Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts
Press Release

Legendary Milwaukee Rock/Blues Guitarist Greg Koch and Canadian Rumba Flamenco Guitarist Jesse Cook Headline Second Annual Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival

Most events are free and open to the public – including competitive rounds, vendor exhibits, master classes and more!

By - Jul 31st, 2014 12:58 pm

Brookfield, WI (July 31, 2014) – Some of the biggest names in guitar will grace the Wilson Center stage this August as part of the second annual Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival,to take place August 14-16 at the Wilson Center in Brookfield, Wisconsin, just 20 minutes west of Milwaukee.

Bringing together world-class chops and a humorous ability to articulate sounds and techniques, Milwaukee guitarist Greg Koch will headline the festival with an evening performance on Friday, August 15 at 7:30 pm in the Harris Theater. Koch has established himself within six-string circles as a masterful technician, accomplished Fender clinician, and guitar virtuoso. Declared “fiendishly talented” by Guitar Player magazine, Koch was awarded first prize in the 1989 Bluesbreaker Guitar Showdown judged by legendary bluesman Buddy Guy. Tickets: $15–25.

Canadian rumba flamenco artist Jesse Cook blends the exotic Spanish music form with elements of new age, jazz, and easy listening. Cook also headlines the festival with a performance onSaturday, August 16 at 7:30 pm in the Gerlach-Haack Outdoor Theater. Since bursting onto the world music scene in 1995 with Tempest, he was awarded the silver medal in Acoustic Guitarmagazine’s prestigious “Players’ Choice Awards” behind the legendary Paco de Lucia. Tickets: $20–35.

Tickets are on sale now and are available by calling the Wilson Center Box Office at (262) 781-9520 or by visiting

Nearly all competition activities are free and open to the publicincluding the semi-final and final rounds of the competition in the Rock/Blues, Fingerstyle, Jazz, and Classical categories. Sixty-three semifinalists from 21 states and four foreign countries will participate in the live rounds of the competition.

This year’s festival activities include free master classes by jazz guitarist Jack Grassel and classical guitarist Anne Waller; an artist question and answer session with featured performer Jesse Cook; and a vendor showcase featuring Cascio Interstate MusicFenderHartland Music, and more. Patrons can “test drive” a wide variety of instruments, including a special selection of Fender guitars which celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster.

A complete schedule of festival activities, including the semi-final and final rounds of the competition, vendor exhibits, and master classes is listed below.

Schedule of Festival Activities


Jazz Semi-finals: 9:00 am – 2:30 pm (Harris Theater)

Classical Semi-finals: 9:00 am – 2:30 pm (Dawes Studio Theater)

Jack Grassel Jazz Master Class: 3:00 – 5:00 pm (Harris Theater)

Anne Waller Classical Master Class: 3:00 – 5:00 pm (Dawes Studio Theater)



Rock/Blues Semi-finals: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (Harris Theater)

Fingerstyle Semi-finals: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (Dawes Studio Theater)

Jesse Cook Q & A Session: 2:00 – 3:00 pm (Dawes Studio Theater)

Announcement of Competition Finalists: 3:00 pm (Harris Theater)

Greg Koch Rock/Blues Master Class: 3:15 – 5:00 pm (Harris Theater)

Greg Koch Performance: 7:30 pm (Harris Theater)*

* Ticket purchase required for entry.



Jazz Finals: 9:00 – 10:15 am (Harris Theater)

Classical Finals: 10:30 – 11:45 am (Harris Theater)

Fingerstyle Finals: 12:00 – 1:15 pm (Harris Theater)

Rock/Blues Finals: 1:30 – 2:45 pm (Harris Theater)

Winners Announcement 3:00 pm (Harris Theater)

Young Artist Performances: 5:30 – 6:30 pm

Competition Winners’ Performance: 7:00 pm (Gerlach-Haack Outdoor Theater)

Jesse Cook Performance: 7:30 pm (Gerlach Outdoor Theater)**

** Ticket purchase required for entry and chairs will not be provided.

Music vendors will also be on site throughout the weekend, including Cascio Interstate Music, Fender, Hartland Music, Petros Guitars and Jonathan Marshall Guitars.


About the Competition

Developed as a means to showcase talented guitarists of all ages, the Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival is a multi-genre competition which features four different categories—Rock/Blues, Fingerstyle, Jazz, and Classical. Sixty-three guitarists from Canada, Slovenia, Israel, and Australia, as well as throughout the United States, will travel to Brookfield to take place in the live, invitation-only semi-final competition rounds at the Center on Thursday, August 14 and Friday, August 15. Semi-finalist winners in each genre category will then advance to the final rounds on Saturday, August 16 to compete for $22,000 in prize money. For complete details on the Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival, please visit

The Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival is sponsored by Kate and Don Wilson, Enterforce, Inc., the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the D’Addario Foundation. Promotional support is provided by Cascio Interstate Music.


