Growing up in a family-run music store, Mike Miltimore was comfortable as a preteen pulling apart guitars, understanding how they worked and putting them back together.
He has fond memories of flipping through the Musical Merchandise Review magazine to see what products industry insiders from across North America picked as the best each year.
“We would wait for the award section to come out to see if our products that we had in our store were listed in there and if what we voted for was one that won,” he said.
“It was always an exciting moment. My dad would wait for me to get back from school so we could look at the magazine together.”
Decades later, Miltimore’s own Kamloops, B.C., company has triumphed over industry giants to see one of its models named by the magazine’s subscribers as acoustic guitar of the year.
Riversong Guitars and its River Pacific P2P GA design beat out Taylor, Yamaha and Martin guitars to walk away with the title.
Miltimore said it’s the first time a Canadian company has won in the category.
“It’s a true David versus Goliath moment. Their coffee budget, I am sure, in probably one month, is more than our entire marketing budget,” Miltimore said of his competitors.
“It’s a bit of a testament to innovation, to building quality product, to doing something outside of the box, that the dealers and the industry voice has voted us as being not only a contender, but the winner.”
In celebrating the River Pacific, the magazine writes that the guitar is “both visually stunning and remarkably comfortable to play.”
“Every now and again, a smaller brand manages to sneak up and eke out a win in categories traditionally dominated by ‘the big boys’ and this year Mike Miltimore’s team of Canadian craftspeople did just that,” the magazine says.
The patented adjustable neck runs through the body of the guitar, allowing it to better resonate with less bulk.
“(The neck) can be adjusted precisely for string height so it doesn’t hurt your fingers, so that it can accommodate for different humidity and temperature changes, or just your playing style, whether you want to play slide guitar, or fingerpick or electric-style guitar,” he said.
Miltimore said since the winners were announced, his company has been flooded with orders and messages of support from Canadians.
“For me, this award is not just an award for Riversong Guitars, or for the Kamloops area, or B.C. It’s an award for small-town Canada that really puts us on the map,” he said.
“And for us to win, that is a win for all of us and that’s a thing that means a lot to me.”
— Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press