mandolin, guitar, percussion


Born at an early age in Takoma Park, Maryland, Paul Kotapish spent most of his youth in Virginia near Washington D.C. with one ear glued to a portable record player and the other attached to a transistor radio. His folks, unable to endure his relentless pestering, bought him a guitar in 1963. Paul learned two chords and promptly started a band.

Paul Kotapish

In this first band he learned another chord or two and soon was playing rock music for sock-hops and splash parties. Persistence -- and an agent -- took him right to the top of the high-school rock-band circuit: proms, car-lot openings and plumbers' conventions.

In the 60's and 70's, the D.C. area was a hotbed of Bluegrass and old time fiddle music, and Paul often found his rock band sharing the roster with some of the country's best traditional folk artists -- musical encounters that made a lasting musical impression. After a two-year hiatus in Europe, Paul returned to the D.C. area where a serendipitous meeting with Alan Jabbour and his fiddle ignited an enduring fascination with traditional fiddle music of all sorts. He traded in his Gibson 335 electric for a Martin dreadnaught and never looked back. For the next few years Paul attended Bluegrass and folk festivals up and down the East Coast, listening and learning as much as he could about the traditions of Appalachian and European folk music.

After getting his degree from the University of Virginia in 1974, Paul moved to Oregon where he began playing and calling regularly for traditional square and contra dances. In bands like Highwater Stringband, Paul was also playing for sitting crowds at coffee houses, bars and folk festivals throughout the Northwest. He moved to Seattle in 1978, joined the The Hurricane Ridgerunners (Jerry Gallaher, Mark Graham, Armin Barnett, Paul Kotapish), and for the next few years toured nationwide and recorded an album with this hard-driving old-time string band. He also forged a musical alliance with Irish fiddle legend Kevin Burke, with whom he has recorded four albums. Paul is a member of Kevin Burke's Open House (Kevin Burke, Mark Graham, Sandy Silva, Paul Kotapish). The band tours regularly in the U.S.A. and abroad and in addition to the three albums for Green Linnet has produced a well-received video program.


In 1982, Paul moved to Oakland, California, where he began playing with Daniel Steinberg, Kevin Carr, and Ray Bierl ("The Hillbillies From Mars"), a musical friendship that has endured to the present. During the 80's Paul pursued an interest in architecture, studying and later teaching at UC Berkeley and practicing in several offices in San Francisco. The lure of performing on the fingerboard proved more intriguing than performing at the drafting board, so in the early 1990's Paul returned to performing music full time. In addition to the Hillbillies and Open House, Paul has toured and recorded with NEA designated "Master Fiddler" Rodney Miller. At home in Berkeley, California, Paul plays in several bands including The Moving Cloud Orchestra, Kingfisher, The Quirks, and The Crackerjacks. Paul is also co-founder of the Celtic/Grateful Dead band, Wake the Dead.

Paul has performed throughout the United States and Canada -- from remote fishing villages in Alaska to Lincoln Center in New York City -- and has made several appearances on NPR's A Prairie Home Companion. Foreign travel has included many concert tours of the British Isles, music and dance tours of the former Soviet Union, and frequent musical forays into Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and Latin America. Recent festival performances include Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Scotland; Avante Festival in Lisbon, Portugal; Beverly Folk Festival, England; Sidmouth Folk Festival, England; Kaustinen Folk Festival, Finland; Falun Folk Festival, Sweden; Winnipeg Folk Festival; Edmonton Folk Festival; Vancouver Folk Festival.

Paul is also highly regarded as a creative and inspiring teacher. He has served on the faculty of the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Pinewoods Music and Dance Camps, Augusta Heritage Festival, The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes , Lark in the Morning, and Mendocino Music and Dance Camps.

Paul lives in Alameda, CA with his wife Shivaun McDonald and their two fabulous kids, Claire and Emmett.

Contact: paul@guitarfish.net (510) 521-8933

Album Credits:

Hillbillies from Mars (HFM CD1301)
Wake the Dead (GDCD 4074)
Wake the Dead: Buckdancer's Choice
Wake the Dead: Blue Light Cheap Hotel
Wake the Dead: Deal
Open House: Hoof & Mouth (Green Linnet 1169)
Open House: Second Story (Green Linnet 1144)
Kevin Burke: Open House (Green Linnet 1122)
Kevin Burke: Up Close
Rodney Miller Band: Greasy Coat (Sage Arts 1301)
Euphonia: The Old Jawbone
Sylvia Herold: A Bowl of Crystal Tears
Moving Cloud Orchestra (MCO 301)
Young Fogies, Vol. I
Guitarfish & Mandolin
Hurricane Ridgerunners
Cathie Whitesides: Home Town Cafe (Avocet 104)
Paul Smith: Mysterious Barricades
West Coast Bluegrass
NW Folklife Festival '77

Band Credits:

Hillbillies from Mars
Wake the Dead
Open House
Rodney Miller Band
Hurricane Ridgerunners
The Quirks
Moving Cloud Orchestra
The Yorkshires


Martin MC 28 Guitar
Nugget custom mandolin by Michael Kemnitzer
Octave Mandolin by Jim Westerman
Gibson Les Paul Junior

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