Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts
Press Release

Applications Open for Seventh Annual International Guitar Festival With Expanded Prize Package

2019 Wilson Center Guitar Festival to feature five genres, $40,000 in cash prizes, Irish Fest performance experience

By - Feb 21st, 2019 11:33 pm

Brookfield, WI (February 21, 2019) Newly expanded this year to five genres—Blues, Classical, Fingerstyle, Jazz, and Rock—applications are now open for the seventh annual Wilson Center Guitar Festival (Festival) taking place August 15-17, 2019, at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts (Wilson Center) in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Established in 2013, it is the goal of the Festival to celebrate the greatest guitarists of today and tomorrow. Open to competitors of all ages, applications must be received by May 31, 2019. The application fee is $60 and competitors may apply online at for a maximum of two categories.

In 2017, a generous donation from Mark and Sharon Cameli in honor of John Cameli increased the competition prize money by $10,000; with this year’s expansion of the Festival to five genres, a total of $40,000 in cash prizes will now be awarded. First-prize winners in all five genres will receive $5,000 and the opportunity to perform at Milwaukee’s 2019 Irish Fest; second-prize winners in all five genres will receive $2,000; and third-prize winners in all five genres will receive $1,000. All semi-final and final competition rounds are free and open to the public to attend, and the 2019 winners will be announced on the Saturday evening of the Festival.

The preliminary round of judging takes place via YouTube video. From the pool of YouTube and DVD applications, jurors will select semi-finalists who will be invited to the semi-final rounds at the Wilson Center on Friday, Aug. 16. The number of competitors advancing to the final rounds at the Wilson Center on Saturday, Aug. 17, will be determined by the semi-final round adjudicators; semi-final and final round performances will be judged by a panel of renowned artists and industry experts from each genre.

Over the history of the Festival, more than 400 applications have been received from more than 30 counties around the world, including Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines, Armenia, South Korea, Japan, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Armenia, Poland, Canada, Australia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Cuba, Vietnam, Peru, USA, Italy, Finland, Singapore, Jamaica, Croatia, Israel, Slovenia, Brazil, France, Taiwan, and Indonesia. Past competitors have described the three-day experience as “amazing,” “fantastic,” and “one of a kind.”

“[The Festival] brings people into the area and just gives them an opportunity to see all kinds of different styles of playing and artists in one place,” said 2016 first-place jazz competition winner Jordan Rattner (Brown Deer, Wisconsin). “It’s just really exciting to get so many dimensions of what guitar is—blues, rock, classical, fingerstyle, jazz. It’s awesome to have that much diversity in one event,” said 2016 second-place rock/blues winner Jonathan Smith (Winchester, Virgina).

In addition to the live competition rounds that are free and open to the public, the Festival offers something for music lovers of all ages, to include master classes and workshops, leading industry vendors featuring the latest and greatest guitar gear, live music from local artists, guitar exhibits, guitar yoga, and more. The Festival culminates with a ticketed headliner concert, and guitar legends to perform at past Festivals have included rock and blues Hall of Famer Elvin Bishop (2018), jazz legend and former band leader of The Tonight Show Kevin Eubanks (2017), bona fide guitar hero and perennial poll winner Al Di Meola (2016), fingerstyle legend Leo Kottke (2015), influential Nuevo flamenco guitarists Jesse Cook (2014), and virtuoso and Genesis lead guitarist Daryl Stuermer (2013). The 2019 Festival headliner will be announced in April, and the full schedule of events will be announced in June.

The 2019 Wilson Center Guitar Festival is made possible through the support of Competition Prize Money Sponsor Mark & Sharon Cameli in memory of John Cameli and Headliner Show Sponsor Krause Funeral Homes & Cremation Services. To learn more, visit


Established in 2013, it is the goal of the Wilson Center Guitar Festival to celebrate the greatest guitarists of today and tomorrow. As the only guitar festival in the world to feature five different genres—Blues, Classical, Fingerstyle, Jazz, and Rock—the weekend is filled with activities for music lovers of all ages. In addition to ticketed concerts, the Festival offers many activities that are free and open to the public, including: semi-final and final competition rounds, master classes, leading industry vendors, and live music from local artists. To learn more, visit


As a multidisciplinary nonprofit cultural arts facility with a 17-year history of excellence, it is the mission of the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts to serve as a catalyst for lifelong discovery and exploration of the arts. Situated in Brookfield’s beautiful Mitchell Park, the Wilson Center is recognized as a cultural anchor in the Greater Milwaukee community and focuses on three main disciplines: performing arts, arts education, and visual arts. Since opening in 2002, the Wilson Center has continued to celebrate its five core values of excellence, innovation, passion, stewardship and collaboration through a diverse array of premier performances, educational programs, classes, festivals, and special events. The Wilson Center annually welcomes more than 45,000 people, including more than 10,000 students every year—many of whom are being introduced to the arts for the first time. Through arts education programs such as Beyond the Classroom, ArtsReach, and Arts Camp: The Art of Nature, as well as year-round visual art classes and exhibitions, the Wilson Center offers access to the arts for children, teens, families, and adults.

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