Fellowship Spotlight! Phil Goldenberg

Taylor Smith Fellowship Spotlight, News

Crown Workshop Manager, Amelia Thornton, interviews Phil Goldenberg, the winner of Jim Stroud’s Classical Guitar Competition and 2015 Crown Fellowship in Classical Guitar, on the topics of practice, motivation, and his path to Crown.

A:         What is your background in guitar? What is your story of how you got started?

P:         I started playing guitar when I was 14, and I started because my friends wanted to make a band and somebody already played bass, and somebody already played drums, and I didn’t want to sing, so I decided to play guitar. As things progressed in my life, I started to get more and more interested in music and towards the end of high school I started to get into jazz. I was trying to figure it out on my own, which wasn’t going very well, so I decided I wanted to go to school for jazz in college. I ended up going to school at Rowan University in southern New Jersey for guitar. I sort of faked my way through the classical audition and my teacher let me in (he thought I was going to be a jazz major anyway). Then I took the jazz audition and failed miserably, so I was stuck in this program where I didn’t know anything about classical guitar, and my teacher didn’t necessarily want me in the program, but he was really patient and showed me a lot of really great repertoire and I really fell in love with it. I loved that it was real solo music for the instrument, that you didn’t have to play with other people, which is really fun, but you compromise a lot of what you want to do. I wanted to have it all, I wanted to be all the members of the band.

A:        When did you graduate and did you continue school after Rowan University?

P:         I graduated in 2012 and then went on to do a Masters degree at Cleveland Institute of Music, where I studied with Jason Vieaux. Rowan University was really a friendly and kind, communal atmosphere. Cleveland was a very very serious conservatory. The people who went there were really “in it to win it”. It was a very different atmosphere. Jason Vieaux is a really accomplished player so he toured regularly and the students were quite competitive. With Rowan University I went in as a jazz player and came out a classical player, and in Cleveland it was the exact opposite. I went in wanting to stretch my classical training and I came out wanting a whole bunch more because I was inundated with it and wanted something else.

A:         When you came to Crown as a Fellowship in 2015 you were in the Classical class, and I think you really surprised people when you got up there and jammed with jazz guys, blues guys, and electric rock musicians like King Solomon Hicks. I think the audience wasn’t expecting a classical player to get up there and improvise.

P:         I think that the people who used to be into Classical, sort of the born and bred aristocrats, don’t really exist anymore. I would say that the next generation of classical players are people who were really into the technical styles of rock music and then just stumble across a Youtube video of someone playing classical guitar and think, “that’s actually awesome, I’d love to do that!”, which is basically how I came across it. You have the opposite of what most woodwind players would come across, having a classical background and then you branch out into popular styles. Instead you have this popular background and you branch out into the classical style.

A:         How did you come to Crown and did you know much about it before you attended?

P:         I came to Crown because I won James Stroud’s Classical Guitar Competition in Oberlin, Ohio and part of that prize was getting the Fellowship at Crown. I had a friend of a friend who had attended in 2014. Basically the only thing I knew about Crown was that it was a thing you could go to where it wasn’t a whole bunch of people fixing their fingernails! (laughs) My only experience prior to attending was a whole bunch of beautiful pictures he had posted on Facebook.

A:         Tell me a little bit about the Crown Fellowship experience for you.

P:         It was really cool, very very busy. That whole first week you are playing concerts every day, sometimes twice a day. It was especially crazy as a classical guitarist because you are out there in venues you wouldn’t usually be in, like bars and outdoor venues. It’s you and then it’s a blues act and then an electric rock act. You are representing an entire genre to a bunch people who haven’t ever heard that before, which is very different. A lot of the time you have classical people coming to classical concerts to hear classical favorites.

A:         Were you nervous about that?

P:         I was nervous about it, but I was excited to get back to my roots and get dirty with some rock and blues and stuff. I was worried about playing classical for a non-classical audience. It was interesting actually, in the beginning as I was playing these concerts, I felt like I needed to change something about my interpretation or change something about my playing to make the audience more into it. Make it more rhythmic, less rubato, make fewer faces, make more faces… and then as I played more of these concerts, I realized I didn’t need to do anything different. The vast majority of people at Crown are happy to hear classical guitar music; they just haven’t before. It’s hard not to like such pretty music. People aren’t just often exposed to it!

A:         In one sentence, what is the Crown experience from a participant’s standpoint?

P:         The Crown experience is people from everywhere around the globe who play every style of guitar who come together to jam on an E minor blues! (laughs)

A:         I think my highlight was getting to hear you speak at a public workshop at Flathead Valley Community College. You have developed your own brand of practice and teaching. I learned a ton from you in that hour on effective practice methods. Can you summarize some of the points you discussed last summer?

P:         Basically my philosophy of practicing is boiled down to three different types of practice; the first being Observational Practice. You set all other aspects of music aside and focus on one specific thing. For example, if you are just trying to get the notes out and making as few mistakes as possible, eliminate some of the other variables. Say to yourself my rhythm doesn’t matter, my tone doesn’t matter, my left hand fingerings don’t matter, my right hand fingerings don’t matter, all that matters is I play the notes that are on the page 5 times without making a single mistake. And then the next round is “my right hand fingerings have to be right too”, but none of the other things matter. And you need to get lots of correct run-throughs of that.

