Kevin Schieffer carefully performed the unveiling ceremony Friday of the National Music Museum's latest acquisition — a beautifully decorated violin made for King Henry IV of France in 1595 by the Brothers Amati.
He seemed relieved as he glanced through the transparent case that protects the violin while still allowing it to be viewed, to see that the instrument was safe and secure, in a place where it will be warmly appreciated.
Schieffer, a member of the National Music Museum's board of trustees, provided the financial capital necessary to purchase this historic instrument so that it could become a permanent part of the museum's collection in its facility on the University of South Dakota campus.
The unveiling followed a program that included comments by Dr. Brad Randall of Sioux Falls, who serves with Schieffer as a museum trustee.
Featured speaker and special guest at Friday's unveiling was U.S. State Department Public Affairs Advisor Catherine Stearns, who traveled to Vermillion from Washington, DC.
"The significance of this event became very poignant for me today when I toured this beautiful museum for the very first time," she told a large audience who had gathered at the museum for Friday's unveiling. "What a befitting home for a precious instrument from afar, built by Amati as a gift for a king and regal court of France."
Throughout our nation's history, Stearns said, music has proven to be an important part of diplomacy.
"Musical instruments, we have found, have stories to tell, and they speak about the countries in which they were created," she said, "but they have the inherent capacity to be universal, to transcend national boundaries, to bridge differences in culture and faith and language, to counter stereotypes, and to foster mutual understanding.
"That's the goal, the chief objective of our work in public diplomacy at the State Department," Stearns said, who cited several examples of how music and the performing arts helps the U.S. State Department interact with other countries.
Those programs, including Smart Power, which involves visual artists as envoys sent to communities around the world, Rhythm Road American Music Abroad, which serves as today's version of the Cold War-era Jazz Ambassadors and Dance Motion USA – groups that have all been sent abroad, foster people-to-people exchanges and help break down barriers, she said.
"We've seen that changes and shifts in attitudes that come out of these exchanges promote mutual understanding and linkages that can last a lifetime. So it's a long-term investment in people and in peace that we are making," Stearns said.
"It was a gift to be able to do this," Schieffer said after the audience who gathered for the violin's unveiling offered a round of applause to publicly thank him. "Please stop thanking me; it was a treat. You don't get an opportunity to do something like this too often. And everyone at the museum has done such a great job.
"It's amazing, the love and the care that Andre (Larson) and the entire team here put to not just this instrument, but everything in this building," he said. "It's truly remarkable."