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The 17th KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest a Close Competition

Andrew Sutherland

The winner of this year’s KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest at Silver Dollar City is the Russell Clan from Guthrie, Oklahoma. 

The single microphone contest, held Saturday, May 26, during Bluegrass and BBQ at the park, is for bands with members 21 and younger.  Among the estimated 1000 people in the Opera House audience Saturday was Paul Schiminger, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association, based in Nashville.

"I was totally blown away by the talent and passion that I saw on the stage," he said.  "I mean, it is indicitive of what I see overall in bluegrass music.  You could just tell from the harmonies, the instrumentalists and the work they've put in around the rhythm side of things, the pockets were there, I mean, it's just really impressive."

The 2018 KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest was the closest in the 17-year history of the event.  Kentucky Just Us, a band from Greensburg, KY and Dixie Jubilee, from Woodstock, GA tied for second place, each just one point behind the winner.  And, That Dalton Gang, from Lockwood, MO, was only one point behind them, making the spread between first and fourth place just two points.

Silver Dollar City awarded a total of $4,250 in prize money to the top five bands, $1500 of which went to the first place winner.

Schiminger said the KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band Contest shows a bright future ahead for the music.

"Bluegrass is in great hands for the future generation, and I really salute KSMU and Silver Dollar City for what you do with this Youth in Bluegrass.  It's powerful," he said.

Mike Smith, emcee for the contest and host of KSMU’s long-running bluegrass program, Seldom Heard Music, will broadcast the winning performances on his program Saturday, June 9, at 7 p.m., streaming live at

Mike Smith's career at KSMU began in 1980 as a student announcer when the former Navy Submariner attended (then) SMSU with help from the GI Bill. In 1982 Smith became a full time member of the KSMU family as "Chief Announcer", responsible for the acquisition, training and scheduling of the student announcing staff. It was also in 1982 when Smith first produced "Seldom Heard Music" a broadcast of Bluegrass which is still heard on KSMU and every Saturday night at 7CT.