Acoustic Kids must be 16 or younger on the first day of the festival.
Age-eligible musicians of any skill level are welcome to apply.
Accompanists/bandmates may be any age, as long as it’s the age-eligible musicians who are featured in the performance.
Are beginners accepted?
Absolutely! We love beginners, and we want to support them. We also want Acoustic Kids to be a great experience for them, so we don’t want to get them up on stage before they’re ready: Minimum Qualification: You must be able to play one tune, confidently, all the way through, to be ready for Acoustic Kids. (Scales don’t count.) If you’re not quite ready to perform in the showcase this year, please come watch it and participate by being in the audience and supporting the other kids. Then keep practicing, and sign up next year!
What instruments are permitted?
Acoustic Kids Showcases tend to adopt the flavor of the hosting festival: If you see an instrument played on a main stage there, you’re likely to see it played in Acoustic Kids, too. In most venues, we happily welcome any instrument unless there is a logistical reason why it won’t work in a festival setting.* (A grand piano, for example, would be difficult to accommodate – but a keyboard would be fine!) We love variety, and we welcome everything from A Capella voice to zither!
That said, if a festival has a particular focus that they want us to emphasize in Acoustic Kids as well, we support that. In that case, we provide the details in the information for that specific festival.
*Please point out any out-of-the-ordinary setup requirements on your registration form.
How about electric instruments?
Are solo acts accepted?
Absolutely! If you plan to perform solo in the showcase, please provide a solo demo.
What genres of music are accepted?
Typically, the genres in our showcases mirror the genres you see represented on the host festival’s stages.
Can I submit an original piece?
Yes! We love hearing and supporting original music. Be sure to submit at least one of your strongest performance pieces, though, original or not.
Are there any restrictions on subject matter?
The content must be age-appropriate and suitable for a family show.
How long will I have on stage?
Well, that depends…. Each act gets to play at least one of their demo pieces, and – if there’s time in the showcase – we’ll work in as many seconds and thirds as we can. And, we always try to give groups with multiple age-eligible members a little extra time. In some cases, an individual or group can play in more than one showcase during a festival, but sometimes there’s only time for one. So – it depends on the number of acts we have in the showcase relative to the amount of time we have. We do our best to keep things moving so everyone gets as much time as possible. Before the festival, we let everyone know how much time they will have.
Will I be paid for playing in the showcase?
No. The showcase is a performance opportunity for festival attendees and is not a paid performance.
Can I get into the festival free if I play in the showcase?
For MerleFest and the Walnut Valley Festival: It’s festival policy that all Acoustic Kids participants and their parents have to have the regular wristbands for the festival. The showcase is really seen as an opportunity for those who are already planning to attend the festival, so there’s no break on the admission. However, you can volunteer at MerleFest in exchange for your wristband, and you can contact the Walnut Valley Festival by
phone or email to ask about any volunteer opportunities.
Guitar Town is a free festival, so no wristband is required.
Does it cost anything to participate in Acoustic Kids?
Festivals provide Acoustic Kids Showcases to support young musicians in their audiences. Once you purchase your festival wristband, there is no additional charge to apply for or participate in this program.
What is/who are Acoustic Kids Ambassadors?
Acoustic Kids Ambassadors is a spin-off of the Acoustic Kids Showcases. The Ambassadors set gives young emerging artists a spotlight as they represent the Acoustic Kids program before a main-stage audience.
How do I sign up to be an Ambassador?
Andy chooses the Ambassadors using the regular showcase registrations. You don’t have to do anything special to be chosen as an Ambassador, but you do have to show us in some way that you hope to be a professional musician. If it’s not already evident from your answers to the questions on the form, you can give us this information in the comments section – and be sure to tell us you’d like to be considered for the Ambassadors Showcase. Or, if you have a website or public social media page that is about you as a musician, just give us the url. It can be your band’s page or your own, but it should show us what you do with your music now and clearly indicate your professional aspirations. Be sure to provide the url in the provided blank on yourAcoustic Kids registration form to be considered for the Ambassadors.
Please understand that there are very few performance spots in the Ambassadors Showcase, and we may not be able to include everyone who qualifies.
Your demos are the heart of your registration. This info will help you create demos that serve you well.
How are the demos used?
Andy determines each registrant’s readiness to perform and their place in the showcase based upon their demos.
Every Acoustic Kids Showcase is also a show. Andy plans the show based upon the demos he receives.
Consider your demo(s) to be your proposal for what you want to contribute to the show.
How many demos should I submit?
You can to submit up to three demos with your registration. A beginner might only have one piece that’s ready to perform, and that’s fine – just submit that one. For intermediate and advanced players, we recommend submitting three, even if you have to get busy and brush up the second and/or third piece.
What pieces should I choose for demos?
To make your strongest showing and to have the most enjoyable experience in the showcase, make sure you:
Submit demos of songs or tunes you actually want to play in the showcase. Andy chooses everyone’s performance pieces for the showcase from among the submitted demos. It may not be possible to make substitutions later.
Each demo you submit is a proposal of exactly what you want to perform in the showcase. Song or tune, accompanist(s), style, instrumentation, arrangement, length… everything in the demo should be as you want to perform it on the stage. It’s the only way we can plan.
