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McNally Smith’s 2nd Annual Lowertown Guitar Festival Draws Over 4,000 Music Fans to Downtown St. Paul

On Saturday, August 9th, McNally Smith College of Music hosted its 2nd Annual Lowertown Guitar Festival. Doubling last year’s attendance, the festivities drew over 4,000 music fans to downtown St. Paul to help celebrate one of America’s most beloved instruments — guitar —  and the artists who play it. Events included free guitar workshops, a teen guitar competition and an outdoor concert featuring a host of nationally renowned artists.

The main event took place in picturesque Mears Park, where attendees relaxed on the grass and in lawn chairs, soaking up the sweet sounds of six-string greats such as five-time GRAMMY nominee and jazz/blues legend Robben Ford (Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, George Harrison), Fender clinician/bluesman Greg Koch, Jim Campilongo (Norah Jones, Bright Eyes, Cake), rockabilly/country player Rosie Flores and National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion Phil Heywood (Leo Kottke, A Prairie Home Companion).

The day began on McNally Smith’s campus with free guitar workshops, including a guitar pedal demonstration courtesy of Eclipse Music. Legendary Fender clinician Greg Koch returned to McNally Smith for a second consecutive year to amaze, entertain and inform local guitar buffs with his masterful playing, hilarious anecdotes and insight into his world-renowned blues technique.

Several adolescent axe wielders then participated in an open jam session before taking the stage in McNally Smith’s Auditorium to play along to a pre-recorded track of their choice in front of a panel of expert judges at the College’s Teen Guitar Competition. While there were a number of outstanding performances, in the end, three winners were selected (see videos, right) and awarded prizes ranging from a Fender Stratocaster, scholarships to McNally Smith’s Summer Workshops and recording time in the College’s Studio Complex, and gift bags filled with wireless systems, pedals and straps courtesy of Guitar Center.

It was a fantastic encore for the Lowertown Guitar Festival, and McNally Smith is already planning for a bigger and better return in 2015!