VIGF 2018 welcomes

Ervin Somogyi


Ervin Somogyi has written two world renowned volumes on lutherie, The Responsive Guitar and Making the Responsive Guitar, as well as a DVD, Voicing the Guitar, produced at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in 2009.

Building guitars started out as a hobby. At first, Somogyi had little hope of making a living at it, he says. With few how-to books available or schools where he could take classes, he learned primarily by getting his hands on some well-made instruments and studying them. “It was a very oddball activity,” he says. Now, as one of the “grand old men” of American lutherie, Somogyi is often invited to lecture at guitar shows and exhibitions.

Building primarily high-end steel-string guitars that sell for over $30,000 each, Somogyi cultivates a clientele of serious musicians—such as the late John Denver and Michael Hedges, and fingerstyle master Alex de Grassi—as well as collectors who buy his instruments as investments. Recording artists such as Daniel Hecht and George Winston list Somogyi as the builder of their guitars for several past and present albums.

Working in his Temescal district shop, he creates exactly one handmade, steel-string acoustic guitar per month, twelve annually (he doesn't take vacations), [more than] 456 since he started in the early 1970s.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Ervin Somogyi fled Europe with his family during World War II. After living in Austria, England, Cuba and Mexico, he eventually moved to the United States at age 15. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in English, he joined the Peace Corps, attended graduate school and supported himself as a flamenco guitarist, but he eventually gravitated back to the East Bay, which has been his home base since about 1972.