CLOSE

Brian Gencarelli, owner of Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine Instruments, talks about what goes into his work of restoring, repairing, and building string instruments.
LAUREN PETRACCA/Staff

Matthew Gilbert and Brian Gencarelli build and repair stringed instruments at Gencarelli’s shop in Fountain Inn

Matthew Gilbert grew up on a farm, studied literature in college and went on to get a master’s degree in theology.

But his passion is violins. Creating new violins from generic-seeming pieces of wood, coating them with a precisely calibrated formula of varnish to bring out the perfect tones, restoring battered instruments to their former glory.

Gilbert recently moved to Fountain Inn, and he works with Brian Gencarelli in the latter’s shop, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments.

On a given day, the two work just feet apart, sanding, shaping, carving. The shop, in the heart of downtown Fountain Inn, is a cheery place with bright yellow walls hung with violins, racks of double basses, and other music-making objects around every corner.

Gencarelli, the “bass specialist,” moved into his shop to downtown Fountain Inn three years ago. Prior to that, he worked out of his home. And when he’s not restoring double basses, he’s teaching students about them as an adjunct professor of double bass at North Greenville University.

Gilbert, an Ohio native, developed his love for violins while working as coordinator of religious education for a Catholic parish in Louisville, Kentucky. He started playing the fiddle for contra dances, and discovered he had an affinity for the tiniest nuances of the instrument.

“The person who was doing setup work on my violin as I was learning to play, noticed that I could pick out things on an instrument that…