Performer Biographies

Greg Koch

An unsung guitar hero from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Greg Koch has established himself within six-string circles as a masterful technician, accomplished Fender clinician and general hard core guit-picker. No less than guitar virtuoso Steve Vai noted Koch’s six-string prowess and promptly signed him to his Favored Nations label in 2001. Tom Wheeler from Guitar Player magazine hailed him as “fiendishly talented.”

On From the Attic, his 12th release overall as a leader and third for Germany’s ZYX/Peppercake label, the veteran guitar virtuoso joins bassist Tom Good and drummer Del Bennett for an eclectic, hard-hitting program full of incendiary licks and audacious fretboard tricks. Recorded remarkably quickly in the attic of guitarist-engineer Chris Hanson’s Victorian home on Milwaukee’s East Side, these rockin’, bluesy originals are imbued with Koch’s trademark searing licks and typically clever lyrics.

Born in Milwaukee in 1966, Koch got his earliest musical influences from his older brother and later became infatuated with Jimi Hendrix, who remains a profound influence to this day. After studying jazz guitar for four years at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Koch won first prize in the 1989 Bluesbreaker Guitar Showdown judged by legendary bluesman Buddy Guy. Shortly after, he formed Greg Koch and the Tone Controls, which became one of the more popular acts of the region. The band went on to win five Wisconsin Area Music Awards for Blues Artist of the Year (‘93, ‘95 through ‘98), and Koch personally took in seven WAMA awards as Guitarist of the Year (‘92, ‘94 through ‘99).

Koch is also a clinician for Fender, the world’s largest and most prestigious guitar and amplifier manufacturer. Bringing together world-class chops and a humorous ability to articulate sounds and techniques with a genuine devotion to all things guitar, Koch has developed an exceptionally effective approach to conducting guitar clinics. Greg’s relationship with music publishing giant, the Hal Leonard Corporation, has also resulted in a string of top-selling guitar method books, including Guitar Clues: Operation PentatonicLead LicksRhythm Riffs and Koch’s popular Hal Leonard instructional DVDs – two on the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan (approved by Jimmie Vaughan), one on Lynyrd Skynyrd, another celebrating revered blues stylists like Albert King, Albert Collins, Elmore James and Guitar Slim and one on his own twisted take on guitar called Guitar Gristle – have revolutionized video guitar instruction with a combination of humor, effective instruction and inspiring musical performances into a package that can only be described as “edu-tainment.”


Jesse Cook

Like millions the world over Jesse Cook got his hands on a copy of Adele’s 21 and played it excessively. But the Juno Award-winning guitarist saw something that few of us did, something which emboldened him to tackle a long simmering personal objective and create a ‘blue mood’ record. Cook set about writing the material for The Blue Guitar Sessions while cottage hopping with his family in the summer of 2011. The album was released in 2012, marking the completion of his eighth studio album.

For the 47-year-old Toronto resident, this record is much different from the rumba flamenco for which he is best known. Indeed, he has been a leading proponent of the genre since bursting onto the world music scene with 1995’s Tempest. Among his many accolades, in 2008, he won the silver medal in Acoustic Guitar magazine’s prestigious “Players’ Choice Awards” behind the legendary Paco De Lucia.

Cook has steered clear of anything resembling flamenco on this record, producing a sound that allows listeners to appreciate each musician’s contribution. The result is a captivating 14 track album recorded on a pair of vintage microphones, which he had exhaustively searched for to replicate the mood of recordings from the Miles Davis era. Sound is of the utmost importance to him as a musician, producer and engineer.

About the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts

Now in its 13th season, the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary cultural arts center that presents performances by world-renowned artists and ensembles, offers myriad arts education opportunities, and curates an ever-changing art gallery featuring nationally renowned artists.

Recognized as one of Southeast Wisconsin’s most important cultural anchors, the Wilson Center has achieved widespread recognition for its eclectic programming featuring internationally acclaimed artists and ensembles. Audra McDonald, Pilobolus, Mandy Patinkin & Patti LuPone, Mark Morris Dance Group, The King’s Singers, Jane Monheit, John Pizzarelli, Rosanne Cash, Parsons Dance, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jesse Cook and many more artists have graced the Wilson Center’s stage as part of its Performing Arts Series.

As an integral part of its mission, the Wilson Center promotes lifelong learning in the arts, offering innovative programs and classes for children, teens, and adults of all abilities in its state-of-the-art studios and classrooms. Many of Southeast Wisconsin’s finest arts organizations have partnered with the Center to offer on-site professional instruction, including First Stage Theater Academy and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.

The Center’s acclaimed Ploch Art Gallery presents six rotating exhibitions each year, showcasing Wisconsin fine artists that have achieved national acclaim. The Wilson Center also presents one of the Midwest’s most distinguished art festivals; now in its ninth season, the Hidden River Art Festival features 120 of the Midwest’s finest artists.

The Wilson Center for the Arts is just minutes west of Milwaukee, nestled in Brookfield’s Mitchell Park, south of Capitol Drive, just west of Brookfield Road. For additional information about the Wilson Center and its programming, visit or call (262) 781-9470.

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