Master musicians take stage at annual gathering

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Corey Henry. (Photo by Filippo Ferrante)

Organizers of the Crown Guitar Festival promise five nights of music at this year’s venue, opening with the Edgar Winter Band, segueing to jazz legends Pat Martino and Lee Ritenour and ending in a grand finale featuring Jim Messina and the Good Road Band, Rusty Young and more.

The ninth annual weeklong guitar music extravaganza kicks off Tuesday, Aug. 28 and runs through Saturday, Sept. 1, at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork. In five nights of concerts, the master musicians who have come to teach for the Crown Guitar Workshop will perform in their guitar genre.

“It’s an almost surreal week of music as some of the most notable – and soon-to-be notable – names in the music world drop into the village of Bigfork, and share their love of guitar and music,” said Marti Kurth, media spokesperson for the festival. “It’s also a rare opportunity for local Montanans and visitors to hear some of their favorite musical icons at a reasonable cost and without the hassle of huge crowds. The word on the street is it’s the best backyard party of summer.”

Produced by the nonprofit Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation, the festival is one of the most popular music events in the Flathead Valley. Concerts are held in an all-weather big-top tent with professional sound, lighting and close-up video projections of the stage action on big screens to enhance the experience.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for preshow music on the intimate Meadow Stage that showcases the talented workshop students and faculty, ranging from professional musicians to talented first-time participants. Weekday concerts start at 7 p.m.

Food and drink vendors are onsite and an auction tent is set up for bidding on an array of artwork, big-city concert tickets and assorted delights that help support the foundation’s workshop scholarship program.


The festival begins with a Rock and Blues party on Tuesday, Aug. 28, with the one-and-only Edgar Winter and his full band. Winter is a legendary rocker and composer whose music encompasses many different genres, including rock, jazz, blues and pop, with composing credits on 15 films and TV projects. He brings special guest Mark Bonilla on lead guitar to join his band. Opening the show will be Cory Henry, a Grammy-winning B3 organist/keyboardist known by his work with the bands Snarky Puppy and more currently as leader of The Funk Apostles.


Jazz takes the stage Wednesday, Aug. 29, with the Pat Martino Trio, led by the jazz guitarist who offers a polished jazz style honed over a long career. Contemporary jazz follows with multi-Grammy nominee and winner Lee Ritenour, back for his eighth appearance. Nathan East, bassist extraordinaire, fresh off his tour with Eric Clapton, will fill in the deep notes. Ritenour and East are founding members of the jazz quartet Fourplay.


Americana night on Thursday, Aug. 30, will blend two styles of the American folk and roots sound. The experienced guitar sounds of Rusty Young and the iconic band Poco will be augmented by Justin Townes Earle, a songwriter who is considered a forefather of contemporary Americana. Emerging artist Guthrie Brown, a Nashville transplant from “Old Montana,” opens the show.


Stars and Rising Stars on Friday, Aug. 31, is bonus night as the workshop participants are joined by their faculty teachers onstage to show off their new and improved skills gained from the week. The evening is like a recital on steroids as there are no act breaks and each group has a backup band upping the energy level, Kurth said.

An added bonus is that Michelle Kath, daughter of Terry Kath, cofounder and lead guitar player for the famous group Chicago, will be at Crown on Friday Aug. 30, to introduce and present the first annual Terry Kath Fellowship and discuss her award-winning film, “The Terry Kath Experience.” The night’s admission is complimentary with a suggested donation of $10.


Classical & Rock Festival Finale on Saturday, Sept. 1, starts early at 4 p.m. and offers five hours of nonstop music. Three full music sets are planned, opening with the artistry of Italian classical guitar in SoloDuo, comprised of Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli. Songwriter Liz Longley then brings her distinctive voice and guitar to a set of personal songs.

The evening revs up when Jim Messina and his Good Road Band are joined by Rusty Young, his former collaborator in the popular band Poco, for a country rock extravaganza. Expect some musical surprises as the evening progresses and many of the master musicians jump onstage for a grand finale serenade.


“Magic Bus for a Magic Night”

Transportation is available from the Whitefish area to the concert for Tuesday’s opening and Saturday’s finale. The Magic Bus ticket of $60 includes a concert ticket and round trip ride from Whitefish. Seating is limited and advance reservations are recommended.

Single advance concert tickets are $40 adult, $20 youth through age 18 ($5 more at the gate). A transferable Crown Pass for all five concerts is $200 and includes preferred seating and a logo seat cushion. Buy tickets online at or call 855-855-5900.

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