Roger Cooper

Old-Time, Swing, and Jazz Fiddle

Roger Cooper

Recipient Information

Location

Garrison (Lewis County), Kentucky

Medium

Old-Time, Swing, and Jazz Fiddle

Year of Award

2020

Grant or Fellowship

Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship

Grant Amount

$9,000

Artist Biography

Roger Cooper of Lewis County grew up in a family of musicians. His father’s family was filled with guitar and banjo players, and he had one uncle who played fiddle. At eight years old, Cooper began playing the guitar, and at twelve he was playing backup to local fiddlers. Throughout the years, he played with most of the fiddlers residing in Lewis County, learning as they played together. In his early teens, local fiddler Buddy Thomas convinced Cooper to quit playing the guitar and focus on the fiddle. Thomas mentored Cooper, and they remained close until Thomas’ death in 1975. His teacher and friend’s death was hard for Cooper, but “by then he had done what he set out to do which was make me a fiddler,” he explains.

In the years following, Cooper worked hard and won multiple old-time fiddle contests, including contests throughout Kentucky and The Ohio State Championships. He also placed in the top 20 at the World’s Championship at Union Grove, North Carolina. Cooper has taught three apprenticeships through the Kentucky Arts Council, and in 2017, he received a Kentucky Governor’s Award in the Arts for his fiddling.

The fellowship will allow Cooper to focus on expanding his experience as a swing and jazz fiddler which he also enjoys playing in addition to old-time. He plans on traveling to meet some of the great swing fiddlers in the region, like Kenny Sears of Nashville, Greg Dearth of Franklin, Ohio, Dave Edmundson of Cincinnati, and Tom Cunningham of Louisville. He also plans on recording a swing fiddle album with the funds.