What can you get for $35 these days? Maybe dinner. Two and a half movie tickets? Lattes?
If you aspire to play guitar, piano, bass or drums, I have a better investment for you. Or rather Grammy Award Winning guitarist Lee Ritenour does. With only a $35 registration fee, Lee Ritenour’s Six String Theory Competition gives opportunities to musicians 16 years- old and up to perform with him at the Blue Note Tokyo Festival, Festival da Jazz in Switzerland and NAMM in Los Angeles. That’s not all. There are scholarships for the Berklee School of Music. That does not mean you have to be a kid, according to Sharleen Bazeghi, Project Manager. The oldest applicant they ever had was 69 years- old. The scholarship is available to anyone who wins. The only criteria besides age is that the applicant is not already a professional musician. That is defined as someone making their full-time income from music, she says.
Originally started as a one-time competition in 2010, it has now become bi-annual. This year, 9 winners will be awarded: one pianist, one bass guitarist and one drummer. In guitar, you may register in one or more categories: Rock/Metal, Blues, Jazz/Fusion, Acoustic/Country, Classical/Flamenco and Rhythm/Accompaniment. One guitarist will win in each category.
Lee originally started the competition as a way of celebrating his guitar-playing anniversary when recording his Six String Theory album. In addition, to playing on the album with guitar greats like, B.B. King, George Benson and Slash, he thought it would be amazing to include younger talent as well. That’s when he launched the competition. Lee hadn’t necessarily intended the competition to continue beyond the first, live competition held in Santa Monica. However, it was such a success, he decided to hold the competition again with Berklee, Monster and Yamaha on board.
“When I first started this competition, it was my hope it would grow to become a valuable entity in mentoring and providing opportunities for the next generation of musicians,” Lee Ritenour told Un-Block The Music. “Now in the 6th competition, it has grown beyond my wildest dreams with musicians from more than 48 countries registering. It’s just ridiculous the amount of talent that is floating around out there. Providing opportunities such as professional recording, performing, scholarships, and mentoring is a way for me to support up and coming players that are trying to make a mark for themselves. And it’s a great way for the applicants to test where they’re at musically. ”
Now that the contest is online, at least half of the winners of late have been international, says Bazeghi. “Calling the winners is the best part of my job!” Several of the winners continue to play with Lee in various locations around the world.
Shon Boublil was the 2010 Guitar Grand Prize Winner, in the classical category and was awarded a four-year full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, graduating with honors in 2014. Shon not only made his debut recording Six String Theory, but he was recognized as a Yamaha Performing Artist and a D’Addario Gold Performing Artist.
One of the 2016 winners, Raphael Pannier, drums, France, has just released his first album with the Euro American Jazz Quartet. It is called These Times and is available on major digital platforms.
Isaias Elpes was the 2016 Bass Winner. He performs with Lee and other world-renowned musicians including Abraham Laboriel, Alex Acuña, and more. In the studio, Isaias has collaborated with such legends as Grammy Award-winners Mauricio Guerrero, Lee Ritenour, João Donato and Ruslan Sirota.
Applicants will need to submit two YouTube videos. Judges may ask for more at some point. Advisory judges are a literally a “who’s who” of musicians including: Joe Satriani, Steve Lukather, Dave Grusin, Nathan East and many more.
Registration is open until May 31, 2018 and winners are announced the first week of June. Go to https://sixstringtheory.com/register/.
Good luck! Can’t wait to hear about all the winners!