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Heritage Programs: Subcommittees: Cape Verdean Hall Of Fame 2005

Ivo PiresIvo Pires

Ivo Pires was born in Brava, the smallest of nine islands in Cape Verde.  Ivo is an exceptional musician and an extraordinary instrument maker and craftsman.  A lover of music, he was always inspired when he would see musicians walking in the streets with instruments slung over their backs and always admired how the instruments wee shaped, the sound of them and everything about them.  At the early age of eight, he made his first ukulele.  By breaking off pieces of cedar shingle from his grandmother’s house and borrowing material from his grandfather’s mirror, he copied a Martin ukulele that belonged to his cousin.  He made three ukuleles in all, each one bigger and better. He would spend most of his time in school sketching other musician’s instruments he had seen and would make them from the sketches.  At the age of nine, he made and started playing the mandolin.  

Everyone brought their instruments to him for repairs.  He made and sold enough instruments to have money to buy a real full-size violin.  He later took it apart and made another one exactly like it. At the age of eleven, adult musicians started bringing Ivo with them to weddings to play in their band.  Everyone knew him in the island because of his music and craftsmanship.

Ivo came to America and settled in the New England area at the age of twenty-four.  His reputation preceded him.  He continued to perform in bands and make many instruments.  He would send many of these instruments that he made in barrels to the Cape Verde Islands for the people there.  When Cape Verdean musicians would travel to America, they would come to see him at his home for a violin that was lost while traveling or to have him make repairs on their instruments.  He would either repair or give them a new one off the shelf.

Ivo took a job at the Carl Fischer Company in Boston and became known for his talent to repair string instruments as well as wind instruments.  He left the Carl Fischer Company to work at the Boston String Instruments.  There he made violins, cellos, bass, gambas, mandolins and guitars. He worked for Mr. Melvin Peabody at the Boston String Instruments for thirty-one years and after the death of Mr. Peabody, Ivo bought and operated the Boston String Instruments for six years until he was forced to retire because of health issues. 

Ivo has repaired instruments for the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, the greatest cellist in the world.   His tribute and his lifetime achievement have been his own creation of the Viola Da Gamba. He had seen a few pictures of one and thought it would be nice to make something like it.  He later made them for classical musicians, celebrities, and members of the Boston Symphony and professors of the Conservatory.

Ivo is an interpreter of all traditional and classical Cape Verdean music.  He mixes his traditional repertoire of mornas, polkas, mazukas, waltzes and fox trots with modern coladera, salsa and merengue.  He has been known to be the most in-demand violinist and bandleader in the Cape Verdean event and wedding circuit.  He has dedicated his life and contributed significantly to the renaissance and preservation of our Cape Verdean culture and music.