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Kevin Horrigan: Finger-Style Guitar Champion

Dec. 27, 2011
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Milwaukee native Kevin Horrigan had been playing guitar informally since his teens, tooling around on the electric guitar and jamming with friends, but he didn't take music seriously until he was 20, when he became infatuated with the finger-style guitar work of artists like Keller Williams and Leo Kottke. Milwaukee, as it turns out, is a great city to be a serious finger-style guitar player: UW-Milwaukee hosts the world's only accredited BFA program for finger-style guitar performance. After becoming the seventh person to graduate with such a degree, Horrigan went on to prove his mettle by winning the annual International Finger-Style Guitar Championship in Canada this summer, besting competitors from Japan, England, Australia and Italy. He has since begun the slow process of writing his first album.

How did you get into competitive finger-style guitar playing?

It's kind of a funny story, but earlier this year I'd gotten to a point in my life where I needed to make some changes. I was 27 and didn't have any prospects musically, so I had actually planned that I was going to go back to school for accounting. I figured I had to change my career path because I wasn't having a lot of success. I entered my first finger-style competition just because I wanted to give guitar-playing one more try before I changed my career, since I'd spent four years earning my degree in guitar performance. So it was really just a way to keep myself from having any regrets down the road; I didn't really expect that I would be winning these competitions. I just wanted to get into the finals; that was my goal. But after I won the first competition, I was given automatic entry into this second competition, and I figured I might as well do that one, too. And I ended up winning the second one, too, which was a very big deal, within the world of finger-style guitar. Winning it really changed my plans for the future.

Have the wins opened up a lot of doors?

Oh, absolutely. I've had people contacting me from around the globe. I've been able to get in touch with lots of artists that I have tons of respect for. I mean, some of the biggest guitar heroes in my life have gotten in touch with me, to tell me congratulations, or to offer me career advice, and I've been talking with managers and sponsors. So it's opened up a lot of doors. The next step is I need to get this album completed.

How is progress going on that front?

It's coming along great. Right now I'm still at the stages where I'm composing material, but each song is sounding better than the one before it. It's been a slow process, but I'm not in any rush just to put filler material on the CD. So the goal is 12 great tunes, and I'm really not interested in compromising the quality of those tunes. As soon as the tunes are ready, I'll be shopping around to a label. I'm pretty sure I know which label I'll be releasing it through, but we haven't made it official yet.


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