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Classical guitarist Steve Cowan, 24, of St. John's is the first musician from Newfoundland and Labrador to win the Grand Prize at the National Music Festival.
Cowan said he was "floored" to be awarded the $6,500 prize at the classical music competition, held this year in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Aug. 18.
Cowan also won the guitar category at the music festival, before advancing to the Grand Award Concert, the final round of the competition.
He said the idea of playing his quiet classical guitar in a large performance hall was intimidating, but he tried to forget he was in a competition.
"I just tried to think of it as a really good performance opportunity alongside some phenomenal musicians from across Canada, and I really did just have fun up there," said Cowan.
Cowan said both the musicians and non-musicians in the audience seemed to be moved by his performance of Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera's Sonata, Opus 47 for classical guitar.
Cowan described himself as a converted rock musician, and said he only came to classical guitar at the age of 18, when he decided to study music at Memorial University. Although he was already a proficient rock musician on the electric guitar, he said he immediately fell in love with the quieter classical guitar and its range of repertoire.
Cowan went on to earn degrees in classical guitar from Memorial University's School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. He teaches in Montreal.
Cowan said he has no plans to rest on his laurels, and he is back to teaching and performing with his guitar in Montreal .
"I still feel like I can always be better and there's so much more music that I can be learning, which I hope to do."