Then the next one is Procedural Practice, which is once you’ve gotten through and all of your variables have been dealt with, you start solidifying this stuff. That’s when you can turn a lot of these shaky passages into really solid passages. Try to get it right as many times as possible, and getting it wrong as few times as possible. The key thing to think about there is, if you are going to play a passage 10 times, and you are able to play it perfectly 5 times and you mess up 5 times, what are the odds that you are going to get it right the 11th time. It’s 50/50. Whereas if you allow yourself to work on something very meticulously and very very slowly, where you feel silly at how slow you are taking it, but you are getting it right 10 times out of 10, you know that the 11th time is not going to be an issue. That is the base work for Procedural Practice. It is like trying to get a really good batting average and knocking it out of the park 10 times out of 10.

Then the third step is Performance Practice, which is taking all of these little pieces you have taken apart, putting it back together, and performing it. Performance can be by oneself but the best thing to do is to play for people. Playing by yourself, for yourself, you are in a certain state of mind, your body is operating in a certain way, whereas if you have another person in the room your mind is in a completely different place, your body is in a different state, your heart rate is elevated, your hands are going to be shaking, and you aren’t used to playing a piece in that state of mind. It’s all about getting run-throughs where you can put yourself in that state of mind and state of body. Also it is wonderful to play for a video-camera. You can go back and reflect on this stuff.

A:         Is this method something unique that you have created?

P:         Jason Vieaux talked a lot about practice technique in his lessons with me, but maybe didn’t put it into words the way I have. I can’t really say that I invented it because I feel like every good musician has practiced this way since the beginning of time. I just read this book on Augustine Darius, who said he used to take a bag full of 100 pebbles and every time he would play a piece of music correctly, he would take a pebble out of the bag and put it on the table until he had emptied the bag. He also said that every time he would screw something up he would take all the pebbles and put it back in the bag. It is a very old tradition of trying to get good run-throughs of stuff.

A:         In a way it is putting this age-old tradition that hasn’t quite been verbalized yet, into a method. Do you see yourself writing and publishing something that expresses this type of effective practice?

P:         Definitely! I’m working on writing a book right now. Hopefully it wouldn’t just be for guitar, and honestly hopefully it wouldn’t just be for music. No matter your discipline, you can benefit from learning to practice better. That’s really what I would like to do, is talk about how to be disciplined and how to achieve really good results, through the lens of music.

A:         Where do you teach and what was your path to getting the job?

P:         The school I’m really passionate about is the New York Guitar Academy, in Midtown Manhattan. I actually got the job through Instagram. I’d been posting 15 second videos on Instagram and one got picked up by an account that shares other people’s videos to over 60,000 followers. The New York Academy liked my video. I followed them back and thought “hey, they saw my video, they saw I could play and they liked it”, so I sent them an email to let them know I was a classical guitarist living in New York and was looking to teach. They didn’t have a lot of space in their studio, but they liked how I played, so they invited me for an interview. They ended up making space in their school for me and I’ve picked up 8 students through them. A few are group classes, which I’ve really come to enjoy. When you learn in a vacuum there isn’t as much riding on you, practicing and learning and enjoying it.

A:         Tell us a little bit more about Instagram and how social media is important for musicians!

P:         Social media is really important for musicians. I got into it because my girlfriend kept telling me “videos are limited to 15 seconds, you can play for 15 seconds!” She basically said, “Phil, you are setting up an Instagram”. Instagram is basically free advertising. It is very low maintenance and lots of exposure without having to play gigs for free. You make an account, take 20 minutes a day to make sure your accounts are up to date, you respond to your fans and people taking interest in your account, and the account grows with time. It’s great for artists right now. It sort of levels the playing field a little bit.

A:         As a teacher what are your thoughts on finding motivation to practice?

P:         Motivation really has to come from within. Honestly I think it is a form of Observational Practice. If you decide that your biggest problem right now is that you aren’t enjoying playing your instrument, then that is the biggest thing you need to fix. It isn’t right hand fingerings/left hand fingerings, sound… You need to set all that aside and focus on remembering why you enjoy playing the instrument.

A:         Being a professional musician is certainly a strenuous life path, what is it about music that makes it worth the struggle?

P:         If you can do something else, you should do something else. I think that people who want to be professional musicians, who know what the cost of that is, and decide to still do it…there’s not another option for them. You’re completely addicted to it. There’s no going back. There’s not something that makes it worthwhile, you just have to do it. I can’t imagine doing something else.

A:         What advice do you have for beginners?

P:         Don’t take days off. You have to practice every day. Otherwise you’ll never get addicted to it. That, and the headstock points to the left.

To keep up with Phil’s work as a teacher and performer, follow his Instagram account: www.instagram.com/phil.goldenberg 

or like his page on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/phil.goldenberg

To donate to the Crown Fellowship and Scholarship program to create life-changing experiences for more young musicians like Phil, 855-855-5900 or visit www.crownguitarfest.org/foundation



Crown announces expansion of Scholarship eligibility to Missoula area

Taylor Smith News

A Rare Opportunity to Study with Renowned Guitar Masters across All Genres!

Crown Guitar Workshop Scholarship Applications due by May 31

Due to the increase of interest from Missoula residents in the Crown summer guitar workshop, the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation (COCGF) has decided this year to expand the eligibility for a full Crown Scholarship to Missoula area residents!

The scholarship provides a rare opportunity to study with a roster of premier guitarists who will be teaching and performing as Artists in Residence during the weeklong event. Scheduled to perform this year are rock/songwriter legend, Jim Messina and his band; Grammy®-winner Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank Zappa; Jazz fusion prodigy Julian Lage; Chris Eldridge of the Punch Brothers; Nashville recording legend Brent Mason; gypsy jazz artists Gonzalo Bergara and Max O’Rourke; country singer/songwriter Liz Longley; Lee Ritenour who will be returning for a seventh straight year; rocker Shane Theriot; SoloDuo, the Italian classical duo of Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli; and Andy Aledort, Guitar World and Rock pedagogue. More artists are still being signed. These artists will be featured in special workshop clinics and all will perform onstage at various times during the week of the Crown Guitar Festival.

