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Fiddle filched from fine arts freshman five years from first fortissimo

By Ajinur Setiwaldi

April 29, 2013

An OU freshman panicked when he returned to the spot where he had left his violin in Catlett Music Center and found it missing.

After playing on the $7,000 Polish-made instrument for more than five years, the instrument had both financial and sentimental value for the student, who has requested to remain anonymous because the investigation of the theft is still in progress.

"I have traveled a lot of places with [the violin], and I've never forgotten it anywhere — nothing has ever gone wrong," the student said. "It was pretty shocking when I realized it wasn't in its usual spot."

Musical instruments are not often stolen from Catlett Music Center, and when they are, the thief is usually apprehended and the instrument is returned to its owner, said Larry Mallett, director of OU School of Music.

The student said he noticed his instrument missing at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9, and immediately contacted his mother.

The next morning he went to Mallett's office to report the incident and Mallett called the OU Police Department, the student said.

"We walked up and down throughout the entire music school for about an hour and half looking for it," he said.

The student didn't have many details about his instrument to provide to OUPD for the police report because his certificate of purchase was in Polish.

The student said his violin was purchased more than five years ago from Tomasz Zieba, a cello instructor at Oklahoma City University. The student's mother called Zieba and left him a message explaining the incident the day after the theft.

Later that day, the suspected thief tried to sell the instrument at Oklahoma Strings, a musical instrument sale, service and rental shop in Oklahoma City, the student said. Joe Guevara, who had serviced the instrument before at the store, recognized the violin and called Zieba as the suspect left without a sale.

The student said the next day his mother called many of the music shops in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area searching for the instrument.

"20 minutes after mom got off the phone with the store manager at Larsen Music in Oklahoma City, the guy walks in with my violin and says his grandfather gave it to him and he wants to get an appraisal on it," the student said. "The store manager calls the police and the thief was apprehended by OKC police."

On April 13, four days after he noticed his violin was missing, the student and his instrument were reunited, he said.

But not all musicians are united with their stolen instruments.

In May 2012, OUPD received a stolen cello report, according to OUPD reports.

The $2,000 instrument was not recovered and the case closed, OUPD spokesman Lt. Bruce Chan said.

OUPD has a better chance of finding instruments if there is a serial number, Chan said. When there is a serial number, OUPD also searches the National Crime Information Center, an FBI database, to track stolen items.

Ian Vincent, the assistant manager of Big Red Pawn, a local pawnshop, said the shop posts the serial number of items they purchase on Leadsonline, an online investigation system.

The store currently has more than 30 musical instruments in stock, Vincent said.

OUPD wasn't very involved in the recovery of his instrument, the student said.

Although his violin didn't come with a serial number because it was handmade in Poland, the calls the student's mother made to music shops and Oklahoma City police helped apprehend the thief and recover the violin, he said.

"Even though my violin was in the polices' hands, posters went up because of the lack of communication between the police department and the School of Music," the student said.

The School of Music currently takes some measures to prevent theft, and students and faculty have done a good job monitoring the building, but it's difficult to monitor all eight exits, Mallett said.

"Studying music is really an intimate thing so you get a lot of one-on-one time with the faculty," the student said. "Professors are really aware of what kids go through and are concerned when they see instruments out of place."

School of Music officials are considering taking additional measures to prevent theft, such as installing cameras near exits or hiring students to monitor the halls, Mallett said.

From now on, the student said he will keep his instrument closer to him to prevent another theft.

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