our guitar hero

Jacksonville is home to some pretty talented musicians, but most pale in comparison to Conrad Oberg, a legally blind, self-taught guitar whiz who was recently tapped to open the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock Festival at Bethel Woods, New York on August 15th. The 15 year old phenom will be performing Jimi Hendrix’s legendary version of the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ EU got in touch with Conrad’s people (read: his parents) to find out about school, Woodstock and what’s next for the musical prodigy. Here’s what they had to say:

EU: What has Conrad been up to?
The Obergs: Conrad has been working on an all original album featuring music that pays tribute to his musical influences ranging from 1920s juke joint piano music, to modern blues-influenced electric guitar rock.

EU: How was his first year at DA?
O: It went really well. Being visually impaired, it was many long hours of hard work handling a curriculum that would have been tough for anyone. Conrad had outstanding teachers. He loved his first year at DA and managed to maintain a B average.

EU: Has he been touring this summer?
O: Conrad has focused more on performing at major shows this year and working on the new album. [He]…played several shows around the state in the past few months, and has been working with different musicians in order to fi ne tune his support band. [He‘ll]…start touring again in this fall and can’t wait!

EU: How was he chosen for the Woodstock gig? Did someone nominate him or was there a selection process?
O: Conrad was chosen for the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock at Bethel Woods by the staff of the venue themselves. They have seen his videos on YouTube for years, and have been following his progress. They were very excited to offer the opportunity… When Conrad was asked how he felt about playing at Bethel Woods, the site of the original Woodstock festival, Conrad said, “I learned to play electric guitar by listening to a recording of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969. I can’t tell you what an honor this is, I feel like I’m standing in for a friend (Jimi) that would have loved to have been there himself. I would have really liked to have met him, I can only hope that he would have been proud of the job I do opening the show.”

EU: Any other exciting things happened recently?
O: As a result of performing with pedal steel player Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Conrad was invited to perform at the Sacred Steel Festival in Miami this year where he was a featured artist. The reception that [he]…received from the other performers that use pedal steel-based gospel music to celebrate their beliefs was truly heartwarming. Conrad, who is a very accomplished slide guitar player, was able to emulate the tonal characteristics of a pedal steel guitar to a point that amazed the audience…He loved the whole experience.

EU: Any other plans for the future?
O: To keep working on the album, to extend the reach of his live shows and of course, to “Keep On Rockin’!”
Conrad Oberg will be playing in town one more time before flying out to perform at the historic Woodstock show. On August 7th he’ll play at Mojo Kitchen in Jacksonville Beach at 10 pm. The concert is a fundraiser to help offset the traveling expenses he will incur to perform in New York so be sure to come out and show him your support. Tickets are just $10, a small price to pay to see a bit of history in the making!