2012 Competition

Congratulations to our first annual Acoustic Guitar Competition winner Chris Surma, from San Jose, and runner-up Ryan Ayers coming all the way from Playa Del Rey!! BRAVO and a big standing o' to all 10 contestants, it was an unbelievable afternoon with our esteemed judges Art Thompson, Rosalie Howarth, Joel Jaffe and James Nash, they were blown away by the talent! A big thank you to our sponsors, their support is immeasurable, our host Artistic Edge at Blacksmith Square and sound and production provided by Line 6 Stagescape M20d and Prime Time Entertainement.

Runner up Ryan Ayers kneeling on left, Winner Chris Surma, kneeling on right, BRAVO!!!

The competitors were judged on: 1) technique; 2) creativity; 3) tone; 4) musicianship; and 5) overall impression.

The grand prize winner of the Acoustic Guitar Competition received:

-Voyage-Air Songwriter Series Guitar
-An interview with Rosalie and your song played on KFOG’s Acoustic Sunrise
-Article and music video posted on GuitarPlayer.com
-Recording session at legendary Studio D Recording with award winning engineer/producer Joel Jaffe
-Three paid performance engagements at select Downtown Livermore businesses
-Paid spot on stage during the 2013 Livermore Wine Country Festival

CONTESTANTS COMPETITION VIDEOS (If you would like to book a great guitarist for your next gig, contact any of the contestants below!)

Chris Surma, San Jose  natus6@aol.com
Ryan Ayers, Playa Del Rey   layersofayers@gmail.com
Robert Sakogawa, Pleasanton   rsakogawa03@gmail.com
Jeff Miller, Loma Prieta   jeffm_lpsi@yahoo.com
Horatio Monroe, Tracy     Horatiomonroe@yahoo.com
Jack Cutter, San Mateo    jack@jackcutter.com
Hunter Lewis, Livermore   dlewsports@comcast.net
Damian Garcia, Santa Cruz   dgcherrygarcia@gmail.com
Karen Soo Hoo, San Mateo   soohoo94401@yahoo.com
Chris LeBel, Livermore   larrylebel@comcast.net 

A HUGE THANK YOU TO OUR ESTEEMED JUDGES
Guitar Player Magazine’s Senior Editor Art Thompson, KFOG’s Acoustic Sunrise host Rosalie Howarth, Studio D Recording’s producer Joel Jaffe, and Santa Cruz Guitar endorser James Nash of the Waybacks.

CONTESTANTS ENTRY VIDEOS (If you would like to book a great guitarist for your next gig, contact any of the contestants below!)

Chris Surma
Ryan Ayers
Robert Sakogawa
Jeff Miller
Horatio Monroe
Jack Cutter
Hunter Lewis
Damian Garcia
Karen Soo Hoo
Chris LeBel

COMPETITORS
Winner: Chris Surma
Chris Surma from San Jose, California has been playing guitar for over 20 years. Self released two albums, "Ride to the Red Sun" and "The Relative Sequence" and has also played lead guitar in the local heavy metal San Jose band "Currency .357"   Chris has innovated and crafted several two handed tapping techniques into his playing over the years. A few of his main influences are Joe Satriani, Michael Hedges, and Metallica. Chris is currently teaching guitar in San Jose and is working on his 3rd album due for release in the fall.

Runner Up: Ryan Ayers, Playa Del Rey
Ryan Ayers began playing guitar at the age of thirteen. He attended Loyola Marymount University and graduated with degrees in classical guitar performance and recording arts. It was there that he began his studies with classical guitarist Martha Masters. An active composer for over ten years, Ryan released his first record of ten original pieces for guitar entitled ermita in 2011. In 2012, he published the corresponding sheet music and tablature. These pieces employ classical guitar technique to explore the reaches of steel string and finger style guitar. A gifted melodist, Ryan also likes to experiment with gestures, textures, and rhythmic ideas in his compositions.

Jack Cutter, San Mateo   
Back in the mythical 1970's, Jack migrated from Buffalo, New York, having minored in music at State University of New York at Buffalo. While at University, He played in bar bands on the side. Coming to San Francisco, Jack performed in various acoustic and rock groups for ten years before becoming a recording engineer and studio owner at Razor’s Edge Recording. Putting the guitar to rest for a spell, he continued as a recording engineer for the following ten years. After a further hiatus as a software developer, Jack started to return to a musical path in 1996 performing primarily original acoustic guitar instrumentals. Over the past few years he had also been holding down electric guitar and vocals with two classic rock/R&B Groups. He currently performs instrumental fingerstyle guitar for events and Bay Area venues. 

