In Conversation with Mark Cameli


Meet our 2019 Classical Category Sponsor Mark Cameli! In addition to being a long-time supporter of the Festival, Mark is one of the top-rated Business Litigation attorneys in Milwaukee. Our Festival Social Media Assistant had a chance to talk with Mark about his love for this international event; read more below, and visit to learn about the events and activities made possible thanks to the support of sponsors and partners such as Mark!

Julia: Why do you believe it is important to support the arts?

Mark: The arts have always been the medium by which we express the human experience. The arts demonstrate something that’s beautiful, and it conveys to us feelings of pride, empathy, courage, loneliness, honor, happiness, just to name a few. The other thing that strikes me about [the arts] is that this medium of expression is itself revealing in the extraordinary gifts and commitments that people have. It inspires wonder, and we’re moved to change and to see things through a different lens. That’s why I believe it is important to support the arts because I believe they have these characteristics for us.

J: What specifically drew you to the Wilson Center Guitar Festival?

M: I’m the grandson of Italian immigrants who were sharecroppers who came here about one hundred years ago. Their son, my father, was not raised with a lot of means. My grandparents were factory workers, but they found the money to get my dad guitar lessons. So, in the late 1930s and throughout the 1930s, he began to play and ultimately got involved with a band. In 1939, he took all his college savings and bought a brand new Gretsch guitar, which I still have; in time, he lost some interest in it and the ability to play because he had a work-related accident that affected his fingers. But that guitar was the first thing I found in the basement at age six, and it really intrigued me. It had two strings on it, and I used to pluck around on it with a penny. As I got older, I learned how to string it, and I went out and bought a book because we couldn’t afford any kind of music lessons. I learned to play it a little bit, and as a young teenager, I played in talent shows and coffee houses, and to this day, decades later, I’ve used it with my children and grandchildren. It has been one of the things I’ve been able to enjoy and, more importantly, see other people enjoy it. So I think the Guitar Festival is the embodiment of that, and the joy that it brings in all genres of guitar music.

J: What do you hope the Festival will provide to the competitors, the audiences who are attending the Festival, the community? Is that nostalgia something you hope the Guitar Festival can provide to them?

M: It gives different things to different people—as performers, as listeners, as enthusiasts. For me personally, what I really like about it is that—I’m a Brookfield resident—I’d like to see Brookfield on the map on a national level, as this is the preeminent guitar competition in the country: A place where people from all genres of guitar come together, showcase their talent, have it judged and recognized, that they learn from each other, and they can learn from the masters. I want it to be something that is unique and ultimately grow into something that is an experience in a very kind of “festival” way and is something that in time will extend over a greater period and will grow in size.

J: Do you have a message for this year’s competitors/festival goers?

M: To the competitors—have fun, be inspired by what you see and what you hear, share your experiences with each other, build relationships that will last a lifetime, and know that this instrument is something that you can share with those closest to you.

To festival goers—I hope that they are inspired to share their experiences with others and help us grow the festival to be what I’ve just envisioned what it can be and hope it will be.

Written by: Julia Lewandowski, Guitar Festival Social Media Assistant