“The music is in good hands….”
Andy May’s Acoustic Ki♪s showcases are festival-based non-competitive performance opportunities for young musicians, singers, and traditional-style dancers of any skill level, beginner through pro. Featured performers must be 16 or younger, but accompanists may be any age, and many family bands participate. The festival setting ensures an interested, supportive audience. In turn, the audience is treated to an Opry-style stream of entertainers, each performer doing 1-3 numbers. Through on-stage dialogue, Andy—in the role of MC, mentor, and educator—sets the young performers at ease and gives folks in the audience practical information about what it takes to fit music into busy lives.
Acoustic Ki♪s showcases are about supporting and encouraging the next generation of acoustic music players and traditional dancers, true, but they’re also about the kids providing the audience with a great show. The audiences have proven very loyal, turning out in all kinds of weather to support the kids. And many kids come back year after year, developing a following among the audience, who enjoy watching them grow as individuals and musicians. Returning performers often use the showcase as motivation to practice and improve during the year so they have something new to show at the next Acoustic Ki♪s.
How Acoustic Ki♪s Works:
Putting together a showcase that is successful for both the performers and the audience takes careful planning. Through the years, Andy has developed a streamlined application and review system that serves a dual purpose:
♪ It allows Andy to determine the relative skill level of the applicants so that he can put together a show that builds in excitement and holds the audience’s attention.
♪ Having to put together an audition presentation ensures that the kids are prepared to perform. It also gives them a goal to work toward, and meeting that goal helps build their confidence and self-esteem.
Andy May’s Acoustic Ki♪s workshops and showcases grew out of Andy’s desire to provide kids with a non-competitive opportunity to be recognized for their achievements in learning to play an instrument. As a life-long musician and a long-time teacher, Andy realized that most of the venues where kids can perform music as individuals are competitive: fiddle and other instrument contests and even many school talent shows are geared towards someone winning. And, by definition, when someone wins, others loose, which can be very discouraging for a child. So, Andy developed a concept for a showcase for his young guitar and mandolin students that would encourage goal-setting and performance skills on their part, and would provide them with support and recognition in the form of a welcoming festival audience. Andy’s student showcase, the Acoustic Ki♪s prototype, debuted at 1989 Midwinter Bluegrass Festival in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It was a great success: his students of all skill levels enjoyed the experience of preparing for a performance and performing for an audience, and the audience loved seeing what the kids had accomplished. Bob and Kendra Redford of the Walnut Valley Festival (Winfield, KS) were in the audience and saw in the showcase something they had wanted to bring to Winfield: a formalized, non-competitive opportunity for kids who play music to show what they can do in a supportive atmosphere and to be recognized for their efforts and achievement. They brought Andy on board, and the resulting Winfield’s Acoustic Kids program has been a perennial favorite at the Walnut Valley Festival since 1989. Andy started a similar program at MerleFest in 2001, and it is still running strong.
- Mt. Pleasant, TN, Middle School of the Visual and Performing Arts: School Show
- Tennessee Arts Commission, Arts in Education: Andy’s School Program
- Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program: Andy’s School Program
- Canton, CT, Creative Arts Council: School Program
- Cultural Organization of the Arts, RI: Andy May’s School Program