Fiddle maker and player Bob Kogut has been on the hunt for the perfect sounding fiddle since falling in love with the instrument in his late 30s, and that quest has led him to make more than 200 instruments.
Bob grew up in Philadelphia, and he was not exposed to fiddle and folk music. When his brother invited him to join on a trip to Sunset Park for a bluegrass festival, Bob was very apprehensive. “I was definitely not a fan of what I knew about country-western music,” he recalls. “And when Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys stepped on stage with their matching suits and brimmed hats, I was skeptical… until I heard Kenny Baker. He was just dripping with emotion and played beautifully.” After the concert, Bob and his brother wandered around the camping area, where Bob observed mini jam sessions all over the grounds. “I asked my brother ‘Where are the amps? Where is their sheet music?’”
Bob was instantly hooked on fiddle music, and he promptly went to the local music store and purchased a student violin. Over the years, as I played, I kept trading and changing fiddles and looking for that perfect sounding instrument. Bob moved to Orlando, Florida, where he met renowned violin expert, Bob Bragg. Bragg had a lot of instruments and would let Bob take them home and try them out. Eventually, Bragg had Bob learn to do some of the set-up and small repair jobs. Those jobs led to bigger jobs, until Bob was regularly working on fixing up old fiddles. But, he was still not finding the perfect instrument, and he was ready to give up. Bragg encouraged Bob to try making his own instrument. “I really did think I could do it; I thought I would need to go to school to learn,” Bob recalls. Bragg told him that he was already doing repair jobs that required as much skill as making an instrument. So, Bob gave it a try, and he has never looked back. Bob’s fiddles are in Hungary, India, England, Holland, Switzerland, Nova Scotia, Hawaii, and many other U.S. states. Bob keeps track of his instruments and the players, and he enjoys that his craft introduces him to so many musicians around the world.
In addition to building violins, Bob is known in the area as an accomplished fiddler and trusty sideman. Bob moved to western North Carolina around 1999, after playing several gigs at Merlefest and falling in love with the area. Bob has played fiddle with many area bands, including The Neighbors, The Kruger Brothers, Wild Goose Chase, Musica Nostra, and Down the Hall. Bob especially likes playing fiddle for contradances. He uses performing and playing engagements as opportunities to test out his newest instruments.
Bob has taught violin set-up and repair classes and workshops. He has demonstrated and displayed his work at various local and regional events, including the Appalachian State Fiddlers Convention, Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention, and Merlefest. Bob is a sponsor of Merlefest, which auctions off one of his violins each year.Bob serves on the board of the Blue Ridge Artisan Center and on the Standards committee in Wilksboro.
Bob is available for performances with various groups. He is also available to give workshops, demonstrations, and classes on various aspects of violin set-up, repair, and building.