Scholarship applications are due on Tuesday, May 31st to attend the seventh annual Crown Guitar Workshop held on August 28th-Sept. 4th. Students, teachers and performers of all ages who reside in Flathead, Lake, Sanders, Missoula, and Ravalli counties are eligible to apply for the scholarship. The workshop will be held at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, MT.  Applications will be accepted through Tuesday May 31st with scholarship awards announced on Wednesday, June 15th.


Teacher and Student/Performer applicants need to have taught guitar or been performing for at least two years and have been a resident of the Flathead, Lake, Sanders, Missoula, and Ravalli counties for at least one year.  Guitar teachers can be either teaching privately or in a school setting. They must complete an application, write an essay about the role of guitar in their life, and submit a recording. Financial need will be taken into consideration.

If you are interested in supporting your community’s musicians by becoming a Scholarship or Fellowship donor, please contact Diane Kautzman at 855-855-5900.  For complete information about the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival including videos from prior years visit www.crownguitarfest.org.

Crown launches Beginner Guitar Program for Bigfork Youth

Taylor Smith News

Crown Celebrates Year Seven by launching Beginner Guitar Program for Bigfork Youth

When the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation (COCGF) and Bigfork ACES after school program decided to collaborate and offer a beginner guitar program for kids grade 5-8, they were hoping to enroll at least six young students. But when they opened enrollment, it quickly became apparent they were going to have a much bigger class. “Lucky for us, we had enlisted not just a great guitar instructor, but an overall wonderful person in general, Tim Torgerson to teach the class,” comments Arin Lever, Crown Festival Manager. As the enrollment numbers kept rising, Tim said, “please don’t turn any kid away who wants to learn to play the guitar, we’ll figure it out.” True to the culture that the Crown embodies two enthusiastic young guitar mentors, Ben Russell and Joseph Torgerson, both scholarship recipients at last summer’s Crown Guitar Workshop, volunteered to help with the class enabling the program to really make a go of teaching 18 enthusiastic beginner guitar students.

Cathy Hay, program director for Bigfork ACES says that Lever came to her looking to team up and start a kid’s guitar program that would dovetail with the already existing 9-12th grade guitar class, taught at Bigfork High. The goal of the initial six-week program was to give kids the opportunity to see if they wanted to pursue learning to play the guitar.

“The kids love the classes, they’re excited and seem to remember to bring their guitars on lesson days,” Hays says, adding that she hopes some of the kids might be ready to perform in the upcoming Cowabunga fundraiser to be held in Bigfork
on April 15-17.

“It’s the perfect age to introduce kids to guitar because they are at a pivotal point where they are learning about who they are and what interests them,” Lever says, adding that a huge part of the program’s success has come from a generous donation provided by the annual Bigfork Brewfest event coordinated by Hilary Shepard. The donation was used to purchase take-home guitars for students that are stored at the Bigfork ACES building so kids can continue to practice. Humbled by the outreach, Lever states “It’s one thing to offer a class, but it’s a whole other entity, when you have so much community support behind what you are doing.”

Extending guitar education opportunities for youth year-round has been a long time goal of the COCGF says Lever. “We love our annual world-class Workshop and Festival in August-September and we’ve hosted many short workshops in local schools, but there was still some room to grow and make a difference in our local youth musician community. Thanks to some amazing local sponsors and educators, that dream has become a reality.”

With the overall response and success of the program, Lever says, the Crown has its sights set on a bigger vision to partner with other communities across the Flathead Valley. “We definitely plan to offer another Beginner Guitar Class in Bigfork, Fall of 2016.

Currently, the COCGF sponsors ten or more scholarships for Flathead Valley teachers, performers and students to attend the annual, week-long, highly esteemed workshop which this year will be held August 28 to Sept. 4, 2016.

“It’s amazing to think that five years down the road these students taking lessons may be applying for scholarships – that is our hope!” she finishes.

For more information about the Bigfork ACES guitar programs contact Cathy Hay at 249-9598. To learn more about the Crown Guitar Workshop Scholarship program contact Diane Kautzman at 855-855-5900 ext. 3 or email dkautzman@crownguitar.org

Fellowship Spotlight! Shem Kahawaii

Taylor Smith Fellowship Spotlight, News

This is the February edition of Crown’s Fellowship Spotlight! featuring 2015 Hawaii Fellowship student, Shem Kahawaii!  Amelia Thornton, Crown Workshop Manager, interviews:


Amelia:  How did you start playing guitar? Did you immediately start by playing the slack-key style?

Shem:  “I started on the ukulele when I around 6. Towards middle school I picked up chords and got more basic study and progression. In high school, I picked up the guitar. Throughout my whole life, my dad was playing a little slack key and a little standard electric, but I didn’t really know what slack key was, what the tuning was, or anything about the genre. One day I was like, how do you do that? Finally I was looking online how to play slack key and they tell you the tunings in the Youtube videos. There is a website called www.taropatch.net that gives you a whole list. It was more helpful than to just play bar chords all the time. And a while later I was playing and my dad heard me playing and asked, “is that slack?” and I was like, “yeah!” and then he went over the scales with me. I kept practicing and practicing. I was introduced to a guitar teacher, and he told me that I was improving quickly. I asked him if he could teach me on slack-key and he told me “Well at this point you could probably teach the class!” So I ended up having a little session with the school music classes, and he began inviting me to his gigs and I did concerts and performances for the school.”

A:  What other guitar workshops have you attended?

