Announcing the OMMA Youth in Bluegrass Contest

For more than 20 years, Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO hosted the annual KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Contest, bringing young bands in their teens and younger, together to compete for serious cash prizes. The contest was the brainchild of DA Callaway at SDC, and Mike Smith with KSMU Ozarks Public Radio.

Now with Callaway retired from the park, Silver Dollar City has elected to bring youth bluegrass bands in as paid entertainers during their month-long Bluegrass and BBQ festival each May, and have dropped their support of the competition.

However, Wendy Wright, Executive Director of the Ozark Mountain Music Association, has taken up the baton and will continue the tradition with the newly-created OMMA Youth in Bluegrass Contest on May 18 at the Branson Event Center. They are keeping most of the same rules as the previous competitions at Silver Dollar City, the same weekend, and the same generous prize money. Twenty bands will be invited based on advance submissions, with cash prizes to the top finishers as follows:

  • 1st place $2,500
  • 2nd place $2,000
  • 3rd place $1,500
  • 4th place $1,000
  • 5th place $500

OMMA has added a few changes that should be quite appealing to youth contestants. They are making the competition into a two-day event, inviting all the bands in a day early for a chance to do run-throughs on stage ahead of time, and enjoy a meet-and-greet with fellow contestants beforehand.

They are also bringing in staff from several universities who will offer scholarships to young performers to attend their bluegrass music programs in college. Plus, The Station Inn in Nashville will also offer the winning band a slot to perform there during 2024.

Plans are for the contest to begin early on May 18 with the first ten bands performing, followed by a two hour break, and then the second ten. Judges will then winnow down to the top ten, who will again take the stage for final competition.

To be eligible, a band must consist of members 21 years old or younger, though parents are allowed to participate in family groups, so long as the focus is on the young folks. All groups must perform around a single microphone.

Wright created this brief video with details for young grassers interested in competing.

More information and an online submission form can be found on the OMMA web site. Entries must be received by March 1.

Businesses and/or organizations willing to help sponsor a prize are asked to contact OMMA by email.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.