Thomas Silkman, senior integrated studies major, took first place in the finger style guitar category of the 32nd Annual Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Competition in Lawrence on Aug. 26.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Silkman said. “It was my first time ever in a guitar competition. I never thought I would place first in a group of three hundred skilled finger style guitarists.”
Silkman, who works at Flint Hills Music, 715 Commercial St., as a guitar teacher, performed Friday night at the Granada Theatre, opening for three bluegrass bands – The Whiskey Trio, Fast Food Junkies and Mountain Sprout.
Silkman said he started playing guitar when he was 12-years-old and started teaching guitar two years later. At 18, he began working as a guitar teacher at Flint Hills Music. He said he really enjoys teaching people who pick up the guitar a second time after not playing for a while.
“I really love working at Flint Hills Music and I really love Emporia,” Silkman said. “Local music has definitely started getting more attention and respect, and that’s a really great thing.”
Silkman, who mainly plays his own original compositions, opened Friday night’s show with a song titled “Bagpipes.” It was only the third time he has performed in public, he said.
“I have always wanted to play at the Granada,” Silkman said. “It was awesome to get such a great reaction from the crowd at the Granada. I hope I can do it again some time soon.”
Within the last eight months, he said he has started writing more songs with the thought of competition and live performance in mind. But Silkman said he still isn’t used to being onstage.
“It’s a different world up there,” Silkman said. “To be honest, I was actually very nervous on the day of the competition.”
Tim Mohn, owner of Flint Hills Music, said that Silkman’s style of playing and composing is very interesting.
“I like that he won that competition playing his original compositions, as opposed to playing a cover or a traditional,” Mohn said.
Local musician Hank Osterhout, bassist for Deadman Flats, said he also enjoys Silkman’s style of playing.
“It’s really cool to see someone have that kind of appreciation for acoustic guitar and this particular style of playing,” Osterhout said.
Mohn said Silkman is an “interesting” musician that he’s watched develop over the years.
“His material is very interesting and intricate stuff,” he said.
Silkman will compete in the International Finger Style Guitar Championship this afternoon in Winfield.