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Semi-Finalists Announced for Fifth Annual Wilson Center Guitar Festival


Semi-Finalists Announced for Fifth Annual Wilson Center Guitar Festival

The greatest guitar players of today and tomorrow will be featured at the 2017 Wilson Center Guitar Festival on August 17-19, as 77 semi-finalists from 63 cities around the world travel to the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts (Wilson Center) in Brookfield, Wis., to compete for their share of $32,000 in prize money.

Now in its fifth year, the Wilson Center Guitar Festival is the only guitar festival in the world to feature four different genres of Classical, Fingerstyle, Jazz, and Rock & Blues. In addition to the semi-final and final competition rounds in all genres, the 2017 Festival will include master classes led by some of today's best guitarists, a vendor hall filled with the latest and greatest in guitar gear, live music from local artists, an exhibit of rare guitars from The Eisner Collection, and ticketed headliner concerts, which this year will feature renowned classical ensemble Beijing Guitar Duo (Aug. 17); fingerstyle legends Antoine Dufour, Gareth Pearson, and Mike Dawes (Aug. 18); and modern-day jazz prophet and former band leader of The Tonight Show Kevin Eubanks (Aug. 19).

"The three-day festival is an incredible stepping stone for our competitors," said Guitar Festival Manager Don Sipe. "From career connections to the chance to exchange ideas with fellow guitarists to the master classes and concerts featuring world-renowned performers, it is our goal to provide them with a life-changing experience."

The initial preliminary round of judging took place via YouTube video. From the pool of YouTube and DVD applications, jurors selected the semi-finalists who have been invited to compete in the live semi-final rounds at the Wilson Center.

The 2017 Classical semi-finalists are: Ian Baker (Brentwood, Tenn.), Gabriel Balogh (Denver, Colo.), Chase Bernard (Bloomington, Minn.), Jack Cimo (Arlington Heights, Ill.), Silviu Ciulei (Greenville, S.C.), Kacey Ellis (Naples, Fla.), Jakob Giles (University City, Mo.), Sergio Hernandez (Milwaukee, Wis.), Samuel Hines (Milwaukee, Wis.), Kyo-Hyuk Lee (Queens, N.Y.), Alvaro Miranda Leitón (Mercedes Norte, Costa Rica), Diego Miranda (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Edison Pereyra (Hillside, N.J.), Leonardo Quintero (Tallahassee, Fla.), Alejandro Rodriguez (Milwaukee, Wis.), Jesus Serrano (Mexico City, Mexico), Jonathan Smith (Winchester, Va.), Evan Taucher (Milwaukee, Wis.), Hector Alfonso Torres-Gonzalez (Denton, Texas), An Tran (Evanston, Ill.), Austin Wahl (Minneapolis, Minn.), BranDon Walker (Greensboro, N.C.), and Fang Yuan (Baltimore, Md.).

The 2017 Fingerstyle semi-finalists are: Adam Bjoraker (Milwaukee, Wis.), William Boulé (El Dorado Hills, Calif.), Ben Davis (Shorewood, Wis.), Kevin Horrigan (Milwaukee, Wis.), Niya Keranova (Varna, Bulgaria), Josh Kim (Milwaukee, Wis.), Michael McKinnon (Brussels, Wis.), Elias Pinet (Salt Lake City, Utah), Nermanja Rebic (Woodhaven, N.Y.), Donovan Raitt (Irvine, Calif.), Casey Smithley (Minneapolis, Minn.), Jack Tell (Milwaukee, Wis.), Anthony Troy (Litchfield, Conn.), Nathan Varga (Berwick, Australia), Justin Wang (Potomac, Md.), and Wonjoo Yang (Liverpool, England).

