A Vietnamese student has taken third prize at the Northwest Guitar Festival held at Eastern Washington University in Washington .

Nguyen Thai Minh, 23, is the first Vietnamese participant in one of the largest guitar contests in the US .

The annual festival was created in 1991 by James Reid, director of the guitar programme at the University of Idaho . It was founded to bring students and professionals together for three days of concerts, master class lectures and a competition for young talents. The festival always features mostly guitarists from the region and allows only those living and studying in the region to participate in the competition.

This year, 22 students from northwestern universities and Canada participated.

The jury board gathered prestigious guitarists, including Michael Partington from Washington University, Marc Techolz from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Lynn McGrath from the Guitar Foundation of America.

Minh started learning guitar at age 14 as an extracurricular activity because he loved it. Minh became known in the music world after winning the top prize at the National Guitar Festival in 2002.

Minh studied international business in the US , but thanks to the flexibility of his institution, he was able to pursue a Bachelors of Art in Music at Puget Sound University as well. In recent years, Minh has played professionally.

"All the performers were received well; all did a fantastic job," said Eastern Washington University guitar professor and member of the organising board, Michael Millham.

This was the first time Minh has joined the festival.

"No contestant wins a top prize the first time he participates," Millham said.

Throughout the festival, Minh was able to meet and perform with other young talents, as well as learn from professionals. He said the festival helped him figure out his strengths and weaknesses as a musician.

Learning two disciplines – business and music – at the same time is not easy, Minh said. He is working to finish his studies and participate in contests to improve his playing.

Once he finishes school, Minh plans to return to Vietnam to promote classical guitar and bring the instrument to more students. /.