Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Talented Young Musicians to be Showcased in KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest at SDC

Dean Zobec

Eighteen bands will compete this weekend in the KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest at Silver Dollar City.

It’s the 17th year of the event in which young people from several states, as far away as Mississippi, Texas, Ohio and Minnesota, share their talents with park visitors and try to win the top prize of $1500. 

The competition has grown in popularity every year since it began in 2002 in the Gazebo on the Town Square at the park, said KSMU’s Mike Smith, who has emceed it from the start.  It’s now held at the Opera House theatre, which can seat 1,000.

D.A. Callaway, festival manager at SDC, said the Opera House will be “standing room only” all day on Saturday.  “It’s very popular.  People come back year after year.  We’ve got a couple that comes from California to see that contest every year.”

Bands must submit applications in hopes of being selected to compete in the event.  A committee can choose up to twenty that will take the stage during the KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest, Callaway said. 

“All these musicians are great musicians, so it’s kind of hard to choose,” he said.

The idea for the competition was formed during a jam session at Mike Smith’s house, according to Callaway.  He said they were talking about what they could do to encourage young people to keep playing bluegrass music and to keep being innovative. 

“It’s not only a recruiting tool for Silver Dollar City’s festival lineup,” Callaway said, “but it’s also been a great way to build relationships between people.”  He said it’s “powerful and emotional” to see the competitors and their families become friends.

Past winners have gone on to be very successful, including the Lindsey Family from Kentucky, which is performing during this year’s Bluegrass and BBQ Festival at Silver Dollar City.  After they won the KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Competition, Callaway said, they went on to win the SPBGMA International Band Championship a few months later and still play all over the country. 

As for why the park continues to host the competition, Callaway said, “I do it because it puts smiles on faces.  You see people patting their toe, and you see people talking about this all winter.”

The KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest will be held Saturday, May 26, in the Opera House Theatre at Silver Dollar City. 

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.