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A Guitar Festival Hits Its Stride
Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation continues to add events, artists
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, left, and Lee Ritenour, right. | Photos courtesy of crown of the continent guitar foundation
For the past two years, the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation has taken a week each summer to present the Flathead with some of the best guitar talent in the world. Now in its third year, the foundation’s guitar festival keeps evolving, and COCGF chair David Feffer doesn’t see the momentum slowing down anytime soon.

The weeklong event takes place from Aug. 24 through Sept. 1. During that time, music students will have the chance to learn from the greats, including Andrew Leonard, Sonny Landreth, Dennis Koster, Jody Fisher, Lee Ritenour, Doug Smith, Patty Larkin, Susan Mazer and Melvin Davis.

And in the evenings, the public has the opportunity to see this talent in action, live on stage. Last year’s events were all sold out, Feffer said, and so far, roughly 70 percent of this year’s tickets have already been snapped up.
“There is a significant increase in support from the community,” Feffer said. “More people know about it; we’ve been told people have shifted their vacations.”

Each summer brings new exposure to the foundation and the festival, which translates to more artists wanting to get involved and unique opportunities for festivalgoers.

One such opportunity takes place on Monday, Aug. 27 at the main festival stage at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork. Dennis Koster, considered one of the top flamenco guitar players in the world, will play “the ’51,” a legendary flamenco guitar made in 1951 by Marcelo Barbero.

Carlos Montoya and Sabicas – two of the most well-known flamenco players in the music world – both owned the guitar, and Sabicas used it on his album, “Flamenco Puro.”

The ’51 has been in a private collection for 50 years, Feffer said, and has taken on the same mythical qualities in the flamenco world that Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock Stratocaster did in the rock and roll world.

It has never been shown in public, Feffer said, and is worth “six figures.” Aaron Green, an internationally recognized guitar maker and restorer, will present the guitar on Aug. 27 and give the audience a brief rundown of its history.

“They’re going to get to see something that again nobody has had a chance to see in public,” Feffer said. “That’s going to be extremely cool.”

Another new addition to this year’s festival is a high-end auction, during which bidders will battle for items such as an $8,000 watch from the Bozeman Watch Company, sculptures, vacations and the original Nancy Cawdrey painting that became the festival’s poster.
These items will be sold at intermission on Tuesday and Saturday night.

The foundation also expanded its scholarship program this year to 27 recipients, compared to the 20 offered last year, giving more people a chance to learn from the legendary teaching staff.

One new scholarship, provided by a private donor, supports two young guitarists – one from Asia and one from the United States – between the ages of 15 and 18 who have promising musical careers ahead of them.

This year’s recipients are Isana Akita from Tokyo, Japan, and Joseph Douglass, a student from New Jersey in Juilliard’s precollege program. The scholarship paid for their travel and lodging at the Flathead Lake Lodge, Feffer said.

Their arrival at the festival marks the realization of one of Feffer’s goals when he founded the COCGF three years ago.

“I was hoping this would be a place where top aspiring musicians would get to come,” Feffer said. “This steps us up to that level.”

Each evening of performance offers an equal caliber of talent, Feffer said. The extensive schedule is as follows:
    Aug. 24: Guitar Night for the Glacier Fund, featuring Bill Mize, Beth Bramhall and RIO at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish.

  • Aug. 26: Semifinals of the International Lee Ritenour Yamaha Six String Theory Guitar Competition, featuring contestants from the United States, Canada, Israel, Brazil, Bulgaria and France on the Crown Festival Stage at the Flathead Lake Lodge.

  • Aug. 27: Community Guitar Education Program at 3 p.m., offering two free workshops for children and community residents at the Teakettle Community Hall in Columbia Falls and the North Valley Music School in Whitefish.
    At 8 p.m., singer-songwriter and guitarist Patty Larkin plays at the Crown Festival Stage, followed by Dennis Koster.

  • Aug. 28: The Crown Festival Stage will feature jazz and blues legends Lee Ritenour, Sonny Landreth and Dave Gruisin with bassist Melvin Davis and percussionist Sonny Emory.

  • Aug. 29: The Lee Ritenour Yahama Six String Theory Guitar Competition finals at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.

  • Aug. 30: Jody Fisher opens for jazz prodigy Julian Lage and his trio, which includes drummer Tupac Mantilla and bassist Jorge Roeder.

  • Sept. 1: Festival finale at the Crown Stage, featuring country rock pioneers Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, followed by a performance from Matt Smith, Mark Dziuba, James Hogan and other faculty.

For ticket pricing and information, visit www.cocguitarfoundation.tix.com or call 406-249-4671.
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