Sam’s Strings Violin Shop: East coast musician goes from working in China to Katy area

Violin maker Zach Johnson studied in one of three schools in the U.S. offering a violin-making program. (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)
Violin maker Zach Johnson studied in one of three schools in the U.S. offering a violin-making program. (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)

Violin maker Zach Johnson studied in one of three schools in the U.S. offering a violin-making program. (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Owner Sam Matthews completed a master’s degree in cello performance at the Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University in 2005 before moving to China. (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sam Matthews was born into a family who rejoiced in playing musical instruments in Greenville, South Carolina.

His father played the double bass; his mother played the piano; and his brother played the trumpet. Matthews said he carried his passion for music into adulthood, and eventually it compelled him to open his own business in the music industry.

He lived in Springfield, Missouri, where he began violin lessons and studied in Baltimore, Maryland before he moved to Shanghai, China, where he met his wife. They lived in Asia for five years before moving to the Katy area in 2011 to open Sam’s Strings Violin Shop, which sells stringed instruments and accessories and provides instrument repairs.

Sam’s Strings first started in 2011 in Houston until Matthews could move his business to the Katy area in 2016 to its first purpose-built facility.

Matthews expanded to a 3,200-square-foot facility in August to add the Paganini School of Music. About 55 students are enrolled in Sam’s Paganini School of Music, and once it reaches capacity at 200 students, he said he will consider opening a larger school.

Having lived overseas and traveled as a freelance musician, Matthews said he and his wife chose to settle in the Katy area because of the diversity.

“Katy is home to some of the strongest string programs in Texas—and really across the nation,” he said. “It seemed only logical to place our business in the center of this mecca of string learning.”

Zach Johnson works with Matthews as a violin maker. He attended one of only three violin-making schools in the U.S., the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City. He has built violins for 14 years.

“What I enjoy about [instruments] is that they are culminations of hundreds of years of people changing and redesigning things,” Matthews said. “The materials you see on these come from all over the world—India, Bosnia-Herzegovina area, Switzerland.”

Sam’s Strings Violin Shop

411 Park Grove Drive, Ste. 210, Katy


Hours: Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., closed Sun.-Mon.


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