S:  “My dad’s best friend, Kevin Brown, told me to go to the George Kahumoku Slack Key and Ukulele Workshop. I ended up getting a scholarship to go out there. I just enjoyed it! The setting… to be playing with the greatest musicians in slack-key in the world. It gave me the inspiration of a lifetime. Right after the workshops, George asked me to come play with him. I got so nervous when he called me up! We played a few small gigs, and because of the small settings I didn’t have too much of a nervous breakdown.”

A:  You were so poised in your FVCC Workshop at Crown this summer, and in your performances. Do you just hide stage-fright well or have you overcome it?

S:  “Well, I went back George’s workshop a second year and they asked me to play the talent show. You are on stage by yourself in front of the greatest musicians in Hawaiian music. I got really nervous at that point. But when I played, I was just in the mood. I couldn’t explain it. When I got on stage I was nervous, but when I started playing that fear kinda just left me. I realized, “all these guys are here to play, they aren’t here to judge you.”

A:  Is there anything in particular that you think about that helps when you get nervous?

S:  “I take all the nervous energy out. At the talent show, the song I was playing talks about a place in Hana. I was thinking about that place and the essence of being there, and understanding what the song was about. It let my mind just think about the beauty of the song, and not playing it.”

A:  How did you get connected to Crown?

S:  “After playing with the George Kahumoku workshops, George recommended to me to go to the workshop in Montana because he felt I had a lot of potential, not only with guitar playing, but he saw that I had the nerve to go up on stage to perform in front of people.”

A:  What changed about your performing and practicing after you came home from Crown?

S:  “I have picked up a whole array of different styles of guitar playing, just being influenced by the jazz players and classical players. By watching them and coming back here to Hawaii, I’ve noticed I’m using a lot of different techniques than I was before I came to Crown. I really think that this opportunity really changed how I play as a musician now. I would say Crown improved my guitar playing, my knowledge on the fret board of the guitar, theory, and of standard tuning. It really helped me to practice and to get involved in a wide range of styles.”

A:  Have you kept in touch with some of the connections you made at Crown and the other Fellowship students?

S:  “I’m not really on the Internet too much, but I do watch their videos and I’m thankful I am friends with them. You know, just because it isn’t my genre of music, doesn’t mean I don’t have to listen to it. It is beneficial for me to hear them play and to see how they’ve improved over the year. That feeling of motivation really helps.”

A:  What is Crown Experience?

S:  “The Crown Experience to me is having the opportunity to learn from and play with people from all around the world and their genres of music. It’s important to know we are all there to play music. We are not there to judge other people. We are not there to look down upon anyone. We are there to improve. And everybody is there to improve, even the instructors. You can pick up alternate ways of learning just by watching and practicing with other people. Having collaboration is key to being a great musician. I believe that Crown to me was probably the most important thing, being a musician.”

A:  How did you enjoy Montana? What is similar about Montana and Hawaii and what is different?

S:  “I’ll tell you the differences immediately: the weather. (laughs) I was not expecting it to be that cold. I did pack well, I’m thankful for that. Jumping in the Flathead lake felt like jumping in a fresh water stream in Hawaii, just without the palm trees. Cedar Island seemed like the small little beaches out on the North Shore of Maui. There were a lot of similarities in the landscape!”

A:  What are you currently working on in your academic studies?

S:  “I’m currently enrolled in University of Hawaii, Maui College. I attend the Institute of Hawaiian Music. We play small venues and gigs and get our names out there. It is really good exposure to play with groups of different instrumentalists. I’m taking all music classes. I’m just having a great time. These music classes are actually run by the same person who runs the Institute, so I’m making great connections too.”

A:  What is your advice to guitarists looking to branch into slack-key style? Who do you listen to?

S:  “The best albums: Gabby Pahinui. That is the traditional slack-key. You will hear a range of the most common slack key songs, but played in a back-yard folk type style. It isn’t a real clean fingerpicking style, its sort of Hawaii old-school, outdoors music. That is the style that was really prominent in the 1970’s and even up until the 80’s and 90’s. Following him is Ledward Kaapana, the grandmaster of slack-key.”

A:  What are your goals as a professional musician and as a Hawaiian artist? What is your trajectory?

S:  “Hawaiian music, or slack key, is very important, but not too many people are playing slack key. The people who have been playing slack key are in the older generation or they have passed away already. For my age, to be playing it, is actually very rare. What I want to do in the future is to promote awareness of it and for me to pass it on. It’s part of a culture. It is not something you just want to lose. The musicians that I have played with really want me to play and keep going because I’m 19, and it is very rare for them to see someone my age doing this.”

A:  Do you think you will become a teacher of this music?

S:  “I would have to say, teaching this type of music…before, it wasn’t really taught. It was more of a folk genre, for family events or for gatherings, but today that is not the case. It is almost dying out. I could potentially teach people if I had a good mindset. But it is kind of hard to teach somebody this style. The student has to understand a lot more about tradition and culture before trying to learn the music. It is more of a lifestyle actually.”

A:  You have clearly found a passion. How is that important in motivating a person to continue being a musician?

S:  “One thing about passion when referring to music, is if you are playing, and you call it practicing, it kinda throws you off. Because it is like, “oh I gotta do homework…I don’t want do it”. If you have that feeling it is not more of a passion thing. But if you pick up the guitar and just randomly start playing, you don’t know it, but you are actually practicing. As long as you are doing what is comfortable and not playing something that’s not going to help you. Another thing about passion and having motivation in music is, knowing what you are playing. Is it alright if I tell you a little story?”

A:  Yes!

