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— Michael Kelsey is champion of the three-month
nationwide competition to find the best unsigned guitarist —

— Kelsey is chosen by an all-star panel of judges at Guitar Center Village stage
at the Eric Clapton Crossroads Festival on Saturday June 5, 2004 —

— Winner plays the next day at the 50,000-seat Cotton Bowl Stadium, immediately following the performance of one of his influences, guitar legend Steve Vai —

Guitar Center, America’s leading musical instrument and professional audio retailer, has announced that Michael Kelsey is the winner of the massive Guitarmageddon 2004 competition. The Grand Finals of the three-month nationwide search to find the best unsigned guitarist were held in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, June 5th at the Guitar Center Village main stage during the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival. Kelsey was chosen by an all-star celebrity panel of judges that included: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder bassist), Doyle Dykes (solo artist), Nishat Khan (sitar virtuoso), John Shanks (songwriter/producer Melissa Etheridge, Michelle Branch), Marc Seal (guitarschool.com), and Jay Gordon (critically acclaimed rock blues guitarist).

A crowd estimated at over 15,000 listened intensely as Indianapolis, Indiana’s Michael Kelsey played the winning performance on his Taylor 615 acoustic guitar. Kelsey received a thunderous standing ovation, despite the 91° temperature. This last round of the competition involved five other regional winners, who all exhibited impressive talent and mastery, as well: Ryan Formato (New York), Chance Gallagher (Colorado), Jay Soto (Arizona), Kevin Walker (Georgia), and Andrew Zendejas (California).

Michael Kelsey won a 2004 Honda Element, a Gibson Custom Shop Guitar, and a $2500.00 Guitar Center shopping spree. The next day, he had the incredible opportunity to play at the 50,000-seat Cotton Bowl Stadium during the huge Crossroads Festival, immediately following the performance of one of his major musical influences, guitar legend Steve Vai.

“It makes you feel like a star for a day. You can be overwhelmed by the experience,” stated an ecstatic Michael Kelsey as he walked off the stage at the Cotton Bowl. “But the folks at Guitar Center and everyone made me feel so comfortable and welcome, like I belong here, so I’m just trying to relax and have fun. To be in a situation like this, where there are so many artists and all these great people that I’ve read about and heard all through my life — I cherish the moment. I took it very seriously all the way through, at every level, trying to work out my piece and constantly evolve with it and make the most of it. When that actual time happened where they said I won, you know, it doesn’t register yet, but this is what I was striving for, so I’m happy,” Kelsey concluded.

Judge Tony Franklin expounded on what set Kelsey apart, “They were all so good, but then Michael came along with the acoustic (guitar) and was exploring and doing different things that you would not expect. He was doing the rhythmical things on the body of the guitar and moving around, really feeling it and enjoying it. He won me over because he was original, he was having a lot of fun, and his whole approach was completely fresh. The thing that completely sold it was that the audience went nuts — he really connected with them, they got excited when they saw him, they responded, and they were with him all the way. He did things that none of the other guys did, and things I haven’t seen other players do. So he had the whole package, and that spark that made him stand out.”

Now in its fifth year, Guitarmageddon calls upon the most talented guitarists in America to strut their stuff before a panel of judges who choose the winner based on musicality in song context, technique, dynamics, stage presence, and originality. The event is open to anyone as long as they are not currently signed to a national distribution deal or endorsement and have not been a previous Regional and/or Grand Prize Winner in Guitarmageddon.

Guitarmageddon kicked off on March 16, with four weeks of in-store competitions at 124 of Guitar Center’s stores across the country. The next in-store competitions were held March 23 and March 30, and the store finalists competed on April 6. Store winners then went on to 14 District Finals held April 27, with those chosen as district champions battling it out at three Regional Finals (Hallendale, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and Los Angeles, California) on May 19. Guitarmageddon culminated in the Grand Finals, which was held on June 5th at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, at Fair Park and Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas.

Guitarists competed by playing along with their choice of one of 18 original backing tracks created by Line 6, plus showing off with an additional 2-minute solo after the backing track performance was done. Contestants got to further tailor their signature guitar sound by choosing one of five different amplifiers, with options including models from Crate, Fender, Line 6, and Marshall, or running direct through a Bose Personalized Amplification System. In addition to the Grand Prizes of the 2004 Honda Element, Gibson Custom Shop Guitar, and a $2500.00 Guitar Center shopping spree, the event has attracted other prominent sponsors and prize contributors. Featured Guitarmageddon bounty included: headphones and personal amplification systems from Bose; Les Paul guitars, Goldtone 1/2 stack amplifiers and GIG accessory packs from Gibson; PODxt Pros, POD 2.0s, and Guitar Port effects processors from Line 6; and 14-$250.00 Guitar Center shopping sprees courtesy of the Guitar Center Preferred Player Credit Card.

Photo Caption: Guitar Center congratulates Michael Kelsey, 2004 Grand Prize Winner of Guitarmageddon. Shown L-R: Marty Albertson (President and Co-CEO of Guitar Center, Inc.), Michael Kelsey, and David Angress (Executive Vice President and General Merchandising Manager of Guitar Center, Inc.).

Photo Caption: Michael Kelsey, 2004 Grand Prize Winner of Guitarmageddon, is pictured giving his winning performance.

Photo Caption: Celebrity judges congratulate Michael Kelsey, 2004 Grand Prize Winner of Guitarmageddon. Shown L-R: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Marc Seal, Tony Franklin, Nishat Khan, Jay Gordon, Michael Kelsey, and Doyle Dykes.

…ends 861 words

About Guitar Center
Guitar Center is the nation's leading retailer of guitars, amplifiers, percussion instruments, keyboards, and pro-audio and recording equipment. We presently operate 129 Guitar Center stores, with 108 stores in 46 major markets and 20 stores in secondary markets across the U.S. In addition, the American Music division operates 19 stores specializing in band instruments for sale and rental, serving thousands of teachers, band directors, college professors, and students. Guitar Center is also the largest direct response retailer of musical instruments in the U.S. through its wholly owned subsidiary, Musician's Friend, Inc., and its catalog and web site, www.musiciansfriend.com. More information on Guitar Center can be found by visiting the Company's web site at www.guitarcenter.com.

The Guitar Center logo is a registered trademark of Guitar Center, Inc. Other company and product names may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.

For further information on Guitarmageddon,contact Dustin Hinz at 818-735-8888 ext. 2355
or dhinz@guitarcenter.com.

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