Crown of The Continent Guitar Festival
by Aaron Green
Last August, I had the great fortune to spend a week in one of the most beautiful and inspiring places on earth.
Beautiful in scenery and inspiring to be among those who love guitar as much as I do. I am speaking of the Crown
of the Continent Guitar Workshop and Festival in Bigfork Montana, on the shores of the majestic Flathead Lake.
The Festival has taken the basic mold of the National Guitar Workshop and successfully expanded on it in many
significant regards. That which stayed the same is the guitar being represented in all it’s incarnations and the world
class status of the teaching staff. Many NGW teaching alum such as Jody Fisher and Andrew Leonard. Matt Smith,
Mark Dzuiba and James Hogan are on staff and with guest artists such as Dennis Koster, Lee Ritenour, Julian Lage
and Patty Larkin. Previous years have seen such artists as Scott Tennant and Pat Metheny, Joe Bonamassa, Steve
Lukather among others.
The Crown of the Continent Foundation has set their sights very high and it shows in every facet of this annual
weeklong guitar celebration. The workshop and festival takes place at the Flathead Lake Lodge, a world class
retreat with cabins for guests, gourmet meals, thousands of acres of woods and fields. For those not attending guitar
classes there is horse back riding, fishing, swimming, boating and all of 45 minutes away, Glacier National Park,
from which the Crown of the Continent got it’s name.
Every evening there was a concert to attend, held in a massive festival tent. These concerts were very well
attended not only by those taking part in the workshop but also people who lived in or were visiting the area.
Julian Lage, Dennis Koster, Lee Ritenour, Sonny Landreth, Chris Hillman Herb Pedersen, Patty Larkin along with
special guest Dave Grusin all gave stellar performances. To attend these concerts night after night was a real treat
and the response from the crowd made sure the artists knew that. There was also a student concert so those
attending could show off their stuff and that was not only fun but impressive as well.
The 3rd annual Yamaha six string theory competition finals were held during the festival, at a beautiful art deco
inspired theater in downtown Bigfork. The competition is for all styles of guitar, broken up into 6 categories, blues,
rock. acoustic, jazz, country and classical. The event was open to the public and the venue was packed. I was
most impressed with all the finalists and did not envy the judges the job of trying to determine who was the winner.
After all was said and done, the winner who emerged was Karl Marino, from Quebec, classical guitar.
One aspect of the Festival very much worthy of note is the scholarship program for gifted young guitarists who
otherwise would not be able to attend. In classical guitar there were two, both extremely talented guitarists, one
from Japan and the other from New York. They took daily classes with Andrew Leonard and Dennis Koster and by
the end of the week had assimilated many years worth of insight and musicality. The classes were conducted in a
group setting a la Masterclass with these young virtuosos sitting side by side with older and avid afficianados. This
underscored the feeling of the entire week, which was one of mutual support and enthusiasm across all genres, it was
kind of like a little bit of heaven.