S:  “My sophomore year, I was coming home from school one day and I saw this unfamiliar car in the driveway. I walked in the house and this guy was sitting and talking to my dad, and he had a guitar in his hand, and my dad had a guitar. So I sit in and listen, and I’m like, “wow, this guy is really good”. I failed to realize who he was. I didn’t get his name. Later that year, this guy passed away, and I didn’t really know him too well. I just met him once, I didn’t really get his name. A little while after his death, I heard a recording on the radio and I was like, “ok, this is my favorite song. I love it!” I was playing it one day in the house, and my dad was like, “do you know who’s recording that was?”. I said no, and he said, “Remember that guy that came over and was playing with me, that was him.” I was like, “what!”. He was a very great musician, one of the most inspiring musicians for me. Because now that I play his songs, I know that he was such a good friend of my dad’s and that he was just a great person. I felt that I should have known him a little better… but overall it did work out. In a way I feel his spirit when I play.”

A:  What was his name?

S:  “Pekelo Cosma.”


What an inspiring young artist. Shem, we are proud to have had you at Crown and look forward to seeing your future work in the preservation of the Hawaiian slack key music!

If you are interested in learning more about how to sponsor a student like Shem, visit our Foundation Page.    To register for your very own Crown Experience, visit our 2016 Workshop Page.

Fellowship Spotlight! Leandro Pellegrino

Taylor Smith Fellowship Spotlight

Amelia Thornton, Crown’s Workshop Manager interviews one of Crown’s fantastic fellowship students from 2015, Leandro Pellegrino.  Leandro was born and raised in Brazil and completed his Bachelors degree at the Berklee School of Music in 2015.  He resides in Boston and is a full time performer and private teacher.  Here’s a little more insight into Leandro, the guitar, and Crown!  Enjoy!


Amelia: Tell me about how you got your start in guitar?

Leandro:  I remember when I was really really young, six or so, there was an end of the year party with the students and the parents, and there was a band playing The Beatles, and that was the first time I was like, “oh that’s a guitar”. And I felt some attraction, because I already played a cornet in band at the school. When I was 12 I started to really learn. Mainly it was because of Jimi Hendrix and Tony Ayomi, the guitarist in Black Sabbath. I just watched a video of “Hey Joe” on MTV and it just blew my mind. I was like, “what the heck is this guy doing?” he was playing guitar with his teeth, or behind his head. That was I guess, what ignited the fire. My mom put me through a guitar school for 2 or 3 years, and then I went to a conservatory, which had a partnership with Berklee. Then I studied composition, classical music, Brazilian music, until I found my way to Berklee School of Music.

A:  What does going to an intensive music workshop do for a musician?

L:  I’ve gotten the chance to go to smaller camps, larger events like the Crown, or even single day clinics. All information is valuable, sometimes you can relate to it right away, other times it may take one or two years for it to sink in or for you to get to a level where the information is valuable to you. At a big organization like Crown there are beginner, intermediate, or advanced players, you just have to hang around, doesn’t matter the level, and try to absorb, or record it on your phone, as much information as you can. Because at some point it might make so much sense in your life and you will be like, “oh yeah I remember!”. That’s the difference between Crown and going to a small camp where it’s all one level. Also the different genres. Just hang out with the rock guys, or the country, classical guys, or the jazz guys, or the guys like Dweezil. Take advantage of the broad choices that the festival offers.

A:  You grew up in Brazil surrounded by Brazilian music.  Is that why you chose to work with Romero?  How was the experience of studying with him last summer at Crown?

L:  During my life I sort of overlooked Brazilian music because I was always trying to get deep into jazz. I felt it was a great opportunity to really get into Brazilian music and see what Romero’s approach was, his technique, or groove, or just the timing feel that Brazilian music is. And that was just mind blowing because I was finally able to get some questions answered. He just exposed his concept of groove and was really open to it. In this sense, I was able to get the best Brazilian guitar class I’ve ever had in my life, in Montana, with Romero.

A:  What kind of player do you see yourself as?  Any specific genre?

L:  I’m definitely still searching. I don’t think it as totally clear as I want probably. I would say just a melting pot of many things. Recording and putting a lot of time into shaping (the album) is going to make it more clear, to be honest. I like classical music, I like hip-hop, I like jazz, I like Brazilian music, I like bluegrass, percussion, African Music. And this is not stuff that comes out in your playing, but somehow the intent is there. It’s really tough to think about yourself and to sum yourself up as an artist. I don’t see myself as a straight ahead player, and I don’t see myself as someone who only plays Brazilian music, with very strong roots in a tradition, but at the same time I feel like I’m open to a lot of different genres.

A:  You are a teacher yourself, what is one nugget of information that you find you stress to your students in lessons?

L:  As guitarists, we can be maniacs for melodies, so sometimes we overlook the power of rhythm. And that is the very start of music, it’s in our core, our hearts. If there’s no rhythm, you just like, die. I try to make my students understand the importance of devoting time, the same time that you apply to scales and theory, to rhythm.

A:  You came last year to Crown as a fellowship student.  Did you enjoy your time here?

L:  It was great to spend more time in Montana than just one week. I think one week, especially a packed week like the festival, would feel like 5 minutes. And hanging with the other fellowship guys. I learned so much by seeing their approach to practice and performing, and their repertoire. It was a really, really valuable lesson.  Just like, creating that special bond since we spent more time together before the festival. It was really cool, a very special opportunity getting to know a lot of people.  It’s a special festival for sure. And it’s getting more and more special.

A:  We are going to have Julian Lage back again for 2016 as an Artist in Residence and will be co-teaching the Jazz class with Mark Dziuba and the Americana class with Chris Eldridge.  You told me you have met and worked with Julian before.  What do 2016 Crown participants have to look forward to?