Submit pieces that are your strongest performance pieces. Often, it’s best to submit a piece you know really well rather than one you’re just learning – even if you’re really excited about the new one.
What recordings should I use for demos?
Your demos should:
Be current performances. You’re improving all the time, so send us recordings that show what you’re doing now! We can, of course, use existing YouTube video, etc., if it’s a good representation of what you’re proposing for the showcase.
Represent your proposal for the showcase. (Show you playing the same instrument, in the same style, with the same accompanist, etc., as you propose for the showcase.)
Have decent audio quality. Andy doesn’t have to see you in your demo, but he does have to be able to hear you clearly.
Be no longer than 3.5 minutes in length, in most cases. Shorter is fine, as long as it’s complete. Be aware that we plan everyone’s stage time based on the length of their demo(s), so it’s possible to short yourself by submitting an incomplete arrangement or partial performance.
If you don’t have existing recordings that meet these criteria, please consider recording performances specifically for your application. Informal smartphone video is just fine.
Can I choose which of my demo songs I’ll perform in the showcase?
Andy will choose which of your submitted demo pieces he wants you to perform in the showcase. We will let you know his choice in your individual “Performance Details” email. Remember, he is also planning a show, and sometimes what will work best from that standpoint is the deciding factor. By all means, if you have a preference, please say so on your registration form.
Can I perform something I didn’t include as a demo?
Well, it’s difficult to make changes. We’d prefer you choose your demo pieces carefully and stick to them. Andy uses all the demos submitted to not only get to know each individual performers’ playing but also to plan the show itself so it flows well for the audience. We do a huge amount of planning – based on the demos that are submitted – in the weeks leading up to the festival. With up to twenty-five acts per showcase, each allowed three demos, and multiple showcases per festival, it adds up to a lot of demos to review and manage. We do try to accommodate, especially when there is a reason beyond your control for wanting to change, but last-minute changes may not be possible. In any case, Andy will definitely need to hear your proposed substitution, preferably before the festival.
Can I bring an accompanist I didn’t include in my demo?
Because your accompanist influences your performance – for better or worse – Andy needs to hear you perform with him or her before the showcase. It’s best – and easier for everyone – if he or she is in your demo. If there is some reason this isn’t possible, or if you have to change accompanists at the last minute, please let us know as soon as you can so we can discuss it with you and see what we can work out.
What are the specs for demo(s)?
Please use a standard file format (MP3, MP4, etc.).
Maximum file size for uploads via the application form is 50MB. Larger files may be uploaded to YouTube or elsewhere and shared by URL.
If you are providing URLs, please be sure you don’t have the video set to “Private.” If it’s private, Andy can’t access it.
Please keep each demo to 3.5 minutes or less.
How do I submit my demo(s)?
There are several ways that will work. In order of preference:
(Vastly) Preferred method: Provide URLs for audio or video that you have uploaded online. (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, SoundCloud, your website, etc.). This has proven to be, hands down, the least troublesome demo delivery method – for participants and for us!
Upload to dropbox.com and share with email@example.com. Please identify your demo: Give your name, the song/tune name, and the venue (festival) name in the subject line of your email.
Upload via the online registration form (50MB maximum file size), or
Send by postal mail on CD or DVD to: Andy May’s Acoustic Kids, PO Box 231, Gladeville, TN 37071
Groups and Bands
What are the rules for groups or bands?
All featured performers must be 16 or younger at the time of the festival.
Bandmates may be any age, but anyone 17 or older should play a support role for the age-eligible members of the group. They should not be spotlighted in the demos or the showcase performance.
Each band member who is 16 or younger must register individually. We need all their individual info (background, instrument played, contact info, parental permission, etc.) in order to manage the showcase.
Can I perform individually, as well as with a group?
Yes. All age-eligible group members may also register to perform individually. Each person only needs to register once, though, even if they want to perform both individually and with a group. There is a place on the form to indicate whether you’re registering as an individual only, as part of a group only, or both.
How do we register as a group?
Everyone in the group who is under 17 needs to register by filling out their own form, even if they are only performing with the group and not individually.
One person will register the group at the same time they register themselves. Make sure you decide who will do this, and double-check to be sure it doesn’t fall through the cracks.
If you indicate on your Individual Registration form that you will be (a) performing as part of a group, and (b) the one registering the group, the Group Registration form will magically open for you to fill out and submit along with your Individual Registration.
There is a place on the Group Registration form for listing all the group’s members and what instrument(s) they play. To help us stay organized, please list everyone who will be performing in the group, including yourself. Even if they are 17 or older, we need to know who they are and what they play so Andy can introduce them.
The Group Registration form is actually a stand-alone form. If you are registering the group, be sure to check the appropriate box (“Part of a Group Only” or “Both” – NOT “Individual Only”) on your Individual Registration and enter the Group’s name. That’s the only way to access the Group Registration form.
How do we submit our group’s demos?
The person registering the group will submit the demos for the group: The Group Registration form provides you with a place to do that. Be sure to refer to the Demo Nitty-Gritty section of the FAQs, above, for details on submitting demos – they apply to both group and individual submissions.
Acoustic Kids Registration Form – MerleFest
Online Registration Form for Acoustic Kids at MerleFest