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by Karen Pecota

Award-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated cinematographer Joel Van Haren reveals a story where truth is stranger than fiction, in his latest documentary Plucked. Joel showcases a rare violin, the Stradivari (STRAD), and describes how easily these instruments could be lost forever.

The Stradivari violins made between 1700–1725 are unbelievably rare. Not too many people have seen one from this era unless it is played by a virtuoso, but to touch such an item is unheard of unless you are the owner. Or, maybe you are someone who has an instrument on loan from an owner because the instruments must be touched and played on a regular basis.

On January 27, 2014, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, concertmaster Frank Almond performed with his 1715 Lipinski STRAD along with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. After the concert, while getting into his car, Almond was tasered, left for dead and his prize violin stolen. The city's police chief, Ed Flynn, called it a $6 million heist due to the value of the instrument at the time.

Within a 24-hour period the whole world knew of the heist. Jeff Point, homicide detective, said, "This is like stealing a Rembrandt." The FBI and Milwaukee Police Department knew that time was of the essence and immediately joined forces to save this one-of-a-kind instrument. Almond was alive and recovering from the incident and he offered a $100,000 reward.

This was just the beginning to try to find the thieves. The question of the hour was two-fold: Who would unload such a prize, and where would they do this? The number of people interested in the stolen object is relatively small. It must be someone who covets the rarity of the instrument. But, do they play it, much less understand its proper usage? The instrument is made out of wood and it has to be touched and played daily to keep the instrument alive.

People have said about instruments made of wood that "The tree is the song of the instrument" and with the violin, "artists pass through its life and not the other way around."

The hunt was on and Joel's documentary Plucked reveals the intricate and clever investigative work that is better than a fictional thrilling mystery.