The 2017 Jazz semi-finalists are: Cecil Alexander (Muskegon, Mich.), Aaron Bissoondial (Wayne, N.J.), Jonah Brooks (Highland Park, Ill.), Olin Clark (Lansing, Mich.), David Colon (Whittier, Calif.), Jocelyn Gould (Winnipeg, Canada), Ivan Gygi (Logan, Utah), Yuto Kanazawa (Shirakawa, Japan), Jacob Kelberman (Ambler, Pa.), William Kidera (Algonquin, Ill.), Leo Kim (Sunnyside, N.Y.), Matt Landon (Greeley, Colo.), Geunsu Lee (Beverly Hills, Calif.), Jeff McLaughlin (New York, N.Y.), Diego Melgar (Miama, Fla.), Yoshie Nakagawa (Kitakyushu-shi, Japan), Hector Quintana (Oak Park, Ill.), Cole Runge (De Pere, Wis.), Ravi Sharma (Seattle, Wash.), and Dante Turkow (Brookfield, Wis.).

The 2017 Rock & Blues semi-finalists are: Aaron Bissoondial (Wayne, N.J.), Nicholas Dicklin (Galena, Ill.), Dawid Dobrzynski (Santa Clara, Calif.), Aram Feriants (Brookfield, Wis.), Ramon Luis Galang (Quezon City, Phillipines), Millisa Henderson (Muskogee, Okla.), Doug Justice (Milwaukee, Wis.), David Kleczka (New Berlin, Wis.), Joe Latona (Milwaukee, Wis.), Khoren Mikayelyan (Yerevan, Armenia), Austin Morgan (Roseville, Calif.), Jackson Potter (Roseville, Minn.), Keegan Rhynas (Howards, Wis.), Christopher Schuck (Brookfield, Wis.), Jonathan Smith (Winchester, Va.), Yeril Lozano Torrez (Simpsonville, S.C.), Christopher Wolf (Wauwatosa, Wis.), and Ben Youngblood (Raleigh, N.C.).

First-place winners in each genre will receive $5,000, as well as the opportunity to open for Eubanks on August 19; second-place winners in each genre will receive $2,000; and third-place winners in each genre will receive $1,000. The number of competitors advancing to the final rounds will be determined by the semi-final round adjudicators; the semi-final and final rounds will be judged by a panel of renowned artists from each genre, including 2017 Festival headliner performers and music industry experts. All semi-final and final competition rounds are free and open to the public to attend, with winners announced on the Saturday afternoon of the Festival.

The 2017 Wilson Center Guitar Festival is made possible by the support of Festival Sponsors Jackie and Michael Barber, Krause Funeral Homes & Cremation Services, The Les Paul Foundation, Marcus Corporation Foundation, John Shiely, Vince Shiely, and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Beta Alpha Boule; Competition Prize Money Sponsor Mark and Sharon Cameli in memory of John Cameli; and Festival Partners CandyRat Records, Cascio Interstate Music, Discovery World, Girl Guitar Austin, Girls Rock, Urban Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Public Radio.

For more information on the 2017 Wilson Center Guitar Festival, visit

The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts is one of the finest multi-disciplinary cultural arts centers in the United States, with a mission to be the catalyst for lifelong discovery and exploration of the Arts. Founded in 2002, the Wilson Center presents performances by world-renowned artists and ensembles; offers arts education opportunities; curates the Ploch Art Gallery, which features both national and Wisconsin-based fine artists; and is committed to extending the arts beyond the walls of the Center through Lynn Chappy ArtsPark-a vibrant, outdoor sculpture landscape that will engage and inspire the broader Southeast Wisconsin Community. In August, the annuAl Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival celebrates the world's leading classical, rock/blues, jazz, and fingerstyle guitarists. The Wilson Center nurtures lifelong learning through innovative programs and classes for all interests, ages, and abilities in state-of-the-art studios and classrooms. Some of Southeast Wisconsin's finest arts organizations offer professional instruction at the Wilson Center, including First Stage Theater Academy, Trinity Irish Dancers, and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. From performances and recitals to meetings and special events, the Wilson Center's beautiful spaces are available for rental to individuals, schools, organizations, and corporations throughout the community. 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 four different genres-Classical, Fingerstyle, Jazz, and Rock & Blues-the three-day weekend is filled with activities for music lovers of all ages. In addition to ticketed headliner evening concerts, all daytime activities 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

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