The entrance to Angeles Violin Shop isn’t so much a door as it is a portal. It hides in plain sight between a dry cleaner and a minimart in a West L.A. strip mall.

Gain entry, and the grit of Pico Boulevard falls away. It’s quiet inside, and gently lit. Workbenches are stacked high with a crazy quilt of tools and raw materials. Stringed instruments at all stages of construction scent the air with sweet notes of cut wood and the sting of glue and varnish.

It’s in this workshop that a neurosurgeon from UCLA gets to shed his identity as Dr. Lu. To the musicians and craftsmen who gather here, he’s just plain Daniel, a skilled maker of fine violins.

“There is a freedom for me in violin making that I find liberating,” Dr. Daniel Lu says of his transition from physician to luthier. “In my work as a surgeon, there are consequences for errors that are potentially severe. Making a violin is a way to hone my skills and not worry about the stakes because no one gets hurt.”

Read the full story on the UCLA Health website and check out the complete winter issue of U Magazine (PDF).