Silently Strumming Along 2

Jason Kostal humbly enjoys international fame as among the world’s best luthiers

His work is world famous. Yet in his home state, renowned luthier Jason Kostal is a well-kept secret in the acoustic guitar and musical instrument worlds.

One of his guitars holds a permanent spot at the Musical Instrument Museum in the North American room that showcases all handmade instruments made on the continent. Kostal recalls museum personnel assuming he lived in California.

“They just couldn’t fathom that I was a local builder. It was kind of funny,” the East Valley resident and business owner says.

His company, Kostal Guitars, creates custom pieces that carry price tags of $25,000-$30,000 a piece. Worldwide clients know him as one of about two-dozen people in the world who does what he does. Most are touring musicians with songs on the radio.

His wait list is seven years long. It’s a commitment clients are willing to make. So is Kostal.

“That’s a long period of time that we can really talk through and correlate what they’re hoping to get out of it, and into building that system for them,” Kostal says.

A native of Milwaukee, Kostal started playing guitar at age 4 and formally studied through high school. He graduated from West Point and served in the Army from 1994 to 2006, where he was stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here, music served as a stabilizer on an uncontrollable plain.

“In times of emotional highs and lows, music brought me back,” says Kostal, citing tunes such as “Amazing Grace” and the National Anthem.

After the army, Kostal earned a master’s degree in business and ran a Fortune 100 company. But he wasn’t happy. By now, Kostal had been playing and building guitars for years. He decided to make it professional.

After an apprenticeship with a San Francisco luthier, Kostal moved to Arizona and his business was born in 2006. After a first few tricky years, Kostal found his groove—and success.

Kostal is on the board of directors of the 98 Fund, the Virginia-based nonprofit he co-founded that provides college scholarships and assistance to families of fallen soldiers. He also gives back to the business community by mentoring entrepreneurs and encouraging them follow their dreams.

“I’ve had some incredible people who’ve helped and mentored me. I followed my heart even though people thought I was crazy,” Kostal says. “If I can help others experience that, that’s a wonderful thing.” 

"I followed my heart even though people thought I was crazy. If I can help others experience that, that’s a wonderful thing.” 

Jason Kostal