L:  Julian is really open to learn. He asks everyone what their issues are, and likes to play with people. He makes everyone critique and leads a very interactive class. It is very cool because not always you get to play with whoever the teacher is. Julian is willing to play duos with each and every person in the class if there is time of course. He is a very humble guy as well. I feel like he was learning as much as us.  That is great, because he says he likes to watch beginners on YouTube, so he can see what is a natural movement before people get used to playing a certain way. That’s the kind of guy he is, he is always learning.

A:  In a few sentences, what is Crown Guitar Fest to you?

L:  Crown is a great guitarist community sharing their passion in a beautiful location full of special people. And we all love guitar, so it’s also like a guitarist’s club…like the biggest guitar hang EVER. Crown’s amazing, you can tell by the amount of good words that people are going to spread about it.


Register for 2016 Workshop Today!

A first look at the 2016 Workshop Offerings!

Taylor Smith Events, News

The 2016 Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshops are in the final stages of planning, and are awaiting your name on the registration list!  This summer we have a number of our beloved faculty members returning to teach workshops with a new twist on their genre.  Acoustic guitarist, Doug Smith will be teaching “Five Styles of Fingerpicking”, Jared Meeker is leading a “Studio Guitarists” course on building technique, versatility, and rock improvisation, James Hogan is moving from Jazz to teach a “Bluesy Fusion” course.  Bret Boyer will be leading the “Singer/Songwriter” course along with Country singer/songwriter, Liz Longley.  Mark Dziuba is also returning and collaborating with Julian Lage to teach “Dziuba and Co. Jazz.”

We have two new genres this year: “Django Gypsy/Jazz” with Gonzalo Bergara and “Americana” led by Chris Eldridge and guest faculty Julian Lage.

A few courses are still in the top-secret planning phases, including the Faculty announcement for the “Crown Beginners” workshop.  We can divulge that the class will be assisted by incoming Artists in Residence and is certain to be a very inspiring experience for any beginner guitarist.

Lee Ritenour will collaborate with Dweezil Zappa on an advanced course called “Excel with the Masters” which will include a mainstage class performance on one of the final nights of the Festival!

Crown is now accepting registrations and deposits to hold your place at the 2016 Guitar Workshop, located on the rustic grounds of the historic Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, MT.  As if a fabulous line-up of teachers and artists wasn’t enough, Crown is situated on the edge of the West’s largest freshwater lake, complete with mountain views and herds of horses.  Crown offers registration discounts for both new registrants and alumni.  Visit www.crownguitarfest.org/register to learn more about our 2016 rates for tuition and housing or call 855-855-5900 to learn how you can take part in “a week that will change your life.”

ANNOUNCING the 2016 Artist in Residence Line-up!

Taylor Smith Events, News

Our New Year’s Resolution is to have a summer of music in the Flathead Valley that is unforgettable, inspiring, educational, FUN, and maybe even a little life-changing!

Here at Crown we are starting this year off right, with the very first announcement of our 2016 Artist in Residence Line-up.  We are very proud to announce many new names to the program including gypsy/jazz guitarist Gonzalo Bergara, soulful country singer/songwriter Liz Longley, and the Italian classical guitar duo, SoloDuo, featuring Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli.  We are also introducing  Nashville session guitar legend, Brent Mason, and Punch Brothers guitarist, Chris Eldridge, who will be performing with our returning jazz Crown AIR, Julian Lage.  Josh Turner was our 2015 Chairman’s Fellowship student and is returning this year to take the stage as an Emerging Artist in Residence!

Crown masters, Lee Ritenour and Dweezil Zappa will also be returning as guest performers and faculty, with plans in the works to lead a workshop called “Excel with the Masters”.  As if this wasn’t exciting enough, more artists will be announced in the coming months!

Enriching the lives of guitar students while enriching the lives of music lovers across the Flathead Valley and the world, is what Crown is all about.  With a line-up this strong, 2016 is bound to be a formative experience for Workshop participants and Festival Attendees alike.

If you are interested in taking part in the 2016 Workshop, please visit www.crownguitarfest.org/register or call 855-855-5900.  For Crown Passes please visit our STORE or call 855-855-5900.

Bigfork Students thanked for creating digital 2015 Crown Mementos

Taylor Smith News

This summer, a group of Bigfork High School students volunteered and were selected to aid their teacher, Mike Roberts, in creating a flash drive memento containing photos and videos for each of the 2015 Crown participants.  Crown is grateful for all of the hard work put in by Mike Roberts, Mike Roessman, and the students in Bigfork High School’s media department.  Crown’s photographer, Mike Roessman, wrote a heartfelt letter thanking them for their hard work, shared below.


A year ago an ambitious plan was hatched to provide the students participating in the Crown of the Continent workshops with a flash drive memento at the time of their departure. The flash drive was going to contain campus life video, performance based video, as well as still images from their performances and the 7 days of campus life. Without question, this objective could not be achieved without a host of skilled volunteers, technology, and time commitment. In exploring the options in how to assemble and execute the plan, I conferred with Mike Roberts who in my estimation brought his technology skills to the table as well as his acumen as a photographer. Over the course of many months a game plan came together, but lingering in the back of my mind was the fact that the “staff” was going to be a collection of high school students whom I had yet to meet.

Mike Roberts went above and beyond not only to hand pick a select group of students for their technology skills, he also selected students that wouldn’t be affected by missing the first week of school. In the back of my mind I was still very apprehensive mainly because we had to deliver the flash drives by weeks end, inherently a daunting task. One of the big issues was the sheer volume of images that were going to be generated. I really wasn’t sure how the students were going to manage.

