Canadian Guitarists Take Top Spots in Indiana Competition

Isaac Bustos (right) during master class

The 7th Indiana International Guitar Festival and competition was held on October 22nd and 23rd on the campus of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, and once again it proved to be a resounding success, with the competitions particularly impressive this year. The three divisions featured a total of 37 competitors—the Open Division had 24 contestants from numerous countries, such as Mexico, Chile, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, and China, as well as guitarists from ten different U.S. states. The Youth and Senior Youth divisions featured 13 talented young players.

The first prize of the Open Division was shared by two Canadian guitarists, Steve Cowan and Stephen Lochbaum; both received a cash prize and a record deal with Spain’s prominent record label EMEC Discos label. Both guitarists are already quite well-established: Cowan recently released a fine CD, Pour Guitare, devoted entirely to compositions by contemporary Canadian composers. And the versatile Lochbaum is a multiple competition winner who is pursuing his doctorate at the University of North Texas. The third prize in Indiana went to Austin Wahl and the fourth prize to Henry Johnston.opendivJudges and Open division winners (from left to right): Atanas Tzvetkov, Elzbieta Szmyt, Luke Gillespie, Elizabeth Wright, Henry Johnston, Austin Wahl, Steve Cowan, Stephen Lochbaum, Ernesto Bitetti, and Agustin Maruri.

lochbaumcowanOpen Division Winners: Stephen Lochbaum (top) and Steve Cowan 

The Youth Division featured guitarists between the ages of 14 and 18, and the first prize went to Aytahn Benavi, second to Nolan Harvel, third to Catherine Elmer, and fourth to Liam Hedrick. The winner of the Junior Youth Division was Gwenyth Aggeler, while the second prize was offered to Ian Tubbs, the third and fourth prizes went respectively to Nick Bonn and Alexander Elko.


Parallel to the competitions, the two-day event also presented two popular guest artists, Isaac Bustos from Nicaragua (currently head of the Texas A&M Guitar department), and Rovshan Mamedkuliev from Azerbaijan/Russia. Both virtuosos held master classes and outstanding recitals.  Guitar aficionados filled most of the 400 seats of Auer Hall, where Bustos and Mamedkuliev each received standing ovations. On Saturday, Bustos performed an eclectic repertoire that impressively showcased his musicality and technical precision. And the atmosphere of Mamedkuliev’s outstanding concert was captured by the local media, including Peter Jacobi from the Bloomington Herald Times, who stated that the “audience roared in approval, roared like a hungry soccer crowd.”

Below: Rovshan MamedkulievmamedkulievAnd here’s a bonus video: Mamedkuliev performing Tárrega’s ‘Gran Jota’ in Portland, Oregon, in 2014