Damian Garcia, Oakland/Santa Cruz
My name is Damian Garcia and I am from Oakland California, but in Santa Cruz for school. I started playing guitar about 4 or 5 years ago. I would always listen to music before bed so naturally I wanted to play an instrument. Started with an electric and I wasn't too good or steady at it. I had fun but couldn't do too much right so I gave it up and awhile after I bought a nylon string from Mexico and that was it. Still feel like I'm playing that first time I got a nylon string guitar. But what I listened to mostly punk and metal and such. Then I began playing a nylon string and studying music in school and so flamenco, and classical, tango, and jazz are also influences now. I doubt I would be playing guitar right now if I never got a hold of a nylon string guitar and felt what I did when I play/played it. So in short I like playing guitar....And eating hamburgers. Mmm

Chris LeBel, Livermore   
Nineteen year old Chris LeBel has been playing guitar and singing for ten years, taking lessons from folk singer Roger Kardinal, and blues artist Lane Coker.  At fourteen, he began playing at coffee shops and by sixteen was playing at wineries, tasting rooms and private events throughout the tri-valley area. Chris’ music consists of his originals, and covers from the sixties  to todays top 40’s ranging from CSNY, Eric Clapton, and Van Morrison, to Maroon 5, Jason Mraz and Train. His music inspiration comes from the support of his family, friends and the many incredible musicians he has encountered throughout his life.

Hunter Lewis, Livermore
Hunter Lewis was raised in Livermore, a graduate of Livermore High in 2012 and now is a freshman at Cal State Fullerton.  He started playing at 14 when he picked up his dad’s guitar and quickly, to his dad’s chagrin,  got way better him.  Hunter studied under Ryan Tapley at ABC Music here in Livermore--his musical influences are Folk and Country and inspired by the styles and lyrics of Ryan Adams, Adam Duritz of Counting Crows and the great Bob Dylan.

Jeff Miller, Loma Prieta
Jeff’s musical style combines elements of blues, jazz, rock, country, and funk. While Jeff started on electric guitar, over the last several years he has actively pursued his interest in finger-styled solo guitar. His acoustic guitar techniques include “traditional” country/country-blues finger picking, walking bass lines, alternate tunings, jazz harmonies, and rock power chords. Besides creating stylized versions of popular songs, Jeff also writes songs and occasionally sings too. Jeff takes his inspirations from a variety of musicians including:  Jimi Hendrix, Chet Atkins, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, BB/Freddy/Albert King, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Les McCann, James Brown, and Laurence Juber. Jeff often combines these influences with his own ideas and “feel” to create multi-styled musical textures within his songs.

Horatio Monroe, Tracy
Influenced by many artists such as Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, & Jimmy Hendrix, Horatio Monroe's strong voice, heavy guitar playing and "straight-forward style" is what sets him apart from the rest.


Robert Sakogawa, Pleasanton

Robert began his musical journey as a violinist.  After 10 years of training on that instrument, he took up the guitar at age 18 and has never looked back. His primary influences pull from the areas of modern jazz and world music.  He still keeps his hand in the foundations of rock in his role as co-guitarist for the perennial tri-valley classic rock band, Audio Illusion. Robert is currently a resident of Pleasanton with his wife Joan and 4 children: Justin (23); Tim (21); Krista (18) and Matt (15). They all love music and their 2 dogs, Kiki and Yoshi.

Karen Soo Hoo, San Mateo
Hailing all the way from the Lone Star State of Texas, Karen Soo Hoo's original music has often been described as a "Mosaic of Sound". Karen serves up a tasty blend of Jazzy/Pop to Bluesy/Rock. Some of her previous performances have included openings for established acts such as: rockers Chris Isaak, Joan Jett, Taylor Dayne, comics Margaret Cho & Kathy Griffin, the rock group "Train", and jazz prodigy, Taylor Eigsti. Her music has been heard throughout various media outlets: KGO NewsTalk 810 AM radio, college radio stations KKUP 107.5 FM, KUOP & KZSC and various PBS television programs. Karen was a grant recipient from the Asian American Arts Foundation & philanthropist, S. Kneisley. Aside from being a singer/songwriter, Karen is a multi-insturmentalist, performing on guitar, drums & percussion. Her passion for the culinary arts led to her appearance on the award winning KQED television series, "Check Please! Bay Area."