Wayne White
2010 Utah State Instrumental finger-style guitar champion Wayne White.

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CALDWELL — Wayne White first heard the Beatles when he was a 10-year-old living in Sunnyslope, south of Caldwell. Even then he was drawn to the harmony. The Fab Four’s music influenced the youthful musician in his formative years and eventually led him to explore finger-style guitar playing.

White performed with bands locally but then took a decade-long hiatus to “reinvent” himself. “I always admired piano players and I discovered I could create that same sound with finger-style guitar,” said White.

White’s years of passionate devotion to finger-style guitar paid huge dividends July 11 when he captured the 2010 Utah State Instrumental Championships for Giknerstyle Guitar at the Utah State Instrumental Championships at the Snowbird Resort.

White, who performs locally at Music of the Vine in Caldwell, the Orchard House Restaurant in Sunnyslope  and around the Treasure Valley, bested some of the finest musicians in the country to earn the title … a title that almost didn’t happen.

“A typical trip from Idaho to Utah usually takes five and a half hours,” Wayne told fans on his website. “Ours took 29 hours. We had car trouble in Burley, had to spend $400 to get the car fixed and an extra night in a hotel, but we made it. If it weren’t for some great folks in Burley I would never have made it.

“The morning of the competition it rained and was cold in the mountains,” White continued. “Cold and wet are not ideal for keeping hands limber or keeping wooden instruments in tune, both of which are essential for finger-style guitar.” To make matters worse, White chipped a fingernail in his final warm-up.

When White arrived at the competition he discovered the rules had changed. Instead of one song in five minutes the rules called for two songs in five minutes with a clear, defining break, no talking and no medley.

Undaunted, White picked two songs from his repertoire and prepared to challenge the other eight competitors assembled for the prestigious event.

“It seemed like every step of the way there was a message or omen to go home, quit, but we didn’t,” White said.

The competition

Truth be told, White didn’t enter the competition himself. “It was my girlfriend, Sandy Brooks, who signed me up. She said, ‘come on, let’s go have a good time.’ I was a little fish in a big pond with a couple of defending national champions and musicians I love to listen to myself. I actually went there to have a good time and see where I might fit in with the big dogs. I honestly never thought I might win with the great competition and fantastic musicians who were there.”

White admitted he’d never been in a competition before in his life. “I’ve never won anything. I can’t even win with a $2 scratch game lottery ticket. In this case absolute ignorance was bliss. After the play-off I was eagerly wondering which of these guys won. I was actually looking around the room when they called my name. It was utter shock for both Sandy and me.”

White performed his original composition of “The Last Tree” and “Linus and Lucy,” otherwise known as the Peanuts song.

What it means

White’s victory in Utah qualifies him for the international Walnut Valley championship in September where the winner receives a prestigious recording contract. He will be one of 40 contestants from around the world vying for that title September 15-19 in Kansas. It also qualifies White for the nationals each of the next five years.

“Hopefully the win can help me get my foot in the door in Boise and other places,” said an optimistic White. “One of the former winners in Utah, Doug Smith, told me he has never struggled for work since winning his title,” said White. “He told me ‘you won the title, you earned it, so put it on your website, in all your ads, on your business cards and when you’re promoting your performances.”

The style

Acoustic finger-style guitar has been described as playing piano on a fretboard, but White said the style is tough to define “It has a flavor of Celtic and folk at times and the charm of jazz as well,” he said. “The music of finger-style guitar is timeless, beautiful and rich. It’s also very highly visual with a blend of percussion and lots of modern technique. I like the guys with their own styles. They are the ones I like to listen to.”

How to help

Local fans of Wayne White can donate to help defray his expenses to the international competition in Kansas at the Zion’s Bank branch in Caldwell. Your donations can be made to Wayne White Guitar. At other Zion’s branches ask them to contact the Caldwell branch. You can also donate at Music of the Vine and Orchard House during White’s upcoming performances.

Upcoming performances:

Friday, August 13 — The Orchard House in Sunnyslope, 6 p.m.

Sunday, August 20 — Music of the Vine, Caldwell, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, August 27 — Music of the Vine with Rachel Bevry in Caldwell, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 28 — The Orchard House in Sunnyslope, 6 p.m.

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