By Mike Appelstein
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It's billed as the Great Midwest Guitar Show: A Tribute to the Art of Hand-Built Guitars, and in addition to showcasing the work of top guitar-makers (or luthiers, as they're called in the handcrafted-axe trade), the show will also feature a Friday-evening performance by fret masters Leo Kottke and Muriel Anderson and the father-and-son picking team of Bucky and John Pizzarelli on Saturday night.
According to Dale Benz, the Sheldon's director of operations and the man behind the Great Midwest Guitar Show concept, the idea came to him while watching John Pizzarelli play a seven-string guitar handcrafted by Missouri luthier Bill Moll. "Watching John play that great guitar that was made here in Missouri, I kept wondering if the idea of an event at the Sheldon that focused on handcrafted guitars could really be done successfully," he says. "That was nine months ago, and now we're already beginning to plan for next year's Guitar Show." Major guitar shows have been held on the East and West coasts for years, but the concept of one based in the Midwest -- especially one focused on handcrafted instruments -- appears to be the right idea at the right time. "Apparently no one was addressing this type of show in the Midwest," says Benz, "and because of our central location, we're getting both East and West Coast guitar-makers who might not have attended a show on the opposite coast. There's even a major collector flying in from Japan just for this event."
Featured luthiers at the Sheldon this weekend include Moll; Linda Manzer, who has made guitars for the likes of Carlos Santana and Pat Metheny; and Stephen Grimes, whose instruments are played by Kottke and George Benson. The luthiers will show their guitars in the Louis Spiering Room, a collection of rare guitars will be on display in the Sheldon art galleries, and clinics and workshops are also on the schedule.
According to Benz, tickets to both the Friday and Saturday concerts are almost sold out. But plenty of tickets to the Guitar Show itself (at $10 per day) are available.