Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts
Press Release

Wilson Center Guitar Festival Announces 2019 Competition Semi-Finalists

Five-genre competition will feature $40,000 in cash prizes, performance slot at Milwaukee Irish Fest

By - Jun 27th, 2019 08:03 pm

Brookfield, WI (June 27, 2019) Following a record number of preliminaryround applications, the seventh annual international Wilson Center Guitar Festival (Guitar Festival) has announced the 61 semi-finalists from 50 cities around the world who will be competing on August 15-17, 2019, for their share of $40,000 in cash prizes and a chance to perform at the 2019 Milwaukee Irish Fest. Newly expanded this year to five genres—Blues, Classical, Fingerstyle, Jazz, and Rock—it is the goal of the Guitar Festival to celebrate the greatest guitarists of today and tomorrow.

The preliminary round of judging took place via YouTube video by a jury of independent guitar professionals in each of the five genres. From a pool of more than 120 YouTube applications, jurors selected the semi-finalists who have been invited to compete in the live semi-final rounds at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts (Wilson Center) in Brookfield, Wisconsin, on Friday, Aug. 16. Each semifinalist’s preliminary YouTube submission may be viewed online at

The 2019 semi-finalists by genre are:

Blues: Cecil Alexander (Weehawken, N.J.), Aaron Bissoondial (Wayne, N.J.), Ben Callies (Roseville, Minn.), Brendan Clyons (Trumbull, Conn.), Aram Feriants (Brookfield, Wisc.), Tyler Furrer (Fond du Lac, Wisc.), Jackson Potter (South Miami, Fla.), Roger Schaumann (Canyon Country, Calif.), and Dante Turkow (Brookfield, Wisc.).

Classical: Thomas Aquino (Bloomington, Ind.), Nikola Begovic (Bloomington, Ind.), Frances Karim Centeno (Chicago, Ill.), Kacey Ellis (Chicago, Ill.), Matthew Gillen (Austin, Texas), Samuel Hines (Mora, Minn.), Ana Maria Iordache (Tuscon, Ariz.), YunZhe Lin (Bloomington, Ind.), Ethan Lorentz (Littleton, Colo.), Minh Nguyen (Westminster, Calif.), Alejandro Rodriguez (Cleveland, Ohio), Parsa Sabet (Las Vegas, Nev.), Eli Schille Hudson (Bloomington, Ind.), Jesus Serrano (Mexico City, Mexico), Oscar Somersalo (Washington, D.C.), Austin Wahl (Minneapolis, Minn.), and Yerum Yoon (Columbia, Md.).

Fingerstyle: William Boulé (Milwaukee, Wisc.), Gerald Gloade (Truro, Canada), Garrett Grobschmidt (Milwaukee, Wisc.), Rick Kubly (Mequon, Wisc.), Michael McKinnon (Milwaukee, Wisc.), Max Mondzac (Boulder, Colo.), Patrick Murray (Vancouver, Canada), Mathias Simon (Saint Paul, Minn.), Casey Smithley (Plymouth, Minn.), and Zach Tremblay (West Allis, Wisc.).

Jazz: Tomas Antonic (Grafton, Wisc.), Aaron Bissoondial (Wayne, N.J.), Nathan Borton (Lansing, Mich.), Owen Chen (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Pamai Chirdkiatisak (Elmhurst, N.Y.), Aidan Cotner (East Lansing, Mich.), Giovanni di Carlo (Campolieto, Italy), Mike Eskenazi (Seattle, Wash.), Connor Evans (New York, N.Y.), Timothy Johnson (Roxbury Crossing, Mass.), Matt Landon (Burlington, Iowa), Peter Martin (Rochester, N.Y.), Will St. Peter (Denton, Texas), Ben Turner (Cherry Hill, N.J.), Robert Varon (Pittsford, N.Y.), Ryan Waszmer (Merritt Island, Fla.), and James Zito (New York, N.Y.).

Rock: Max Boras (Boston, Mass.), Aram Feriants (Brookfield, Wisc.), Jesse Green (Ajo, Ariz.), Chris Hanford II (Allston, Mass.), James Heitz (Chicago, Ill.), Millissa Henderson (Boston, Mass.), Doug Justice (Curtis, Mich.), Joe Latona (Waukesha, Wisc.), Yeril Lozano (Simpsonville, S.C.), Roger Schaumann (Canyon Country, Calif.), and Christopher Schuck (Milwaukee, Wisc.).

Semi-final and final competition rounds are judged by a panel of renowned artists from each genre; judging is “blind,” with judges located behind a screen. All competition rounds are free and open to the public to attend. Competitors advancing to the final round will be announced on Friday evening, with an awards ceremony on Saturday evening. First-place winners in each genre will receive $5,000, as well as the opportunity to perform at Milwaukee Irish Fest on Sunday, Aug. 18; second-place winners in each genre will receive $2,000; and thirdplace winners in each genre will receive $1,000.

Immediately following the award ceremony, the Festival will culminate on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m., with a ticketed headliner concert featuring jazz guitar legend John Scofield with longtime musical mates Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart. Tickets are $47-$80; for more information, visit

In addition to the live competition rounds and ticketed headliner concert, the Festival offers something for music lovers of all ages, to include master classes and workshops in all five genres; leading industry vendors; wellness sessions with acoustic yoga presented by Peaceful Plum and a lecture on hearing care led by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Senior Clinical Audiologist Dr. Stacy Ryan; an Advancing Your Career panel discussion; a “Make Your Own Guitar” free family art workshop; and free concerts throughout the Festival featuring Guitars for Vets, fingerstyle virtuoso Shane Hennessy, award-winning classical guitarist Rene Izquierdo, and the genrebusting synthesis of the Troy Stetina Project. A full schedule of events will be available beginning in July on the Festival website at

The 2019 Wilson Center Guitar Festival is made possible through the support of Headliner Show Sponsor Krause Funeral Homes & Cremation Services, Classical Category Sponsor Mark & Sharon Cameli in memory of John Cameli, Rock Category Prize Sponsor John Shiely, Classical Show Sponsor JoAnne & Don Krause, Supporting Sponsors The Les Paul Foundation and Vince Shiely, and Promotional Partners Cascio Music and Guitars for Vets.

For more information on the 2019 Wilson Center Guitar Festival, 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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