The Payton Difference

Musical Instruments in Rochester NY

We are proud of every instrument we represent and take pride in the integrity of our work, our non-harming ethics, and our truthful values. We operate from a point of compassion and service, vowing to do no harm and leave all instruments (and clients!) in a better state than when we encountered them. We are a trusted supplier & servicer of musical instruments in Rochester NY.

Payton Violins enriches your musical journey through dedication.

Payton Violins is here to help, guide, and advise as you grow your skills and sound. Whether you’re a beginner just getting started, an amateur player looking for an upgrade, or a professional looking for a bespoke precision instrument, we have the knowledge and expertise to make sure you’re getting an instrument perfectly suited for your abilities and musical goals. Our exemplary team not only curates the finest instruments, but also helps fine-tune each instrument’s set up to ensure quality sound production and playability. We even go beyond the instrument itself, providing all the needed musical accessories to help you grow your skills.

Let Payton Violins support you through every milestone on your musical journey.

Our Team

Kenneth Sullivan

Kenneth Sullivan

Master Luthier

Ken is a graduate of the Chicago School of Violin Making and a member of the prestigious American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. He has also served as a board member for the Violin Society of America. His handmade violins are of the highest quality sound producers among modern violin makers. His instruments have won four awards for tone at the Violin Society of America’s international competition.

Ken has a decade of experience as a primary repair and restoration expert for one of the finest violin shops on the East Coast. He opened his own studio in Ithaca, New York in 1994 and one in Phoenix, Arizona in 2001. Ken grew up in Rochester and was a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in his younger days. Ken returned to the Rochester, New York area in 2006 to be closer to family. Together, Ken and his wife, Carolyn, have expanded their practice into a full service violin shop for customers seeking trustworthy expertise and workmanship combined with outstanding customer support.

Besides crafting his own handmade instruments, over the course of his career Ken Sullivan has always provided professional and amateur string players, students, and teachers with a wide selection of instruments for sale, as well as offered expert repairs and restoration services. Ken has won wide praise from his customers for his in-depth knowledge of string instruments, superior craftsmanship, and friendly service. Most notably, Ken has performed various repairs to virtuoso Steven Staryk’s violins, with Staryk going on to purchase two of Ken’s expertly crafted creations for himself.

“I love my craft of violin making. Operating Sullivan Violins has deepened the satisfaction I feel providing instruments, bows, and restorations that enable musicians and players to get so much more out of their playing. It brings me great joy every time we make this happen,” says Ken.

Carolyn Sullivan

Managing Partner

“It is my enduring belief that a successful business is driven by providing outstanding value to customers. At Sullivan Violins, our commitment to customers, along with Ken’s extraordinary technical and artistic skills, allows us to deliver outstanding instruments and excellence in customer support.”

Carolyn grew up in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York and in Colorado. She attended Colorado College earning a BA, going on to complete 2 master’s degrees at Cornell University, an MBA, and an MS in Applied Economics. Carolyn joined Corning Inc. after her master’s work, developing a passion for customers and marketing. She held positions in Corning’s consumer products division, Corporate Marketing, Environmental Products, Optical Fiber, and Corning Gilbert. Her assignments led her to travel the world over, including international assignments in Venezuela and Mexico. She has managed marketing, business development, and engineering teams and supported customers in the telecommunications, consumer, and military sectors.

Carolyn joined Ken in establishing Sullivan Violins in Rochester in 2006. It was an exciting leap into entrepreneurism. Carolyn has responsibility for business administration, marketing, finance, and personnel. She is thrilled to be developing and managing Sullivan Violins business, enabling Ken to focus on his violin making, restorations, and customer support.

“I love Sullivan Violins, because it is a people business that rests on bringing our technical expertise and craftsmanship to players in a way that has a significant and positive impact on their musical experience and expression,” says Carolyn.

Outside their work at Sullivan Violins, Carolyn and Ken are raising two boys. They spend the free time they have renovating their historic home in Rochester, entertaining friends and relatives, playing fiddle music in Rochester’s lively Irish music community, hiking, and traveling.

Carolyn Sullivan

Our Team

  • Sam Payton

    Sam Payton Owner

    Sam Payton has been specializing in creating instruments and bows for players of all levels for decades. Starting his career as a luthier in 2006, Sam has gained comprehensive experience working with Christopher Germain Violins, Mount Airy Violins & Bows, Fred Oster Violins, and Tarisio Fine Instruments & Bows, to name a few. From servicing the instruments of professional players to helping advanced students perform at a higher caliber, no detail is overlooked.

