Watch 2018’s astounding Young Guitarist of the Year finalists in action

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Since April this year, we’ve been on the hunt for the best amateur young guitarists around the world, to see who should be crowned Young Guitarist of the Year 2018 - and now you can watch the winning performances at the final, held at the UK Guitar Show on Saturday 29 September.

Hunter Hallberg was crowned the winner at the PRS-sponsored event, with Abigail Zachko and Alex Hooi runners-up. All three delivered spellbinding performances, as you can see below.

Hundreds of entry videos were submitted, before standout performances were sent to star judges Matt Tuck, Chris Buck and Rob Chapman. The three finalists were then judged at the show itself by Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar Techniques and MusicRadar editors, as well as Chris Buck.

In addition to the prestigious title, Hunter walked away with a beautiful PRS S2 Singlecut Semi-Hollow in Scarlet Red and a one-year Ernie Ball string endorsement, among other fantastic prizes.

Enjoy the three finalists’ performances below…

Winner: Hunter Hallberg, aged 13

Hunter, from the United States, started playing guitar seriously in April of 2014 after attending a John Petrucci guitar clinic. The clinic blew Hunter away and inspired him to practise hard so someday he could play like John.

Playing guitar allows Hunter to express himself and communicate with others on another level, he says. He also loves the way it makes him feel when performing live. His biggest influences include John Petrucci, Guthrie Govan, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, Plini and Tosin Abasi.

Hunter was at John Petrucci's guitar camp when he got the news he had been selected for the Young Guitarist of the Year live final. There were several other entrants at the same camp, so to make it to the finals gave him a great feeling of accomplishment considering the talent of the other entries.

For the show, he performed the first original song he ever wrote, a track called Jewel. This song was his first experience recording music in his home studio. Hunter has since written four other songs and has plans to release an EP before the end of the year.

Alex Hooi, aged 15

Alex only started playing guitar in June of 2015. He started off with an Epiphone Les Paul Special and a copy of Rocksmith - watching Slash's Made In Stoke performance was the tipping point for Alex. He wants to be as powerful and as influential with his guitar as Slash.  

Playing guitar is a creative and emotional outlet for Alex. He also describes it as a confidence boost; he is more sure of himself now he has identified his guitar talent. His current influences include Andy Timmons, Guthrie Govan, Paul Gilbert, Synyster Gates, Randy Rhoads and Slash.

Alex feels very grateful for the music scene in Singapore, where he attends a lot of the regular jam sessions in local venues. He also thanks his supportive parents for nurturing him as a person, and as a musician.

Alex chose the track he performed because he felt it had a good balance of energy and melody, and wanted to do something a little soulful and melodic before rocking out, Jimmy Page-style.

Abigail Zachko, aged 14

Abigail, from the United States, first picked up the guitar around 10 or 11 after her family moved to a new town and she found she didn’t have too much to do. She tells us she heard a ripping solo on the radio and everything clicked from there.

She says that playing guitar is a form of communication and of connection, as well as a source of familiarity and comfort. It’s always her go-to when she’s feeling down. Her biggest influences are classic players like Shawn Lane, Larry Carlton and Jimi Hendrix, plus newer names like Jakub Zytecki, Julian Lage and Tosin Abasi.

For her performance, Abigail mashed together a piece called Interlude that Mateus Asato performed with Tori Kelly, and Mark Lettieri’s Extraspecial. She thinks the two pieces complement each other nicely.

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