"20 TO WATCH IN 2013"


Violinist, inventor sees ‘endless options’
27 Jan 2013 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
BY DANIEL A. MARSH Contributing Writer

Ethan Erwin, 18, of Magnet Cove believes that whenever someone comes up with an idea, he can find a better one. “I have always been intrigued with inventions,” he said. “There’s always a better way to do something out there. I usually can’t find a better way, but I always try.” Erwin, a graduate of Lakeside High School, said he is “willing to try [his] hand at almost anything.”

The classically trained violinist, teacher and inventor is also a biology major in the University of Central Arkansas Honors College. When he was a fifth-grader, he won second place and a $500 U.S. Savings Bond in the national Invent America! student invention contest. His invention was a bait retriever. His latest creation is a short bow for violins, which he said he began developing at age 17. “It took me three months to get a reasonably good design,” he said. “I’m still perfecting it. It’s like a new instrument in that you have to get used to it, but the technique is easily adaptable,” he said.

The short bow makes it possible for a violinist to sing while playing. The violin “tool,” as he calls it, is worn on the hand and allows the violin to be played like a guitar. Erwin began studying violin at age 6 and now teaches children to play violin at First Baptist Church in Hot Springs.

Having patented his short bow, he is now in the process of developing a marketing plan for the product. Glasser Bows of New York City has expressed an interest in manufacturing the short bow if Erwin can “show a market for it. I’m working with a film guy who’s also one of the best violinists in Arkansas to make a marketing video.” Erwin said he is thinking about developing a marketing plan for the short bow as his self-directed thesis in the UCA Honors College.

Despite his classical training, Erwin said he is “not that great a performer. I play in church, but I hope other [violinists] get more use out of it than I could.” “It’s a very tactile profession,” he said. “Five years from now, I intend to see myself in professional school, but the options are endless.”

Another skill he hopes to acquire is auctioneering. “I got my first job working for an auctioneer, and I think it’s a dying [art],” Erwin said. “I’m actually going to auctioneering school in June. I think there is a lot of potential in it — not that many people are in the business — and I’d like to have the extra feather in my cap. “I’m always up for a new adventure,” Erwin said. “I’ll go through whatever door opens.”

Erwin is the son of Mike and Debra Erwin of Magnet Cove. Mike is a speech-language pathologist for First Step school, which provides services to special-needs children. Debra, who often plays piano with her son, is a registered dietitian at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs. Erwin has a sister, Susan Erwin, 32, who plays piano in Las Vegas, and a brother, Dillon Erwin, 30, who works at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center.