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 1990 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 1991. Andy started a similar program at MerleFest (Wilkesboro, NC) in 2001, and it is still running strong. In August of 2015, Andy May’s Acoustic Kids Showcases debuted at Guitar Town (Copper Mountain, CO).