Guitarmageddon winner Michael Kelsey during his winning performance.
Guitar Center, a musical instrument and professional audio retailer, has announced that Michael Kelsey is the winner of the Guitarmageddon 2004 competition. The grand finals of the three-month nationwide search to find the best unsigned guitarist were held in Dallas, TX on June 5th at the Guitar Center Village main stage during the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival. Kelsey was chosen by an all-star celebrity panel of judges that included: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder bassist), Doyle Dykes (solo artist), Nishat Khan (sitar virtuoso), John Shanks (songwriter/producer Melissa Etheridge, Michelle Branch), Marc Seal (guitarschool.com) and Jay Gordon (critically acclaimed rock blues guitarist).
A crowd estimated at over 15,000 listened intensely as Indianapolis, Indiana’s Michael Kelsey played the winning performance on his Taylor 615 acoustic guitar. Kelsey received a thunderous standing ovation, despite the 91-degree temperature. This last round of the competition involved five other regional winners, who all exhibited impressive talent and mastery, as well: Ryan Formato (NY), Chance Gallagher (CO), Jay Soto (AZ), Kevin Walker (GA) and Andrew Zendejas (CA).
Michael Kelsey won a 2004 Honda Element, a Gibson Custom Shop Guitar and a $2,500 Guitar Center shopping spree. The next day, he had the opportunity to play at the 50,000-seat Cotton Bowl Stadium during the Crossroads Festival, immediately following the performance of one of his major musical influences, guitar legend Steve Vai.
“It makes you feel like a star for a day. You can be overwhelmed by the experience,” stated Michael Kelsey as he walked off the stage at the Cotton Bowl. “But the folks at Guitar Center and everyone made me feel so comfortable and welcome, like I belong here, so I’m just trying to relax and have fun. To be in a situation like this, where there are so many artists and all these great people that I’ve read about and heard all through my life—I cherish the moment. I took it very seriously all the way through, at every level, trying to work out my piece and constantly evolve with it and make the most of it. When that actual time happened where they said I won, you know, it doesn’t register yet, but this is what I was striving for, so I’m happy,” Kelsey concluded.
Judge Tony Franklin expounded on what set Kelsey apart, “They were all so good, but then Michael came along with the acoustic (guitar) and was exploring and doing different things that you would not expect. He was doing the rhythmical things on the body of the guitar and moving around, really feeling it and enjoying it. He won me over because he was original, he was having a lot of fun, and his whole approach was completely fresh. The thing that completely sold it was that the audience went nuts—he really connected with them, they got excited when they saw him, they responded and they were with him all the way. He did things that none of the other guys did, and things I haven’t seen other players do. So he had the whole package, and that spark that made him stand out.”
Now in its fifth year, Guitarmageddon calls upon the most talented guitarists in America to strut their stuff before a panel of judges who choose the winner based on musicality in song context, technique, dynamics, stage presence and originality. The event is open to anyone as long as they are not currently signed to a national distribution deal or endorsement and have not been a previous regional and/or grand prize winner in Guitarmageddon.
For more information about Guitar Center or Guitarmageddon, please go to the company’s Website at www.guitarcenter.com.