially available to the world as a teacher and performer. Paul cut me a deal on an Artur Teller viola while the two of us sat at that kitchen table long ago in his Oxford, Ohio, apartment. It’s probably one of the first instruments he sold (1974), and I still have it. Though arthritis keeps me from making myself ‘commercially available’ as a performer on it any more, I still teach two viola students, and both made the Wyoming All-State Orchestra this year. Good deal, Paul!


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