Three-time flatpicking champion shares love of music with others

Three-time flatpicking champion shares love of music with others

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"I couldn't imagine not playing," flatpicker Steve Kaufman said. "When I wake up in the morning I think, 'What can I do in this business today?' I'm obsessed with it. I just love what I do." "I couldn't imagine not playing," flatpicker Steve Kaufman said. "When I wake up in the morning I think, 'What can I do in this business today?' I'm obsessed with it. I just love what I do."
"What's really neat about it is that we'll have an older couple come in and they'll walk up to the balcony and say 'I got my first kiss in those seats,'" Steve Kaufman said of the Palace Theater he runs with his wife, Donna. "What's really neat about it is that we'll have an older couple come in and they'll walk up to the balcony and say 'I got my first kiss in those seats,'" Steve Kaufman said of the Palace Theater he runs with his wife, Donna.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - I first met Steve Kaufman in the 80s. He had just won the second of three national Flat Pick Guitar Championships in Winfield, Kansas.

Kaufman is still around, still making music, and still very much a part of the spirit of East Tennessee.

For many years, he was the only three-time champion. Two others now hold that distinction, but Kaufman, as he points out, was the first.   

Flatpicking is a style of guitar playing associated with bluegrass and traditional Appalachian music and employs the pick to strum and hit the notes.

"This is what I do and I've loved it since I was a teenager, 15 or so when I got started," Kaufman said. "I'm surprised I can make a living at it. I'm surprised other people like it."

Kaufman and his wife, Donna, bought the Palace Theater in downtown Maryville and restored the 220-seat theater to its 1934 look. Donna runs the show, which includes many musical groups.

"What's really neat about it is that we'll have an older couple come in and they'll walk up to the balcony and say 'I got my first kiss in those seats,'" Kaufman said.

These days, Kaufman stays busy. When he's not traveling and performing in locales from Miami to Fairbanks, he's back home with his wife planning his summer Acoustic Kamps, a series of guitar workshops.

"This is our 18th year and it's grown to the largest one in the world of its kind. We'll have 700 students," he said.

The music and those camps are what Steve says he lives for.

"I couldn't imagine not playing," he said. "When I wake up in the morning I think, 'What can I do in this business today?' I'm obsessed with it. I just love what I do."

And that is very much the nature of the Spirit of East Tennessee.


If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at gpatterson@wate.com.

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