Meet the Guitar Superstar 2011 Finalists!

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 Presenting Guitar Player Magazine's Guitar Superstar 2011 final five! These five finalists will compete at Guitar Superstar 2011 in Nashville, TN on July 23, 2011 as part of Summer NAMM 2011's Wanna Play Day...

Arek Religa
Chicago, Illinois Born in 1965 in Kamienna Góra, Poland, under the zodiac Taurus, Religa knew very early that his life would revolve around music. In 2000, Religa left his homeland and arrived in Chicago, building a small home studio, recording numerous singles, and working on his first record. In 2007, his songs "Viva Carlos!", "Beyond the Horizon," and "Island of My Dreams" gained him international recognition as a talented composer and arranger. He created numerous compositions for television, commercials, and multimedia presentations. His proudest musical achievement to date was receiving the 2008 Hollywood Music Award for "Best New Age Artist" at the legendary Kodak Theatre. Competition Song: “Chicago Guitar Knight” Main Guitar: Music Man Axis. Main Amp:  Bugera 6262. Fave Effects Pedal: Avid Eleven Rack. Strings: Cleartone, .010-.046. Picks: Dunlop. Cables: Monster. Main Stylistic Influences: Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Al Di Meola. All-Time Favorite Album: Strangers in the Night, UFO Favorite Guitar Solo: “Hotel California,” the Eagles. What is unique about your approach to the guitar?: I think that every guitarist’s approach to the instrument is unique in some way. I like to feel it before I play—warm up the neck, touch the strings. My music is the result of my feelings, my thoughts, and my life experiences, so the uniqueness is inevitable. What’s the best thing about playing guitar?: Everything! Playing is the best thing I could ever do.

Forrest Lee, Jr.
Nashville, Tennessee Nashville superstar guitarist Forrest Lee, Jr. grew up in the music business. His father was an actor and recording artist in the 1950s, and had songs recorded by the legendary Earl Scruggs, Jim Reeves, and Billy Dee. Lee has done guitar clinics all over the U.S. and Canada, showing his masterful techniques for speed twang, hyper blues, chicken picking, and B bending.  Besides playing, Lee also manages Loretta Lynn's recording studio, makes the best bender guitars on the planet, raises five kids, and owns a music store (Waverly Music And Computer), where he fixes anything the others can't figure out. Competition Song: “Telethon” Main Guitars: Forrest custom T-style with FCG B-Bender installed, Washburn WD-10SCE Forrest Lee Jr. Signature Model with B-Bender. Main Amp: Bolt 100-watt, 2x12 combo. Fave Effects Pedal: Wampler Ego compressor (modded to my specs). Strings: GHS Super Steels, .009-.042; D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Light. Picks: Dunlop nylon .60mm. Cables: CBI Main Stylistic Influences: Country, hard rock, metal, blues. All-Time Favorite Album: Georgia Sunshine, Jerry Reed. Favorite Guitar Solo: “Sea Of Love,” The Honeydrippers. What is unique about your approach to the guitar?: I look at the guitar and B-Benders as an extension of my voice. I play what I’m singing in my head. I subconsciously let the notes flow through whatever chord pattern I’m in, weaving in and out of the chords, and voicings. I never look at soloing from a structured standpoint, but more as a platform to improvise what I feel at the moment. What’s the best thing about playing guitar?: It’s in my DNA, I can’t explain it. It’s love,life, sex, power. It’s an emotional connection that can’t be spoken. It’s everything.

Fredrik Strand Halland
Bergen, Norway  Fredrik is Norwegian from the city of Bergen. He started playing the guitar at the age of seven. He learned his first chords from his father, Frank, who is a bass player, and started taking lessons at the age of nine with the well-known guitarist from Norway, Mads Eriksen. He was then introduced to the blues, and Stevie Ray Vaughan became his biggest inspiration. Fredrik had his first TV appearance in Norway at the age of 12. Since then, he has been travelling along with his band, performing in Scandinavia, Europe, and the United States in different showcases, workshops, venues, and festivals. Fredrik has just begun work on his new album, and he is currently a student at the Musicians Institute at the GIT program in California. 
Competition Song: "True Expressions" Main Guitar: Tom Anderson Hollow T Classic. Main Amp: Fender Hot Rod DeVille 4x10 Fave Effects Pedal: Boss RT-20. Strings: Dean Markley. Picks: Dunlop Jazz III. Cables: No particular brand. Main Stylistic Influences: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robben Ford, Greg Howe, Guthrie Govan, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert. All-Time Favorite Album: In Step, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Favorite Guitar Solo: "Tender Surrender," Steve Vai. What is unique about your approach to the guitar?: I challenge myself daily to strive for perfection. I enjoy the challenge of learning different genres of music. What’s the best thing about playing guitar?: The guitar allows me to express my emotions through the melodies I create.

Jeremy Ore
North East, Pennsylvania
Jeremy Ore just finished studying at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California. He has been playing guitar for about 11 years, and can truly say that it is his passion.Ever since he can remember, he was always playing some sort of musical instrument. He feels extremely blessed to be in this competition, and he looks forward to playing!

Competition Song:
“Instrumental Shred”

Main Guitar: 
PRS Custom 24.

Main Amp: 
Vox Valvetronix 100-watt combo.

Fave Effects Pedal:
DigiTech RP355.

 GHS Boomers, .010 set.

Any heavy pick.

 Any cable—as long as it works.

Main Stylistic Influences: 
Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert.

All-Time Favorite Album: 
I can’t answer this question!

Favorite Guitar Solo: 
“Eruption,” Eddie Van Halen.

What is unique about your approach to the guitar?:
 I try todo a lot of things that people normally don’t do—such as play guitar with a pencil, or simultaneously play rhythm with my right hand and lead with my left on one neck. I’m always thinking of ways to come up with something new or unique.

What’s the best thing about playing guitar?:
When I play my guitar, everything fades away, and I get in my own little zone. I just love playing.

Mark Kroos
Williamsburg, Virginia Mark Kroos plays two guitar necks at the same time. His primarily instrumental style is characterized by open harmonies, polyphonic textures, and incredible tapping technique, and he it is all as entertaining to watch as it is to listen to. Drawing influence from folk, Celtic, indie, and even punk rock artists—as well as other great acoustic guitarist such as Michael Hedges, Phil Keaggy, Tommy Emmanuel, and Leo Kottke—Kroos has developed his own edge to the acoustic guitar. "Mark Kroos is one of the most intelligent musical forces of the new guitar generation."—Randall Williams Competition Song: “Flight Attempt, Take Two” Main Guitar: Ovation CSE 225 doubleneck. Main Amp: Just a solid P.A. System. I carry a 15-watt, battery-powered Crate Taxi with me everywhere I go in case of an emergency. Fave Effects Pedal: I try to stay away from effects. Strings: Curt Mangan.  Cables: Planet Waves.  Main Stylistic Influences: MichaelHedges, Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Danna, Sigur Ros, The Lawrence Arms, Los Campesinos, and the Weakerthans. All-Time Favorite Album: Set Ourselves Free, The Wild. Favorite Guitar Solo: “Ross'Concert” from the movie Uncorked, composed and performed by Jeff Danna. What is unique about your approach to the guitar?: I play two guitar necks at the same time, and I also draw most of my influence from music that is not solo-guitar music. What’s the best thing about playing guitar?: As a Christian artist, I enjoy being able to share God’s joy with people through instrumental music without making them feel like I’m pushing my beliefs onto them. I also really enjoy composing pieces that I can’t play, and then learning to play them!