2017 contest entries open on December 6

2017 Music Competitions

Contest finals on the main stage (photo Benko Photographics)
Contest finals on the main stage
(photo Benko Photographics)

Since the first Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival in 1973, the band and instrument contests have been a central part of the festival experience. Past instrument finalists have included Mark O'Connor (1974), Tim O'Brien (1975) and Jake Jolliff (2007), as well as recent band winners Steep Canyon Rangers (2001), Front Country (2012), The Railsplitters (2013), and Rapidgrass Quintet (2015).

Cheer on the next generation of musicians in the Wildflower Pavilion and on the main stage as they vie for beautiful instruments, cash prizes, well-deserved recognition, and coveted spots on the main stage.

Instrument Contests

2016 Instrument Contest Winners
2016 Instrument Contest Winners

The RockyGrass Music Competitions are traditional bluegrass competitions that began at the 1st Annual Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival in 1973. Instrumentalists compete on flatpick guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro, and fiddle to receive beautiful instruments and cash prizes. The preliminary round is held in the Wildflower Pavilion on Friday and the final rounds are held on the RockyGrass main stage on Saturday morning for all to enjoy -- with many of the finalists' performances broadcast live on KGNU Boulder-Denver.

Instrument Contest Registration

Registration for the 2017 instrument contests opens on December 6 at shop.bluegrass.com or 800-624-2422. Because the contest takes place on the Festival grounds, you must have a ticket to the Festival to participate.

2017 Contest

The preliminary round is held on Friday, July 28 in the Wildflower Pavilion (inside the Festival grounds). The 3 top contestants on each instrument will advance to the contest finals on the Festival main stage on Saturday, July 29. Here are the schedules for each instrument:

RockyGrass Instrument Contest Rules

Pickers & Fiddlers Score in the Following Categories

Instrument Contest Prizes

In addition, all 3 finalists on each instrument will also receive a commemorative RockyGrass Instrument Contest award ribbon.

We are still confirming the exact model the 2017 instrument contest 1st prizes. Here are the 2016 instrument prizes to give you an idea...

Deering John Hartford Banjo
Deering's American-made Hartford model banjo, designed and built for legendary banjoist/performer John Hartford, has the world renonwn Deering Grenadillo (wood) tone ring. The dark walnut stained, satin finished maple neck and resonator are highlighted by the Steamboat-style, fingerboard inlays and Paramount style peghead. No other banjo in the world sounds like a Hartford. Powerful, sweet, warm and rich with no shortage of volume makes this banjo super versatile as well as lighter in weight than a bronze tone ring banjo. The wood tone ring ages like a violin or guitar, faster than bronze tone ring banjos. Top
Gibson J-29 Guitar
Introduced in 2014, the J-29 acoustic guitar represents a new direction for Gibson's round-shoulder dreadnought body style. This inaugural J-29 model features the classic tonewood combination of a rosewood back and sides topped by Sitka spruce. The rich and full-bodied tone this produces is the basis for acoustic guitar tone in general. But that's just the beginning. Paired with Gibson's '30s-style bracing and short-scale neck, the J-29 rewards you with easy playing feel and a phenomenal amount of natural acoustic projection. Top
Gibson Sam Bush Signature Model F-5 Mandolin
Gibson is proud to present a Sam Bush Signature Model Mandolin to the winner of the RockyGrass mandolin contest. This handsome instrument features the most select figured maple back, sides, and neck. The top is select spruce, and it has an accurate '20s dovetail neck joint. The neck is unfinished on its back, and has the chunky profile of the late '30s. Its ebony fingerboard has mother-of-pearl block inlays, and string spacing is set to Sam Bush's specs. Finished in hand-rubbed nitrocellulose lacquer and sandblasted gold-plated hardware. The tailpiece sports Sam's signature. Top
Jerry Douglas Signature BlackBeard ™ guitar
Paul Beard and resonator guitar virtuoso Jerry Douglas have developed an exclusive family of signature guitars, designed around their drive for sonic perfection. The Jerry Douglas Signature series includes, the standard Jerry Douglas Signature, the Jerry Douglas Limited Signature Model, Jerry Douglas Signature BlackBeard™, RedBeard™, BrownBeard™ and BlondeBeard™, all of which are individually handmade with great care here at the Beard shop and sold exclusively by Beard Guitars LLC and its dealers. A simple beauty, the Jerry Douglas Signature Blackbeard™ derives its warm clear tone from all mahogany construction. The translucent black finish gives the Blackbeard its name. Top
J.F. Devereux Fiddle
The graduations, bass bar and setup of this violin were done with bluegrass and new acoustic music in mind, but in such a way that it retains the projection and response that would satisfy a classical player. This violin is a high-quality European factory violin, purchase in the white, voiced and varnished by Jack Devereux, then finished with a traditional linseed oil and resin varnish, in the style of the great Italian makers of the eighteenth century. Jack Devereaux served as an apprentice to renowned violin maker Jonathan Cooper of Portland ME, before returning to Asheville, NC to establish his own shop. Jack also tours with the bluegrass band Town Mountain.Top
The 2nd place finisher on each instrument will receive a check for $100 and the 3rd place finisher on each instrument will receive a check for $50. All 3 finalists on each instrument will also receive a commemorative RockyGrass Instrument Contest award ribbon.

2016 RockyGrass Band Competition

2016 band winners The Wooks (photo Benko Photographics)
2016 band winners The Wooks
(photo Benko Photographics)

Bands perform around a single microphone in the Wildflower Pavilion on Saturday (preliminary round) and Sunday (final round) in the Wildflower Pavilion. Awards include an invitation to play a set at the 2017 Festival, cash prizes, and more. Past winners of the RockyGrass band contest include Steep Canyon Rangers, Chatham County Line, Town Mountain, Blue Canyon Boys, Front Country, The Railsplitters, RapidGrass, and and 2016 winners The Wooks.

2017 Band Contest Registration

2015 Band Contest Finalists (photo Benko Photographics)
2015 Band Contest Finalists
(photo Benko Photographics)

Band Competition Prizes

2017 Band Competition Schedule

2017 Band Competition Rules

Bands Score in These Categories

2016 Contest Winners

2016 Instrument Contest Winners

With more than 50 instrument contestants from around the world, this year's instrument contest showcased another dazzling display of virtuosity in the Wildflower Pavilion and the finals on the main stage. Congrats to the winners on all 5 instruments:

Banjo
Flatpick Guitar
Mandolin
Fiddle
Dobro

2016 Band Finalists

Congratulations to the 2016 RockyGrass band contest winners The Wooks from Lexington, KY! They'll be performing a full main stage set at the 45th Annual RockyGrass (July 28-30, 2017).

This year's field was so impressive our judges weren't able to narrow the finalists down to just 3 bands. So congratulations to all 4 of the top finalists in the 2016 RockyGrass band contest:

  1. The Wooks (Lexington, KY)
  2. Masontown (Boulder, CO)
  3. Ragged Union (Denver, CO)
  4. Honeysuckle Possums (Santa Barbara, CA)