Guitar whiz returns for First Night 

Scott Verbeek wraps up first semester at Berklee College of Music, returns to showcase new repertoire and skills to Whistler's NYE crowd

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Who: Scott Verbeek

When: Friday, Dec. 31, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Main stage, Village Square

Cost: $15 adults, $8 kids 12 and under, kids under two, free

At 19 years of age, Squamish's Scott Verbeek has already hit some incredible high notes - literally and figuratively - in his musical career. He's already shared billings and opened for top Canadian acts like The Trews, Tokyo Police Club, K-OS, Hedley, John Butler Trio, Shad  and Finger  11. He's recorded and produced plenty of original material with his now-defunct band Black Swade.

Now, as a solo musician, he's well on the road to cultivating his musical interests into a full-time gig. (Do yourself a favour and check out www.myspace.com/scottverbeek/music - tracks like Southwest By East and Crunch will give you a good idea of what this up-and-coming young artist is capable of.)

On Friday afternoon, he'd just wrapped up exams at Berklee College of Music in Boston and was getting ready to head home for the holidays.

"I just finished today and it's a big relief, because it was pretty high-stress! There was a lot of stuff to do. I'm excited to come home and play some shows, see my friends and ski."

This isn't his first stint at the prestigious Berklee College. He's already done a few summer programs at the musical institution.

"That just inspired me to work really hard, because I found out how much work I needed to do and how much I needed to improve. And when I first got there, it kind of killed my ego a little bit," he laughed.

While he wasn't overconfident, it was definitely a grounding experience to be surrounded by a range of gifted musicians from around the world - both instructors and students. It also encouraged him to continue to work hard and improve, pushing his own abilities.

Now, Verbeek is back at Berklee, enrolled in their four-year Guitar Performance program, where he's studying on scholarship under instructors like Scott Tarulli.

"Right now, I'm just working on a little bit of everything, because before I came here I made sure that my skills were in an even line - like, I wasn't horrible at something and really good at something else. So, I work on everything: sight-reading, improvisation, just technical things like picking and whatnot," he explained.

"Before I got to this school, my only sight-reading experience was reading out of a book or something. But when someone gives you a chart and counts off a fast bebop tune and it's recorded the first time, you only have one chance to record it! You've got to be on-the-ball, you know?"

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