For many guitarists, amateur and professional, finger picking, or fingerstyle guitar playing at a proficient level, is a nearly unobtainable dream, much like walking and chewing gum simultaneously. But for the other camp, those guitarists whose right hands with elongated fingernails individually pluck the strings into symphonic masterworks, it seems effortless, like a walk in the park, complete with gum chewing, head patting and belly rubbing.
The Carolina Fingerstyle Guitar Association (CFGA) has been promoting this type of expert playing – think Chet Atkins – for several years, and is sponsoring its inaugural Guitar Festival and clinic 10 a.m. – 9-ish p.m. Saturday at the Landmark Resort hotel in Myrtle Beach.
A $25 ticket includes a full day of open mike jams (open to all guitar playing attendees), instructional clinics and concerts, or for $15 enjoy a 7 p.m. concert with Grammy-winning fingerstyle superstar John Knowles.
Jennifer Easler, promoter, event coordinator, and CFGA spokesperson, has immersed herself in this very specific type of guitar playing ever since her daughter, 19-year-old Kirby Easler, began to excel as a guitarist in the genre. The Easler family, from St. Stephen, has spent the last four years eating, breathing, and sleeping fingerstyle guitar. “My daughter is a member of the association,” said the elder Easler, “and she’s been playing for almost four years.” Kirby Easler is one of the featured instructors at Saturday’s festival.
The young Easler’s accomplishments with the guitar in the relative short time of playing, compared to Knowles’ six decades of playing, seems highly unusual, and it is. But this is no ordinary young woman. Kirby Easler plays at least a half-dozen instruments, and graduated from college with an associates degree before she graduated from high school. While still a teenager she’d obtained a second associates degree and now pursues music full time – she’s a bit of a musical and academic prodigy. On regular trips to Nashville, Tenn. the Easlers befriended Knowles, who is a bit of prodigy himself, having earned a Ph.D. in physics as well as a CGP. A “CGP” you may ask?
Knowles is one of five guitarists in the world hand selected by the legendary Atkins as a CGP, a Certified Guitar Player. Atkins, a 14-time Grammy Award winner, passed away in 2001, but not before creating his “CGP” designation, one that he likened to a Ph.D. One of the so recognized players, Knowles, will perform and teach at Saturday’s clinic. A full-length Knowles concert will close the event.
Additionally, all attendee guitarists are invited to jam in two open-mike sessions, the first from 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., and again from 5 p.m. – to 7 p.m. Several teaching clinics are scheduled with topics such as Effective Practicing and Harmonics, Alternate Tunings and Capos, Songwriting and Storytelling, as well as Arranging and Improv.
“Chet Atkins is the godfather of fingerstyle guitar,” said Jennifer Easler. “He created the designation and included himself, Jerry Reed, Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Wariner, and John Knowles.” The designation was partly in fun, but has its serious side as well, so much so that the Atkins estate retired the naming practice upon his passing. His chosen five guitarists are well-respected equally in the industry and among fans.
General admission tickets for the Guitar Festival will be available at the door. The Landmark Resort is at 1501 S. Ocean Blvd, in Myrtle Beach. Contact Jennifer Easler for more information (843) 412-5962
“I played a bunch of [band] instruments early in high school,” said Kirby Easler, but playing one note at a time got boring to me. So I got really into the guitar. I heard a guy playing John Mayer, and then I heard Tommy Emmanuel, and I was driven to find about him and his playing, so I went online. YouTube has really helped me.”
For those wishing to see Kirby Easler beyond her Saturday showcase, she performs most Thursday evenings at Single Smile Café in Summerville.
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