Jay Ifshin was born in Miami, Florida in 1951, where he worked as a diesel mechanic after high school. Listening to recordings of famous violinists, Ifshin was inspired to learn the violin. Upon realizing the limitations of the violin he was renting, and convinced that he could make one that was better, Ifshin applied to the Violin Making School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was accepted in 1974. His primary teachers were Paul Hart and Peter Prier. After school hours were spent in Prier’s violin shop learning repair and restoration. During his time at the school, he studied alongside some of today’s most important American makers.
Ifshin left Salt Lake City in 1977, later arriving in Bozeman, Montana, where he continued to make and repair violins. In 1979 he moved to Berkeley, California. Working from his basement apartment, he made violins and sold them at the rehearsals of local orchestras. After a few months, he went to work for the Berkeley Violin Center, a one room storefront shop on busy University Avenue, with a history going back to the 1930’s. There, he continued making violins as well as doing repairs and restorations.