These concerns were erased the first day. Riley, Reuben, and Adam were enthusiastic and they attacked the appointed tasks with tremendous energy. On the evening of the first day Riley went home and created a spreadsheet making it easier to track the students that we hadn’t photographed for the facial recognition software baseline images. No one asked her to do this, but she did it on her own, contributing in a very professional and adult manner. Reuben, constantly dug deep into his Photoshop and editing skill set, and provided us with needed page breaks, as well as other custom aspects for the slide show. Adam with his strong video and editing skills also made short work of all the tasks that were sent his way. All three showed up every morning and went right to work. They immersed themselves in the workflow to such a high degree that they knew what the next step was. This continually happened whether they had been given direction or not. As importantly, they managed the process with a consistent team approach and never let ego or attitude derail the flow. I can’t say enough about the maturity and professionalism that these students provided. It gives me hope that the educational process is still working, and the youth of Bigfork High School are growing and developing in a most desirable way. It is without question that this project wouldn’t have been pulled off if these students hadn’t shown up and taken care of business.

I would also like to commend Mike Roberts for his tireless and consistent commitment to this project. He was always able to come up with solutions to problems, and inevitably his hand-print is firmly in place on the make-up of our work flow as well as the flash drive development. It’s also important to point out a very big part of who Mr. Roberts is. He is a committed and dedicated teacher who shares not only his knowledge but also his equipment, his very expensive equipment. Having served on the school board myself for 9 years I recognize the difficulty in staying fresh and enthused as a teacher. I watched Mike Roberts never hesitate to take time for a teaching moment. When we had problems, when we needed input, or Mike recognized something worthy of clarification, he stopped the proceedings, gathered the students, and gave them a clear and direct outline of what the next step was going to be. This is in a nutshell is what teaching is all about.

Finally a big thank you also goes out to a past graduate of Bigfork High School, David Meyer. His unwavering commitment (except after the Griz game) and enthusiasm helped bring the group of editors into its complete state. I also believe that he brings to the table a very profound eye as photographer. His help in capturing images in the classrooms and on campus went a long way to help gather enough visual data for the flash drive project.

Lastly I would like to thank Superintendent Jensen, principle Mr. Robbins, and the School Board for allowing these students to participate in this process despite the fact that it was the first week of school. I firmly believe in education first, and daily student participation in class without compromise. But, I also believe that we are raising young adults to participate not only in community, but in real world. I consider the week spent with the Crown to have been very enlightening, educational, and a well-rounded experience for the students. They were faced with pressures and stresses that come with an evolving project, especially a project in its infancy. They needed to use problem solving skills, teamwork, long hours in front of the computer, not to mention dealing with one of the most epic of fly hatches of this century (we’re talking horror movie volumes). Through it all they persevered and excelled without exception. My personal thanks to the students, Mike Roberts, and Big Dave Meyer, we couldn’t have done it without you!

-Mike Roessmann

Power of Music: Crown of the Continent musicians shine

Taylor Smith Events

Daily Interlake News.  Sept 3, 2015

Article by Stefanie Thompson


The Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival would like to thank Stefanie Thompson for her article on the 2015 festival and workshop, featuring Tyvon Hewitt, the Guitars Not Guns Scholarship student.  The mission of the Crown simplifies down to one essential kernel, enriching lives through the study and performance of guitar.  Tyvon is a remarkable young man who exudes positivity and displayed an incredible thirst for collaboration and education during his week and a half in Montana this past summer.  This is truly what Crown is all about.

Tyvon Hewitt, Guitars Not Guns Scholar

Read the Daily Interlake Article here!

If you are interested in joining us for the 2016 Festival and Workshop as a participant please visit our Registration page or contact us at 855-855-5900.

Fellowship Spotlight! Announcing the 2016 Emerging Artist In Residence……

Taylor Smith Fellowship Spotlight, News

The Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival and Workshop is thrilled to announce that 2015’s Chairman’s Scholarship student, Josh Turner, will be returning to Crown for the 2016 season as an Emerging Artist In Residence!  His performances and involvement in many different genres of music during his time here was an inspiration and we greatly look forward to seeing what he does under the spotlight this coming summer.  Turner was first discovered and invited to Crown by founder, David Feffer after his YouTube channel gained national fame.  In 2014, Turner was featured on Good Morning America for his cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”.  These days he has found himself collaborating with the Indianapolis Symphony and celebrating 10 million views on his YouTube channel.  Congratulations Josh Turner!


In the Fellowship Spotlight! interview below, Crown’s Social Media Manager, Amelia Thornton, asks Josh Turner about his thoughts on music, his trajectory, and Crown.  Enjoy this sneak peak into the mind of a very talented young musician.

Tell us more about your background in music and how it led you to where you are today.

Josh:      I have sort of a funny journey to becoming a musician. I was singing in choir and playing piano since I was 8 or 9 years old. Guitar was a real passion of mine all through high school. Actually my childhood ambition was to be a car designer, but then I realized in the 11th hour that I was not interested in it. I wound up picking a college that had a good music program but wasn’t a conservatory so that I could start out sort of not in music and tiptoe into it to see if it felt right. Once I was at Butler, I ended up changing my major to music. It really wasn’t until my senior year that I started to consider trying to pursue music as a career.   So far it has been going alright! I’ve been performing all over the country actually!

How has Youtube and social media helped your career?

J:         I feel like I found myself here as opposed to ever having tried to get here. Youtube specifically has impacted me in a way I never anticipated. I wouldn’t really consider myself a social media savvy person, per say. I have a twitter account I’ve tweeted like 5 things from! I’ve never really pursued followers actively. When I was in high school I heard about Youtube from one of my sister’s who was in college, and was like, “This is an interesting idea!” and I posted a few videos and they started to get a little traction in a 2007 kind of way, so I kept on doing it. It was a fun way for me to get together with my friends and play music. It was an excuse to do that. Things started to escalate when I got to college. A couple of my videos went modestly viral and once that happened I started getting contacted by people who had seen my music online. That is how I got involved with Crown originally.

