About Top Notch Violins

A St. Louis Stringed Instrument Store Where “Quality and Craftsmanship Resonate”™

Ted Moniak

Master Craftsman (co-owner)

ted (at) topnotchviolins.com

We’re thrilled to have Ted as part of our workshop and ownership team. While his passion is restoring basses and playing the cello (quite well), his eyes light up when discussing pretty much any of our instruments. Whether you need a repair or are looking at a new instrument, you’ll love talking with Ted. He’s awesome.

Stephen Nowels

Sales (co-owner)

steve (at) topnotchviolins.com

Steve not only has a passion for music (he loves to play the bass), but has a passion for helping young people experience for themselves the joy of performing. This explains both his degree in Music Education from the University of Missouri and his having taught orchestra in the Parkway and Rockwood school districts.
We would rather spend time educating you about an instrument—even if you don’t end up buying it—than sell you the wrong instrument. If you end up with an instrument that’s not right for you–we have failed.

Stephen Nowels (co-owner)

Judy Krogstad


Judy has been involved in Top Notch Violins since its opening. She holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and ran a mural and decorative painting company for 20 years. She focuses her love and respect for Art and craftsmanship towards every instrument which comes across her deck. In addition to instrument set-ups, her specialties include custom decorative finishes and hand varnishing violins using application methods taught by Joe Robson.

Chris Clark

Operations (co-owner)

chris (at) topnotchviolins.com

Chris Clark is essential to making everything at Top Notch Violins run smoothly. The rental process is easy for parents, and it’s because of people such as Chris. While he spends a lot of time on the computer, he does enjoy playing bass when time permits. Music isn’t his only passion—make sure to ask him about organic gardening!
Quality. It’s the way we work. We know our reputation is built on the little things—and we take the time to do things right.

Ted Moniak (co-owner and craftsman)

Susan Trowbridge Adams

Rental Manager

susan (at) topnotchviolins.com

Susan is not only a joy to be around, she is an award-winning poet and a spoken word artist, with an album and chapbook published. She is expert with spreadsheets & data analysis, and with client service, and has over 25 years’ experience with administrative accounting. She came to us from the educational sector. We greatly appreciate her dedicated and skillful management of our growing rental program.

Sanford Field

Workshop Luthier

Sanford has been with us from the very beginning and helped us to launch Top Notch back in 2014. While his love of Chicago deep dish pizza led him to Chicago for a few years, as of 2021 he is now back — well, maybe he had other reasons for Chicago but our point is simply this: we’re glad he’s back! Because if a violin, viola, cello, or bass needs to be fixed: Sanford can do it.

Mark Wallace

Customer service

Mark Wallace has been a professional musician in the St. Louis area for the last 12 years. He received his Bachelors and Masters in Music, with an emphasis in Jazz performance, from Webster University. He performs Klezmer with Rabbi Jim Goodman, folk music with Mt. Thelonious, hiphop with his project tristaño, and everything else with his cover band Wax Museum. The last six years he has been an adjunct at Washington University as a jazz bass instructor and jazz ensemble director.

Tilton Yokley

Rental Assistant, Customer Service Lead

Tilton Yokley has been a professional musician most of his life. He is the bassist in several projects and bands, both in studio and live, at local churches, and in residence with the Owen Ragland Quintet at the Dark Room. He is a graduate of the Webster Groves High School Orchestras and Jazz Programs, and studied music, focusing on Jazz, at SIUE. His strengths are jazz and gospel, with experience playing classical, swing, rock, hiphop, soul, and country. He is a vital member of the Top Notch staff; we all rely heavily on Tilton.

Locally Owned - It Matters!

While we officially opened our doors in 2014, we’ve actually been around for many years. Prior to Top Notch, our three owners worked at a different violin store here in the St. Louis area, one owned by an out-of-state businessman. While such an arrangement can likely work well in some situations, eventually it became too difficult for us to fulfill our customer-service vision with the restrictions placed on us by the (yes, we’ll say it again) out of state owner.

While we suspected this would be the case, since 2014 we can say this: what an amazing difference it makes to have the business owners actually IN the business, working each day, helping customers, repairing instruments, and simply being a part of the community! Our children attend the schools here. They participate in orchestra. And yes, you’ll find half of our ownership team in our workshop. This is our passion.

Local team ownership

Each of us has a vested, long-term interest in seeing this store succeed. And we know the only way that will happen is with satisfied customers.

Workshop staff

We do not simply hire technicians to work on instruments. Our owners work in the workshop and are master craftsmen who have built instruments by hand.

Career experience

Each of our owners has an amazing and complimentary career of experience in his specialty, whether it’s repairing instruments, teaching children and orchestra, or running back-end operations.

We told you about us – now we want to hear about you!