  • Danielle Payton

    Danielle Payton Owner

    Danielle is the heart of Payton Violins, a calm and collected force that drives home all core values to customers. From treating everyone who walks through the door with integrity and respect to building trusted relationships with musicians and their families, Danielle is an embodiment of the heart and purpose behind Payton.

  • David Hauck
    David Hauck

    David Hauck Retail Operations and Cello Sales Manager

    David is a Rochester native who began playing the cello when he was eight years old. David had the pleasure of studying with Kathy Kemp of the RPO from 2004-2013, and renowned chamber musician Mimi Hwang from 2013-2017. He was a member of the Hochstein Youth Symphony Orchestra from 2009 to 2013 and has had the privilege of touring and performing internationally in Ireland, Poland, and the Bahamas. Most notably, David has played with the Bahamas National Youth Choir and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

    David attended Nazareth College and graduated in 2017 with a degree in Music Therapy. After completing his music therapy internship in 2018, he began working at Payton Violins and has since worked as the Manager of the Rental Department and Cello Sales. David finds great joy in inspiring the next generation of musicians and matching them with their perfect instrument.

  • Greg Tracy
    Greg Tracy

    Greg Tracy Associate Luthier

    Greg is originally from Kansas City and grew up among a family of musicians. He got his start in the field during high school, learning violin making and repair from his uncle Ken Beckmann. He attended the Chicago School of Violin Making and, after graduating in 2014, returned home to continue working with his uncle and apprenticed with Amos Hargrave in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2015 he was offered a position at Triangle Strings in Raleigh, North Carolina working under Jerry Pasewicz. He has regularly attended the Oberlin Violin Restoration Program at Oberlin College, learning from some of the best restorers in the industry. Greg joined the Payton Violins team in 2018 and has enjoyed being able to work with great musicians in the Rochester area.

  • Andrew Khederian
    Andrew Khederian

    Andrew Khederian Assistant Luthier

    Andrew grew up in the Boston area and first started out playing the guitar. He became interested in the field of lutherie when he began working on his own guitars. He then attended and graduated from the North Bennet Street School. He brings over 10 years of experience in making and repairing string instruments. He has worked for several shops in the Northwest region and throughout the country, including Voss Violins in Atlanta. He has regularly attended the Oberlin Violin Restoration Program at Oberlin College. Andrew is very excited to join the team and go hiking in the surrounding Rochester area with his dog Ludo.

Our exceptional staff members work hard to make sure every interaction is a positive one.

Click the photos above to learn more about our team.

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Our Instruments

From contemporary originals to our restored classics, all Payton Violin instruments—violin, viola, and cello—are guaranteed to be of the highest quality and to offer a musical experience like no other.

Ken Sullivan Originals

Ken Sullivan’s handmade instruments are known for their gorgeous sound qualities. Ken’s deep knowledge of acoustical properties comes to life in his handmade instruments. Join the artists who have taken their expression and sound quality to a new level with a Ken Sullivan violin, viola, or cello from Payton Violins.

Ken Sullivan Originals »

Contemporary Originals

Violin making has achieved new heights. The emergence of world-class violin making schools paired with our modern understanding of acoustics have led to many modern makers being able to achieve both projection and nuance. Payton Violins offers instruments from award winning violin and bow makers from across the globe.

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Antique & Vintage Instruments

Payton Violins specializes in finding special, older instruments worldwide and bringing them into peak condition and tone. We have an in-depth knowledge of historical makers, workshops and schools of making. With Payton Violins acoustics and restoration expertise, our customers can get a fine vintage European instruments in excellent condition.

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Workshop Instruments

Payton Violins has instruments from global workshops. These workshop instruments offer students access to properly set up instruments that ensure excellent, reliable playability at an affordable price. Featured workshops include Eastman Music Company, Heinrich Gil, Jay Haide, as well as bows from Arcos Brasil, L’Archet Brasil, and Codabow.

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Discover Your Sound

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Our Sound Investment Guarantee

Purchasing an instrument is a special event in a musician’s life. Make your decision with confidence with the Payton Sound Investment Guarantee.

It begins with our expert guidance in helping you select your instrument, followed by our professional set-up and fine-tuning to ensure peak performance. We offer outstanding conditioning and unparalleled sound adjustments, and we back everything up with our 100% trade-back guarantee.

Read more about our free home trials and trade-back policies »

Our Musicians

Enjoy the beautiful sounds created through the marriage of the highest quality instruments and the highest caliber musicians.




From Concertgebouw to Carnegie Hall

Our instruments bring music to life on stages across the country and around the globe.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra
Erie Philharmonic
Cleveland Institute of Music
Rice University
Eastman School of Music
University of Michigan
Oberlin College
Ithaca College
Chicago Symphony Orchestra