How was Crown different from other festivals and camps?

J:         At Swannanoa Gathering, rather than being a Jazz class, you would take an hour fifteen minutes of this style and an hour fifteen minutes of that style. It’s entirely acoustic, all styles for acoustic guitar. I was kind of won over by focusing on just one genre for the whole week at Crown.

In terms of genres, where do you think you fall? You cover many styles on your Youtube channel and even played a variety of styles during your week at Crown!

J:         I’ve kind of enjoyed being a Jack of all Trades, Master of None. I studied classical guitar for three years in college, but I kind of cut my teeth on folk fingerpicking. One of the things that made me want to start playing in the first place was how at home the guitar is in so many different styles of music. I suppose why pick up the instrument if you aren’t going to try a little bit of everything that is available to you.

What did you specifically study at Crown in 2015?

 J:         I was in Jazz Guitar Essentials at Crown. I spent most of my time familiarizing myself with the right hand of the guitar, which is fingerpicking. Jazz to me is much more of a left-hand side of the guitar oriented genre. Your right hand should be able to pick a note line, but your left hand has to really know the neck in order to be a truly proficient Jazz player. In order to be able to play whatever you are thinking you shouldn’t just be shooting for random notes. I’ve been trying to unlock the fret board and catch my left hand up with my right hand in terms of comfort on the instrument.

How do you feel about being Crown’s 2016 Emerging Artist in Residence?

 J:         It’s great. I’m really pleased about it! I’m absolutely thrilled. Also apprehensive because I think it is going to be even more challenging for me than being a student. I’ve already started thinking about if I’m going to be talking to people what it is that I think will be important for them to know, and as I’m performing, what is it I can do that I feel is a reflection of what I do but is also original. I’m a big cover guy, but I want to make sure I’m not going up and playing just a covers set. I’m looking forward to it as an opportunity. The fact that I have this coming up and I know where I want to be when I get there, that becomes a practice goal for me. I’m excited because it is going to be a challenge for me.

What is your trajectory as you continue on in your career?

J:         I love the fact that what I’ve been doing up until this point has been hodge podge. I’ve been doing some performing. I’ve been doing some producing. Certainly my Youtube page is as much an expression of me as a producer as it is me as a performer. I love doing that. In a perfect world, I’d like to be able to do a little bit of everything just on a grander scale. I’m not focused on being a front man, a lot of people ask me about that. But I love arranging and I love producing and I love performing. I’m just going to keep working at them all and see what pans out!

Tell us a little about your experience with Good Morning America.

J:         I was on Good Morning America in June 2014, and that was about my cover of Paul Simon’s Graceland. It was just some sort of off-the-cuff thing I did in my apartment and its funny because I had a video that had waaay more views than “Graceland”, a video of me covering “Sultans of Swing” by the Dire Straits. And the “Sultans of Swing” video had nearly a million views by itself at the time that somebody at Good Morning America picked up the “Graceland” video, which had around 60,000 views. Which is a lot of views, but not a crazy amount. I got a call from Ellen on it too. It was sort of an isolated incident that probably helped lead to my working with things like the Indianapolis Symphony and Crown.

The angle on Good Morning America was that I was a Paul Simon sound-alike. “It’s uncanny, this young kid sounds just like Paul Simon!” But a lot of the comments on the video were saying, “It’s good but he doesn’t really sound that much like Paul Simon”, and I was like, “ That’s what I thought!” [laughs]

You just created a video featuring the song “The Weight” to celebrate 10 million views on your YouTube channel. How do you begin to comprehend 10 million views and what inspired the style in which you produced your Thank You video?

J:         It is an exponential kind of thing, especially once you gain subscribers. It took me five years to get my first million views and four years after that to get the next 9 million. It starts snowballing. I think covering songs that people know but are a little off the beaten path is key. If you go too big with top 40 songs, the pool of talent you are trying to compete with on YouTube is ridiculously huge. I try to stay out of that. But I realized as I was coming up on 10 million views, this is really momentous. There is a YouTube channel called “Playing for Change” that gets musicians from all over the world to contribute to songs and the revenue of the channel from the touring they subsequently did goes to charities and music organizations and things like that. I’d done a video a couple of years ago like this with three other people to sing a quartet with me a few years back, so I thought what if I did this on a really big scale, and what if I got everyone that has ever been involved in my videos, all together in one video as a thank you.

What is your advice to people who might want to find a similar path online?

J:         I really was not following a deliberate path or plan on my journey to where I am right now or wherever it is that I’m going. I think the thing that has made it as successful as it has been so far, is being really sincere about whatever it is that you post online and posting something that you feel is a good representation of yourself and you aren’t trying to pander to anyone in particular. That’s been really important to me in terms of my YouTube channel. I think there is an element of fending for your own voice that is very important to making yourself stand out.

What is your advice to guitarists from the standpoint of a producer?

J:         With videos, make it as high quality production as you can afford and then don’t over-manipulate it once you have recorded it because it is so easy to make something sound the most perfect, and the thing is I think it makes a much more compelling product when you leave mistakes in. It is something that the audience can connect with when it has a little bit more humanity to it.

How would you describe Crown to someone who has never been here before?

J:         Crown is like a crazy old western place that is removed from reality in this beautiful way that lets you basically remember why you started playing guitar in the first place. Everything else is taken out of the way, every other distraction, and you have this one thing to focus on and that is really beautiful and pretty unique.