Helen Avakian

Notes From Helen

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What a Week! Day 6 Post Contest
September 30, 2014

The top 3 winners in the Fingerstyle Championship play a show at stage 1, the grandstand stage at the Walnut Valley Festival. I was excited and a touch apprehensive as it was one the largest venues I have played so far. Plus, I would follow Hirotaka and David after one of my favorite WV Fest bands, The Greencards! It was after a very late night as you may well imagine, so I rested up a bit that morning and then got ready and went to the festival to make my grandstand debut. The day was sunny and warm but nice and breezy. It was so fun to finally get backstage of Stage 1. (I have played the other 4 stages before. They are great too!)

I crossed paths with Kelly of  Still On the Hill. Kelly and Donna run the NewSongs contest and they are a fabulous married couple duo based out of Arkansas. Between them they write great songs, play banjo, fiddle, guitar and other instruments as well as sing, harmonize and exude good cheer. I have had the pleasure of getting to know them and their music for the past 9 years. Kelly had heard I won and gave me a joyous hug. Then I met Carl Miner, guitarist extraordinaire of the Greencards after he came offstage. David Youngman came back after a fabulous 2 song set and said "it felt great out there!" The crowd wanted Hirotaka Keneto to play another song but he was out of time. Then I went up and performed "Rhapsody in Blue" and "I Love the Moon." David was right; it felt great. All nerves flew away and I thoroughly enjoyed playing on the stage where I had seen Tommy Emmanuel, The Greencards, Mountain Heart, Hot Club of Cowtown, Still On the Hill, John McCutcheon, fingerstyle and flatpick champions and so many other artists I admire and enjoy. Afterwards my fingerstyle buddies and I took a couple pictures. I met the Greencards again. Carl Miner said "you are a star!"

Later that evening I went to Pete Huttlinger's show. It was great as always. He is one of the most fluid, clean and sparkling players I have ever heard. He also had Mark Sganga join him for a few tunes. They are an excellent duo. Afterwards I went to Pete's merch table and said "hi." He said "I have a show tomorrow at noon. Would you like to join me for a couple tunes?"!





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