Kentucky Guitar Works holds grand opening

Owensboro advanced its claim as the “Bluegrass Music Capital of the World” on Friday morning with the grand opening of Kentucky Guitar Works @ the Center for Lutherie.

The roughly 1,800-square-foot facility at 207 E. 2nd St., between the RiverPark Center and the Owensboro Symphony office, will serve as a working guitar and stringed instrument company that will specialize in handcrafting instruments, along with a viewing gallery for the construction and demonstration of instruments that will be available for purchase.

“Bluegrass music is such an exciting genre, such an exciting music, especially to experience it live, but it all starts with great instruments because it’s all acoustic, so it’s really wire and wood and design of the guitar and the banjos and the mandolins, so to have a world-class guitar builder here is just great,” said Chris Joslin, executive director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

“The front room is essentially a guitar gallery, so there’s going to be a lot of informal music making there as part of that, which is great.

“And to be able to take a peak and see world-class builders at their craft and seeing these guitars come to life, I think it’s going to be a great addition to all of the things here in Owensboro in the name of bluegrass.”

Rick Faris, owner of Faris Guitar, will be the facility’s primary tenant and full-time luthier. He moved with his family to Owensboro from Topeka, Kansas. He said the facility is the culmination of a lifelong dream.

“It really is a dream come true,” he said. “It’s incredible to see guitars on the wall and people in here and having a good time and enjoying the start of the luthier business. Making music and making musical instruments is my life, bluegrass specifically, and this has just been a perfect fit. I’m so glad with how it’s all starting, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

Faris is a decorated musician, having been a member of the Grammy-nominated bluegrass group The Special Consensus, a past International Bluegrass Music Association “New Artist of the Year” winner. He was the opening main stage performer at the 2023 ROMP Fest.

He said he and his family are excited to be part of the Owensboro community.

“We love Owensboro,” he said. “Our boys are very well taken care of by the school system. Moving from Topeka, Kansas, it was crucial to have the boys taken care of, so that was wonderful. And when you throw the ‘Bluegrass Music Capital of the World’ mix on top of it, it was perfect for us.”

Kentucky Guitar Works will offer luthier workshops, educational sessions for aspiring instrument builders, apprenticeship programs and the restoration of traditional bluegrass instruments, among other activities.

“It wasn’t just the physical location, which is absolutely beautiful, but the location is only as good as the person who is going to be in it, so when you’re talking about bringing someone from Kansas who is a very successful musician to fulfill a dream here in Owensboro, you really want that person to fill comfortable about taking that risk, and the whole community has really embraced this project and this family.

“Bit by bit, what started off as a blank canvas became what you see here today. I think the days of lost sleep are probably over and we can focus on the amazing guitars Rick Faris is building.”

The facility also has a Pickin Parlor that serves as the entrance, with guitars lining the walls for customers and visitors to play.

“It seems kind of loud in here right now, but the fact of the matter is, if you’re a musician making instruments the way Rick does, a master luthier, it really makes the sound of the instrument play very well,” Steve Johnson, director of the Bluegrass Music Initiative, said of the facility’s open space. “They’d rather have an open room like this than something closed in.

“And the Jagoe Homes Guitar Gallery is a place people can come and play instruments and then talk to Rick about having an instrument custom built. I think it turned out really well.”

Johnson said the facility opening is far from the capstone for the initiative.

“This is the cinderella slipper; this is the first project,” he said. “We have several other projects we’ll work on, and you’ll see more. Musicians are talking to other musicians. Owensboro is pretty famous in the bluegrass music circles outside of Owensboro. We look forward to bringing those folks here from Nashville or Louisville or other places, because it’s on the map.”

The RiverPark Center will be the primary leaseholder on the facility. Partners involved in the project include Daviess County Fiscal Court and the City of Owensboro, which each having contributed $100,000 to the project, along with Hafer Design, Danco Construction Inc., Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, Visit Owensboro/Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Hartz Contracting LLC, and the Bluegrass Music Task Force.

Johnson said the work of Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum was also critical in the development, because “that’s kind of where it all started, and they do a great job down there.”

Joslin said Kentucky Guitar Works is a great fit with the museum.

“Kentucky Guitar Works is an extension of the work of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and as has already been mentioned, to have an award-winning guitar builder and award-winning artist all wrapped up in the same person relocating to Owensboro is just tremendous, and I think it underscores the momentum and the excitement around Owensboro’s place in bluegrass music as the ‘Bluegrass Music Captial of the World.

“It’s a great day for Owensboro.”

The facility will host a jam session from 9-10 a.m. Saturday, followed by open houses at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. There will be another jam session from 3-4:30 p.m.