Born in rural southwestern Wisconsin to Norwegian American parents, Ron Poast grew up surrounded by a variety of regional musical traditions. His grandfathers on both sides and his father were fiddlers, playing Norwegian styles as well as rural country music popular at the time. Poast initially learned to make fine banjos and guitars but it was his interest in and skill at making the hardingfele or Hardanger fiddle, recognized as the national instrument of Norway, that brought him nationwide acclaim.
The elaborately decorated instrument with a dragonhead scroll has four bowed violin strings and four or five sympathetic understrings that produce a unique droning sound. As one of less than a half-dozen makers of hardanger fiddles in the United States, his instruments are in high demand. Poast has exhibited his craftsmanship at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and has participated in cultural exchange programs with Japan, in addition to offering workshops at the annual meetings of the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America.
In 1992, Poast was nominated by then Governor Tommy Thompson for the National Living Treasure of the United States Award and that year was also inducted into the Wisconsin State Strings Museum Hall of Fame as Master Luthier of the Year. A photograph of one of his fiddles graced the cover of the 1992-93 State of Wisconsin telephone directory.
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