The people who cheered for the young violin soloist with the Charlotte Symphony last weekend might want to think a few grateful thoughts about a key player who was nowhere in sight: the Bank of America executive who helped equip Chad Hoopes to make so much of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.
Someone with Hoopes' flair, finesse and spontaneity could probably hit home with almost any old fiddle. But Hoopes (photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco) plays an instrument by the man who's synonymous with great violins: Antonio Stradivari.
How does a 12th-grader from Cleveland, Ohio -- even a competition-winning one -- get hold of a Strad? It wasn't his prize for winning the Yehudi Menuhin violin competition. The last sentence of his official bio, printed in the program wherever he plays, says simply that Hoopes uses the violin -- which will have its 300th birthday next year -- "courtesy of Jonathan Moulds."
Moulds is a British violin collector. And he may be the highest-ranking BofA executive whom most people in the bank's hometown have never heard of: BofA's London-based president for Europe and the chief executive of Merrill Lynch International. The last sentence of his official bio says: "He is a keen collector of fine musical instruments."
That's putting it mildly. At the time of a 2006 newspaper profile in the Yorkshire Post, from the British region where he grew up, Moulds owned three Strads and one violin by another revered maker, Giuseppe Guarnieri del Gesu.
Moulds, whose mother is a music teacher, grew up studying the violin and viola. Music won him a scholarship to college at Cambridge, but he majored in math. He explained his choice of career to the Yorkshire Post this way: "The first thought was that music was too damn hard. The second thought was that I could keep it as a hobby."
Moulds landed in the financial industry. In 1994, the Chicago firm he worked for was bought by then-NationsBank. His trajectory from that point was upward, obviously.
While great violins can easily command seven-figure prices, Moulds declined to discuss his collection's value with the Yorkshire paper other than to say it had been "a spectacularly good investment." One violin from Moulds' stable -- nicknamed, as many are, for a former owner -- is the "Lord Spencer" Strad, which once belonged to an ancestor of Lady Di. Moulds has loaned that one out to another up-and-coming violinist, the UK's Nicola Benedetti.
When he isn't tending to BofA and Merrill, Moulds leads a group that's working to increase private-sector support for the arts in Great Britain. And he still plays the violin. As he told the Post: "It keeps me sane."