She finishes each new violin with another ritual, by gluing a small, handwritten message inside. This began as a light gesture, with favourite fortunes from cookies placed inside with a wink as hidden signatures of sorts from her, the violin maker. But the notes she leaves now have become far more personal and meaningful.
Each is different, but they are often a tribute to those who've given of themselves in some way, members of the military included. Her most recent one reads: "In honour of past, present and future souls of courage and wisdom."
The person foremost on her mind when she writes those messages is her brother, Jon St. John, an Army specialist who died a decade ago when a roadside bomb exploded near the military vehicle in which he was the gunner.
Jon, Sonja's only sibling, was 25. She was 22 and just beginning her career after graduating from the Chicago School of Violin Making. She has a vivid memory of sliding ....