The GillyGirls Band from Prather, California traveled all the way to Branson, MO to compete last month in Silver Dollar City’s 20th KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band contest. The journey was well worth the trouble as they came away with first place in the live competition, with a $1800 cash prize.
The invitational event is held each year as a joint enterprise of Silver Dollar City and KSMU, public radio in Springfield, MO. Ten bands, consisting of musicians 21 years of age or younger, are chosen from submitted applications and offered a slot in the contest. All must perform live for the judges using only a single microphone. Family groups tend to predominate, and parents are allowed to participate when other band members are quite young.
This year the competition was held on May 28, at the end of the park’s annual Bluegrass & BBQ Festival which brings top bluegrass acts to Silver Dollar City throughout the month.
The Youth in Bluegrass Band contest is held over two rounds, with the second round determining the final results Each group performs a short set of songs in each round.
When the dust had settled, the finalists placed as follows:
- The GillyGirls Band
- Anderegg Family
- Pearlgrace & Co
- Ozark Strangers
- Figuring It Out
DA Calloway at Silver Dollar City has managed the contest each year since 2002 – save 2020 when pandemic shutdowns closed the park – with Mike Smith, News Director at KSMU. Calloway has told us that many bands compete more than once, and that the young musicians become friends over the years of seeing each other in Branson. In fact, there are two newly married couples who met as competitors in the KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Band contest.
The GillyGirls have been performing together since 2015, and are made up of two sets of twins. Savannah and Morgan Gilly are 18, and play fiddle and bass, with Hailey and Jillian, 16, on guitar and mandolin. They are repeat contestants and have just released their third album, Home, available on CD from the band online.
It as their strong vocal performance that won over the judges, as you can see in the clip below.
Also invited to compete in 2022 were Hannah Joy & Co, 5 South, Arizona Wildflowers, Bazemore Bluegrass Band, and The Hodnett Family Band.
Congratulations to them all, and hats off to Silver Dollar City and KSMU for continuing this tradition of supporting young bluegrass artists!