William Close tunes the Earth Harp at Strings Music Pavilion before a performance there in June. Close, who has played in Steamboat Springs twice, came in third place on NBC's America's Got Talent.

Photo by John F. Russell

William Close tunes the Earth Harp at Strings Music Pavilion before a performance there in June. Close, who has played in Steamboat Springs twice, came in third place on NBC's America's Got Talent.

Nicole Inglis: America was Close to getting it right

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— I walked into Strings Music Pavilion on a sunny Friday afternoon at the end of June and sat down on the edge of the stage. For once, I didn’t hurry up to my subject, hand extended, ready to launch into a series of questions.

I sat and I watched, because from the moment I saw William Close’s Earth Harp strung across the empty seats and his intense gaze as he tuned the giant string instrument, I realized I might never see anything like it again.

It wasn’t much of a surprise a few weeks ago when I turned on my TV to see his face, gleaming with the same intensity, lit brilliantly from among the strings of the Earth Harp on "America’s Got Talent" on NBC.

Primetime television.

He carried himself the same way in front of millions of viewers as he did for his small stage crew that day at Strings, the day before he performed with the MASS Ensemble for a Steamboat Springs audience.

I don’t follow many reality talent shows, mainly because they tend to glorify public humiliation, but I watched as Close reached the semifinals and then the finals. And last night I watched right along with millions of other viewers hoping he would be the one to win the contract for a running show in Las Vegas.

The reason I was pulling for Close was because I was impressed he was there in the first place. It wasn’t his talent I doubted: Close designs, builds, plays and performs the instruments he creates his shows around.

I was impressed that the American public put him there. His work is an art form I wouldn’t think would appeal to the masses — the music is more ambient and ethereal, his designs architectural and his philosophies more profound than pop.

Let’s just say it’s the complete opposite of Justin Bieber, although the teen pop star's coiffe actually looked quite architectural as he performed during the season finale Thursday.

In the seven years of "America’s Got Talent," singers won the first six, but I still had hope. Ultimately, Close came in third place.

He was beat out by comedian Tom Cotter, who is very funny but whose oversized heart was what won me over.

Winning the competition was Olate Dogs, a variety show of impressive tricks by dogs that are so curly-headed and cute that it almost wasn’t fair to ask America to choose. Who can resist adorable puppies walking on their front legs?

But I was proud to see Close up there, and not just because I can point at the TV and tell anyone within earshot, “I talked to that guy once.”

I’m so proud that children watching this show across the country can be exposed to an art form as unique as his. I hope young people see the success he’s had — which is so much more than commercial — and realize that their dreams of fame don’t have to be limited to Bieber-esque stardom. They don’t have to sing, dance or do whatever Kim Kardashian does to be famous.

Close proved that here in the United States, an artist can invent their own medium, do something that has never been done — or even imagined — before, and it can be recognized.

Ever the self-assured artist, Close’s disappointed smile morphed in a small bow as he learned his fate.

“This show is amazing,” he said as his parting words on the show. “It allows a person like me who’s pushing boundaries, coming up with new ideas, a place to share what he does, and I’m grateful.”

After "America’s Got Talent" was over, Brian Williams informed me on “Rock Center” that Justin Bieber is the most Googled human being on the planet.

I’m OK with William Close not rising to such fame, because maybe if we’re lucky, Close and the MASS Ensemble will still be affordable enough to string the Earth Harp in the Yampa Valley again next year.

MASS Ensemble

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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