Tom Strini

Guitar Extravaganza at the Wilson Center

The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center presents classical, jazz, rock and finger-style concerts, competitions and clinics Thursday through Saturday.

By - Aug 14th, 2013 04:00 am

Daryl Stuermer. All photos courtesy of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center.


Jonathan Winkle

What instrument is truly ubiquitous? The guitar.

Jonathan Winkle, executive director of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, asked and answered his own question as he pondered ideas for a festival at the Brookfield venue.  The Q&A yielded results: the first Wilson Center Guitar Competition and Festival will take place Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 15-17. But back to the origins, which date back two years:

“I ran it by Daryl Stuermer –”

Wait — Daryl Stuermer, guitarist for Genesis and one of the top go-to guys in the rock guitar world?

“Yes, I know him socially,” Winkle said.

Stuermer is a good friend to have if you’re trying to start a guitar festival. He got on board immediately as an adviser, connector of talent and as a performer, adjudicator and clinician.

Stuermer, a Milwaukeean, still lives here. Winkle also reached out to other local guitar luminaries: Rene Izquierdo, an important classical guitarist and UWM music professor; excellent jazz guitarist Don Linke; and John Stropes, a leading figure in American fingerstyle playing. Chris Eldridge, of the bluegrass group Punch Brothers and rising jazz star Julian Lage are coming in to participate.


Chris Eldridge


Julian Lage. Photo by Ingrid-Hertfelder.

The stars span nearly the entire spectrum of guitar styles, and that’s no accident.

Winkle, a trombonist by trade (he’s never played a guitar in his life), said: “I personally have eclectic musical tastes, and that led me to the idea of a competition/festival built around multiple styles.”

In addition to concerts and clinics by all of the above, the public can hear more than 40 semi-finalists, chosen by remote auditions, who have come from as far as Israel and Australia to compete for prizes, career advancement and the pleasures of hanging out with some of the world’s top guitarists.

The competition is for guitarists age 15 to 30. First place finishers in each category will win $3,000, a featured solo performance during the Wilson Center’s 2013-2014 season and will perform before Daryl Stuermer’s festival finale concert Saturday evening. Second and third-place finishers in each category will win $1,500 and $1,000 respectively. More prizes will be announced at the end of the festival.


Don Linke


Rene Izquierdo

Winkle will fill three long days with music. Every event is open to the public, including master classes in which the competitors get public instruction from the guest artists. In addition to the experts, young students nominated by area teachers will fill in the gaps between performances and clinics during the three days of the festival.

Winkle said this festival will not be one and done.

“We’ve thought of it as an ongoing festival from the get-go,” he said. “We’re talking about whether it should be annual or biennial. I’m excited about how well we’re starting off. The Wilson Center could become a very significant place for guitarists to play, compete and learn.”

A personal aside: This festival holds special import for me. I’m not in the same league as any of these players, but I started playing guitar about 50 years ago, hold a master’s in classical guitar and for the last 12 years or so have played and sung standards nearly every day for fun. I’m pleased and flattered that Rene Izquierdo invited me on to the panel of judges at the classical guitar finals Saturday afternoon.

Tickets: Admission to the master classes and clinics is free. Tickets for the Izquierdo/Linke concert are $10 and $20; Lage/Eldridge tickets are $15/$25; tickets for the Stuermer concert are $10/$25. A festival pass good for premium admission to all events is $60. To purchase tickets, visit the Wilson Center website or call the box office, 262 781-9520.

Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival Schedule 

Thursday, Aug. 15

Semi-final rounds, maximum of 20 contestants per genre, 10-minute intervals: 9 – 11 a.m., Harris Theater, Jazz; 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Dawes Studio Theater, Classical; 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Harris Theater, Rock/Blues; 2 – 3:30 p.m., Dawes Studio Theater, Fingerstyle.

Concert: 7:30 p.m. Dawes Studio Theater, Rene Izquierdo/Don Linke

Friday, Aug. 16

Master Classes and Clinics: 9 – 11 a.m., Dawes Studio Theater, Rene Izquierdo master class; 9 – 11 a.m., Harris Theater, Don Linke master class; lunch break 12:30 – 2 p.m.; 2 – 3 p.m., Dawes Studio,  John Stropes master class; 2 – 3 p.m., Harris Theater, Daryl Stuermer clinic; 3:30 – 5 p.m., Harris Theater,  Julian Lage/Chris Eldridge clinic/master class.

Concert: 7:30 p.m., Dawes Studio Theater, Julian Lage/Chris Eldridge.

Vendor exhibit area open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17

Final rounds maximum of five contestants per genre, 15-minute intervals: 9 – 10:30 a.m., Harris Theater, Fingerstyle; 10:30 a.m. – noon, Harris Theater, Jazz; 1:30 – 3 p.m., Harris Theater, Rock/Blues; 3 – 4:30 p.m., Harris Theater, Classical.

Concerts, Gerlach Outdoor Theater: 7 p.m., winners in all four categories; 7:30 p.m., Daryl Stuermer.

Vendor exhibit area open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Categories: Classical, Music, Rock

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