Band and instrument contest spaces may still be available!

2018 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) and Tim O'Brien (1975), as well as recent band winners Steep Canyon Rangers (2001), Front Country (2012), The Railsplitters (2013), and Meadow Mountain (2017).

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

2017 Instrument Contest Winners
2017 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.

2018 Instrument Contest Registration

Instrument Contest Prizes

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
Preston Thompson D-MA Guitar
The Preston Thompson Dreadnought guitars are all crafted to produce the tone and volume that the dreadnought guitar was originally designed to achieve. These are traditional instruments and all models are based on the famous 1937 Herringbone Dreadnought, owned by the late, great Charles Sawtelle of the award winning bluegrass band, Hot Rize. All feature Red spruce (Adirondack) tops chosen for tap tone and stiffness, advanced X brace placement, hand graduated top thickness, pre-war hand carved scalloped braces, nitro-cellulose lacquer finishes and time tested design features such as dovetail neck joints. It's all about sound, and that is what the Thompson Dreadnought specializes in. Thompson Dreadnoughts are built with the finest woods, materials and craftsmanship to deliver that sought after pre-war sound and playing feel. The D-MA model features Mahogany back & sides. Top
San Juan Mandolins F-5
Located in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado, luthier Bobby Wintringham specializes in making mandolin family instruments one at a time, with an emphasis on hand building and giving each instrument superior tone and playability while staying within the parameters of traditional mandolin design. A mandolin is a tool for musical expression; at San Juan Mandolins our goal is to make an instrument that inspires you, the player, to truly express yourself. Top
Paul Beard Deco Phonic Model 57
This new series of resonator guitars crafted at the Paul Beard Mastershop in Maryland reflect the stylings of the Art Deco period in which the resonator guitar was originally developed. Applying innovative modern construction techniques to create a vintage vibe and sound is what gives these new instruments their appeal! Says Jerry Douglas: "The word 'Deco' conjures images of a time when design was at its peak. A period in architectural history unmatched by any other. The resonator guitar was born during this time and echoed art deco elements. Paul Beard's newest line of resonator guitars honors that tradition in appearance and tonal quality. Beneath the historic exterior lie Paul's own structural advances. By representing the original sound with the advantage of stability, it's only right that these guitars should bear the name 'Deco'." Top
Thomas Verdot Paragon Fiddle
Thomas Verdot studied violin construction with the late Karl Roy, former head of the violin making school in Mittenwald, Germany. He then studied restoration with Hans J. Nebel, a fourth generation "Fiddle Maker" who was the former head of the restoration department of the Rembert Wurlitzer firm in New York. Verdot's Paragon violins are high quality European instruments, finished in-house, adjusted for the best possible performance. 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.

2018 Contest Schedule

The preliminary round is held on Friday, July 27 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 28. Here are the schedules for each instrument:

RockyGrass Instrument Contest Rules

Pickers & Fiddlers Score in the Following Categories

2018 RockyGrass Band Competition

2017 band winners Meadow Mountain (photo Benko Photographics)
2017 band winners Meadow Mountain
(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 2018 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, The Wooks, and 2017 winners Meadow Mountain.

2018 Band Contest Registration

2018 Contest Bands

The following bands will compete around a single microphone in the Wildflower Pavilion. Bands will perfor in a randomly chosen order.

Band Competition Prizes

2018 Band Competition Schedule

2018 Band Competition Rules

Bands Score in These Categories

2017 Contest Winners

2017 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

2017 Band Finalists

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

Congratulations to the 2017 RockyGrass band contest winners Meadow Mountain from Denver, CO! They'll be performing a full main stage set at the 46th Annual RockyGrass (July 27-29, 2018).

Congratulations to all 3 of the top finalists in the 2017 RockyGrass band contest:

  1. Meadow Mountain (Denver, CO)
  2. Circus No. 9 (Nashville, TN)
  3. Ginny Mules (Denver, CO)