One Small Act: Repairing violins, one at a time

After more than 50 years in woodworking, Dunedin’s John Sweeny decided to try something new.
Published Sept. 1, 2021|Updated Sept. 17, 2021

John Sweeny has been a woodworker for more than 50 years, but these days he’s working on a project that’s truly music to his ears.

In collaboration with the Violin Shop in Tampa, the Dunedin-based craftsman is helping recondition violins to give to children.

Violins are donated to the shop, where owners Ethan Morency and Dereck Coons try their best to fix and give them out again. Some of the violins require extensive repair, and the shop can’t afford the time to fix them.

This is where Sweeny comes in.

The 79-year-old restores some of violins at his workshop in Dunedin for free, so the Violin Shop can distribute them to kids who can’t afford, or simply want, a violin. He’s been doing the work since 2019.

Michelle Painter, Prodigy Cultural Arts Program coordinator and instructor at The Florida Orchestra, helps the shop find new owners for the violins.

“I think it’s important for these kids to have the violins because it’s just a very difficult thing to obtain for many people,” Painter said. “I mean, even myself growing up, my mother had to do a lot of extra things in order for me to even pay for lessons, let alone an instrument.”

Since collaborating with Painter, the Violin Shop has given out 24 free instruments to children. To inquire about a violin, go to

One Small Act: A new video series from the Tampa Bay Times

Big changes are hard to make. One way is to start small.

To celebrate members of our community who make Tampa Bay a better place, the Times has created a video series entitled One Small Act.

We’ll highlight local people who are doing something positive for themselves, their loved ones or their community by making one small change in their lives.

We hope to inspire you with stories about how our friends and neighbors are making this world a better place. One small act at a time.

Do you know an interesting person who has done something uplifting for themselves or others in the community? Email with your idea and contact information.