Guitar Greats Gear Up for Summer Spectacle

Crown Guitar Festival announces stellar lineup on the shores of Flathead Lake

By Tristan Scott
Emily Elbert performs at the Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival in Bigfork on Aug. 30, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The artistry of the guitar spans every musical genre and its masters hail from all corners of the globe.

For nearly a decade, the divine diversity of guitar music has been on full display in this corner of Montana, along the shores of Flathead Lake, where an eclectic group of virtuosic musicians gather annually to celebrate the universal language of guitar music and mentor students of the instrument young and old.

Dubbed Montana’s “Best Backyard Party,” the 2018 Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival is a global event, attracting international talents eager to experience the nature and pace of Northwest Montana, and who want to share their talents with students and audiences alike.

It has become a staple of late summer and provides a six-stringed segue to fall. The concerts take place every evening state-of-the-art big-top tent during the weeklong event on a stage at the Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork.

The theme for the ninth-annual Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival held Aug. 26 to Sept. 1 is “Why do you Play?” Organizers hope the week will help musicians find their answers to the theme-question and encourage participants to share their thoughts on social media at #WhyIPlay.

The gathering brings together a stellar lineup of world-class artists in residence, professional instructors, multi-instrumentalists, and guitar students ranging in skill from beginner to pro, who convene for the week to celebrate their love of guitar.

Produced by the nonprofit Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation, past events have boasted a roster of elite guitarists, Grammy-award winners and Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famers, including John Oates and Lee Ritenour.

“Until I experienced this firsthand, I had no idea how absolutely incredible it is,” Dobro guitar master, Jerry Douglas, a 2017 artist in residence, said of the festival. “I am a full believer and supporter of the Crown.”

Douglas is undeniably known as the world’s greatest player of the slide resonator guitar – referred to as Dobro.

He’s been named Country Music Association’s Musician of the Year three times and received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. He’s collected 14 Grammys and is co-director of the popular BBC Television series “Transatlantic Sessions.”

The list of artists he’s worked with contains the likes of Emmylou Harris, Béla Fleck, the Whites, Peter Rowan, Reba McEntire, Kathy Mattea, and Dolly Parton and many more. Since 1998 he’s been a featured musician with Alison Krauss’ band Union Station.

Douglas joins an ever-expanding list of Grammy winners and nominees who have taught for the workshop and performed in the festival.

Students attend daily classes with professional instructors in six genres, many who have been with the Crown since its inception.

The core classes are enriched by artist-in-residence master classes, elective classes and nightly musical jams, with seven nights of performances topping off the experience.

Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival in Bigfork on Aug. 30, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The spectacular line up 2018 artists in residence includes: Edgar Winter, a prolific musician and performer; Jim Messina, songwriter of the iconic American groups Buffalo Springfield, Poco and Loggins and Messina; Rusty Young, a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, as well as a core member of Poco; Cory Henry, Grammy-winning B3 organist; Nathan East, bassist extraordinaire and a founding member of Fourplay; Lee Ritenour, multi-winning Grammy jazz master returning for his eighth year with the Crown; The Pat Martino Trio led by the legendary jazz guitarist; SoloDuo, a world-renown Italian classical guitar duo; Justin Townes Earle, the rootsy Americana singer and songwriter; and Liz Longley, award-winning singer and songwriter.

The Festival also consists of five public concerts featuring these renowned artists in collaboration with the faculty musicians and a Crown All Star band.

To view dates, scheduled, the artist lineup, or to purchase tickets visit

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