Top 10 finish at guitar masters

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Oamaru guitarist Joseph Balfe secured a top-10 finish at the Guitar Masters International Competition in Poland recently, further enhancing his growing reputation as one of the world’s finest young finger guitarists.

The 17-year-old was one of 24 finalists selected from hundreds of entries to perform at the guitar masters in the Polish city of Wroclaw, and ended up finishing tied for ninth after impressing judges with his solo performances.

Joseph said taking part in the competition was the highlight of his fledging music career, and he was delighted to crack the top 10.

“It was amazing. It’s definitely been the best thing I’ve done, music-wise. I’ve met some really good people and some important people as well, who I hopefully see myself working with in the future.

. considering there was only a couple of younger players – the rest were already established and in their 30s. It was good to be up there.

“It feels good to be up at the same level now. It’s inspired me to combine other styles in my playing and develop my own sound.”

He said the only dampener came when Joseph’s role model, Tommy Emmanuel, who was scheduled to be a judge at the competition, had to pull out due to ill health.

Joseph has played with him in the past and said it was “unfortunate” his idol was unable to attend.

He said he hoped to perform at the guitar masters again in the future.

“Probably not in the next few years. When I feel like I’ve got the potential to win the whole thing is probably when I’ll go back and do it again.

“I’ll spend the next few years broadening my range and becoming a very, very good player.”

As far as next year goes, Joseph will study for a music degree at the University of Otago and, after that, he hopes to continue with a masters degree in Germany.

He said Germany was one of the few countries that offered a qualification in acoustic guitar.

“I’m still young, so I want to take the time to develop and be more versatile as a musician.”

The guitar masters was won by German guitarist Sonke Meinen, described by Joseph as a “phenomenal player”.