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Tommy Emmanuel – One man. One guitar. One unforgettable experience.

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  • Ryan Harmon
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Australian guitar hero Tommy Emmanuel will soon be gracing the Reynolds Performance Hall stage in Conway, performing a special concert to benefit the Arkansas PBS Foundaion.

As a public information specialist at AETN and a guitarist myself, I love being able to write about a guitarist who’s not only considered one of the greatest, but has been a big influence on me.

If you haven’t seen Emmanuel play before, it’s doubtful you could truly understand how unique and talented he is. No words can do his playing justice. That said, I’ll try to break down what his playing style is like.

Listen to one of your favorite songs and pay attention to what each instrument is doing: listen to the melody, the rhythm guitar, the bass and the drums. Each part is different. Each part is essential to the musical arrangement.

Now, imagine one guy playing all of those parts at the same time on one guitar, without any band.

Still not impressed? Look him up. You will be.

My Life As A One-Man Band – Tommy Emmanuel

The style I described above is not necessarily anything new. Pioneered by legends like Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, the finger style method (more commonly called “finger picking”) has been a popular playing style in the guitar world since the 1950s.

Atkins, arguably the most influential finger picker, was the reason Tommy Emmanuel decided to play that style. The two became pen pals when Emmanuel was a young boy, and they eventually recorded an album together – “The Day Finger Pickers Took Over The World” – in 1997. Two years later, Atkins awarded Emmanuel the title of Certified Guitar Player (CGP). John Knowles, who will be appearing with Emmanuel Dec. 11, was also a recipient of the CGP title.

Tommy Emmanuel receiving CGP award from Chet Atkins

Tommy Emmanuel receiving CGP award from Chet Atkins

About four years ago, I went to a Tommy Emmanuel guitar clinic in Little Rock, just to see one of my heroes in person. I, along with just about everybody else there, brought a guitar with me so I could play along as he demonstrated various songs and techniques. That lasted about ten seconds.

No amount of arrogance could’ve convinced me that I was anywhere near the level of Tommy Emmanuel. Even in a clinic setting, he was a true performer. In such a small room, it felt as if I was watching a living room concert. Just watching him play with such power and emotion was an experience I’ll never forget.

Ryan Harmon with Tommy Emmanuel at the 2013 clinic

Me with Tommy Emmanuel at the 2013 clinic

Bob Boyd, an Arkansas musical treasure, was sitting next to me at the clinic. When Emmanuel played his version of “Amazing Grace,” I noticed Boyd getting teary-eyed. As I looked around the room, I saw several people who were also moved by the performance.

Tommy Emmanuel – Amazing Grace

Whether it’s a cover like “Amazing Grace” or one of his own songs like “Questions,” it’s always about the music. It’s not about showing off his abilities. Tommy Emmanuel is a lyrical player, as evident from songs like “Drive Time.” Even without any words, each song tells a story.

Tommy Emmanuel – Drivetime

Of course, Emmanuel’s performances have plenty of rocking, energetic moments like his version of Arthur Smith’s “Guitar Boogie” or one of his signature percussion solos he plays on the guitar. (You read that right. Check this out.)

Tommy Emmanuel - “Guitar Boogie”

Simply put, Tommy Emmanuel is one-of-a-kind, and this is a great opportunity to experience him live, while also supporting public television in Arkansas.

The Arkansas PBS Foundaion is the exclusive ticket outlet for “Tommy Emmanuel CGP – Classics & Christmas Tour Featuring Pat Bergeson, John Knowles CGP and Annie Sellick” at the Reynolds Performance Hall in Conway Monday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m.

Tommy Emmanuel Classics & Christmas Tour

From left: John Knowles CGP, Annie Sellick, Tommy Emmanuel and Pat Bergeson

If you’d like to give someone you love the gift of a lifetime (someone could include yourself), tickets are available on a first come, first served basis for a donation of $50 for floor seating or $30 for balcony seating. Additional information and ticket reservations are available by visiting or calling 1-800-662-2386.



Monday, Dec. 11, 2017

Tommy Emmanuel CGP – Classics & Christmas Tour, 7:30 p.m.

Reynolds Performance Hall
223 Beatrice Powell St., Conway