KPU guitar fest draws big names to Langley

Kwantlen’s music department is hosting its 17th annual acoustic concert on Saturday night.

What do a French hot club jazz group, a Canadian unsung guitar guru, and a veteran finger-style guitarist have in common?

They’re the headliners in a guitar festival in Langley this week.

For the 17th year running, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) is hosting the Fraser Valley Acoustic Guitar Festival at the Langley campus. The first two days (Thursday and Friday) are filled with student workshops, followed by a public concert on Saturday night.

Van Django, a four-man acoustic string ensemble of some of Canada’s most talented and eclectic musicians; Ari Lahdekorpi, a journeyman guitarist who has worked with numerous blues legends and pop crooners;  and Kent Hillman, a musician who plays jazz, classical, and South American music, will perform at the Saturday event, announced organizer and event founder Don Hlus, an instructor at KPU since the school’s music department opened in 1993.

“Most people are surprised that these internationally acclaimed artists would travel to the Fraser Valley to play a show, but these same artists love to introduce their music to new audiences,” Hlus said.

“It is such a thrill for them and to those who attend. And it is all happening right in our backyard.”

Hlus founded the event to entertain and inspire the Valley’s music community, and to give high school and post-secondary music students a chance to work with, and learn from, internationally and locally distinguished artists.

“The idea behind the guitar festival came in conversations with several high school guitar instructors over 17 years ago,” Hlus explained.

“Collectively, we wanted to create an opportunity for young musicians to see the artistic and creative potential within themselves. We also wanted the opportunity to support that creative development in others… In the fifth year, my phone started ringing off the hook because people in the community were hearing about these world-class guitarists coming to the valley and wanted an opportunity to hear them in their own backyard. And that is how the evening concert came into being.”

This year’s festival, themed The Gut, is being held in the university’s Langley auditorium at 20901 Langley Bypass, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15. Tickets are $20/adults or $15/students and seniors in advance (online at or an extra $5 at the door.

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