Application Instructions

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Once you get the hang of acoustic Kids, you’ll see that we’re more about welcoming and supporting than about restricting. However, we’ve been doing this a long time, and we’ve learned what works for the performers themselves, for the showcases as a whole, and for us in organizing and managing the programs – and what doesn’t. Our guidelines reflect what we’ve learned.

Communication is key! One of our mottos is, “No surprises, no train wrecks!” Please read the Basics through. Then, scroll down the list of Frequently-Asked Questions below and click on those that you think might apply to you. This info will help you see why the application is set up like it is, and it will help you fill it out correctly so that you get us the information we need. If you have questions that aren’t covered, or if the application isn’t making sense to you, please ask us!


  1. Acoustic Kids Showcases are not contests! They are performance opportunities for young musicians of all skill levels to perform before a supportive festival audience.
  2. Acoustic Kids are introduced on stage by name, age and hometown.
  3. This showcase is a public forum. Photographs and video of Acoustic Kids performances are used in print and electronic media (websites, Facebook, e‐newsletters, Flickr, etc.) related to the Acoustic Kids program and/or the festival hosting the showcase. Audience members and journalists may also post or otherwise share photos or videos of your child(ren).
  4. Each age-eligible performer must fill out an individual application, even if they are only applying as part of a group and not for an individual performance. This gives us their individual information and their parents’ permission to participate.
  5. Accompanists/band mates may be any age, as long as it’s the age-eligible performers who are featured.
  6. Andy uses the demos he receives to plan the show aspect of the showcases, and he may review several dozen demos per showcase. Please make sure your demos reflect what you want to present during the showcase.
    1. Your demos are your audition and your proposal: Each demo should be something you want to perform in the showcase, presented exactly as you want to perform it: Accompanist(s), style, length… Everything.
    2. Please try to keep each demo to 3.5 minutes or less.
    3. Commit to your demo(s): Last-minute changes may not be practical. Of course, if you need to make a change for some reason you could not have foreseen, we will work with you – but the sooner you can let us know, the better.
    4. Check out the Demo Nitty-Gritty FAQs below so you can give it your best shot.
  7. The Acoustic Kids Ambassadors program is a spin-off of the regular Acoustic Kids Showcases. The main stage Acoustic Kids Ambassadors show allows us to give young emerging artists a spotlight as they represent the Acoustic Kids program to a broader audience. Read more…
  8. Parents will need to sign a consent/photo release statement as part of the application.
  9. Communications/Contact Info:
    1. Please make sure all phone numbers and email addresses you provide are accurate and legible. Andy will need to be able to contact parents of all applicants.
    2. We rely heavily on email for communication, and we will add all email addresses you provide as contact emails to our Acoustic Kids eNews list. This allows us to send group emails to all our applicants’ contacts  leading up to the festival. These Insiders’ News Flash! mailings include things like showcase rosters, last-minute changes, interesting resources, etc., and help keep everyone current. Each email address owner will need to confirm their subscription and may, of course, unsubscribe at any time.
  10. There is a printed application form available via a link on each festival’s application page.
  11. It really is worth looking over the FAQ. You might find answers to questions you didn’t know you had!
  12. More information on the philosophy and history behind Andy May’s Acoustic Kids Showcases is available on


General Guidelines and Eligibility:

What are the age restrictions?

  • 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:  You must be able to play one tune, confidently, all the way through, to be accepted. (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 apply 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 in your application.

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 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…. Everyone who’s selected to perform 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.

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 to a main-stage audience.

How do I apply to be an Ambassador?

Andy chooses the Ambassadors using the regular showcase applications. You don’t have to do anything special to apply to be an Ambassador, but you do have to have a website or social media page that is about you as a musician. It can be your band’s or your own, but it should show us what you do with your music and clearly indicate your professional aspirations. Be sure to provide the url in the provided blank on your Acoustic Kids application to be considered for the Ambassadors program. 


Demo Nitty-Gritty

Your demos are the heart of your application. This info will help you create demos that serve you well.

How are the demos used?

  • Andy determines each applicant’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 from 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?

Each applicant is allowed to submit up to three demos. 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 record the demo for 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. If you are selected, Andy will choose your performance pieces for the showcase from among those you submit with your application. It may not be possible to make substitutions later.
  • Perform the pieces in your demo just like you propose to perform them on the stage. (Same instrument, same accompanist, same length, same arrangement…)
  • 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 chooses which of their demo pieces he wants participants to perform, and we provide the details in the individual acceptance letters. 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 application.

Can I perform something I didn’t include as a demo?

Well, we’d prefer you choose your demo pieces carefully and stick to them. Andy uses all the demos submitted to not only audition individual performers but to plan the show itself so it flows well for the audience. We do a huge amount of planning – based on the demos we get in the applications – 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 needs 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.
  • 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 demos to 3.5 minutes or less.

How do I submit my demo(s)?

  • Preferred method: Provide URLs for online audio or video (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, SoundCloud, your website, etc.). This has proven to be, hands down, the least troublesome demo delivery method – for applicants and for us!
  • Upload to and share with Please give your name, the song/tune name, and the venue (festival) name in the subject line of your email.
  • Upload via the online application 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 submit their own individual application. 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?

All age-eligible group members may also apply to perform individually. Each person only needs to submit one individual application, though: There is a place on the form to indicate whether you’re applying as an individual only, as part of a group only, or for both.

How do we apply as a group?

  • One person will submit the application for the group along with their Individual Application.
  • If you indicate on your Individual Application form that you will be (a) performing as part of a group, and (b) the one submitting the group’s application, the Group Application form will magically open for you to fill out and submit along with your Individual Application.
  • There is a place on the Group Application 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, even if they are:
    • 17 or older
    • submitting their Individual Application separately
    • submitting the Group Application and their Individual Application together
  • The Group Application is actually a stand-alone application. Be sure to check the appropriate box (“Part of a Group Only” or “Both” – NOT “Individual Only”) on your Individual Application and enter the Group’s name.


How do we submit our group’s demos?

The person submitting the group’s application will submit the demos for the group, and the Group Application form will provide 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.


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