Youth Instrument Competitions

OIBF invites YOU to compete at the festival!  Please click here for all the rules and info you’ll need to prepare for the competition, sign up, and compete.  

AWARDS: 1st, 2nd, 3rd place awards for each instrument 
                   a. First place: $150 cash plus trophy          b. Second Place: $100 cash plus trophy          c. Third Place: $50 cash plus trophy

SCHEDULE: Saturday, October 14th, 2023


9:00 am – 9:45 pm:     Youth BAND Competition Registration

9:00 am – 12:45 pm:   Youth INSTRUMENT Competition Registration


10:00 am – Noon:       Competition – Youth BAND

Noon:                          JAM – 3 chord jam for kids (warm up for competition & have some fun!)

1:00 pm:                      Competition – Youth Instruments

ATTENTION:  Winning an instrument championship in a previous year’s competition does not prevent entering this year’s competitions for the same or any other instrument. Previous Youth Instrument Championship Winners are welcome and encouraged to compete in any or all of the competition contests, for as many years as they want, as long as they comply with the rules.

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR OIBF 2019 Youth Instrument Champions! Pictured with Byron Berline (L) and Ron Mashore (R).

photos by Jill Heck


Contests are open to anyone 18 years or younger on the day of the contest except those who are performing as a paid entertainer on any stage except the Cottonwood Creek Campground Stage at the Oklahoma’s International Bluegrass Festival (OIBF).

Contests are conducted on the Youth Stage in the Youth Tent beginning at 1:00 pm on Saturday of the festival.  Note that if the Youth band competition extends past 1:00 pm, the instrument championship contests will be delayed until the Youth Band Competition Winners have been announced and allowed to play an encore set not to exceed 15 minutes.

Contestants may register for the contests Saturday morning of the festival in the Youth Tent between 9:00 am. and 12:45 pm on Saturday. If there are not 2 entries in an instrument contest, the contest for that instrument will not be held.

Contestants MUST HAVE A VALID WRISTBAND for Saturday or Weekend. (Note: festival rules permit free admission for youth 12 and under with WRISTBANDED parent; WRISTBANDED adult must accompany contestants 12 and under at the championship contests.)

The Entry fee for each contestant for each instrument contest is $10 cash or check. Contestants must show entry fee receipt in order to compete. Contestants may enter each instrument contest that they pay the entry fee for. Contestants grant permission for OIBF to use photos of their performance in festival marketing and advertising.

Contestants must play instruments acoustically into microphone. An instrument’s electrical capability cannot be used. Contestants may have one rhythm accompanist. (Note: the bass contestants may also have a lead instrumental accompanist). It is OIBF policy that paid entertainers on any OIBF stage except the Cottonwood Creek Camp Stage NOT ACCOMPANY CONTESTANTS.  If a contestant requests that the festival provide them with a rhythm accompanist, we will try to accommodate that request with a volunteer musician. Contestants must allow time for practice after registration and before 12:45 pm.  No guarantees.  Please let Registrar know ASAP.

Contestants are permitted only one instrument on stage. Judges reserve the right to score only contestants whose style of playing and selection of material is in keeping with the Bluegrass flavor of the festival.  Accompanists are not to be considered by the Judges.

1.  Contestant to play Three (3) tunes. A MEDLEY OF TUNES IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
2. There must be a noticeable pause between each tune.
3. MAXIMUM Stage time of Six (6) minutes for each contestant in each contest.
4. All material performed must be in keeping with the Bluegrass flavor of the festival.
5. Contestants are not allowed to speak (no introductions) or sing on stage.
6. The performance will not be based on audience response.
7. Order of contestants in each contest will be decided by the Committee chairman.
8. Details of the judges’ evaluation will remain confidential.
9. Pause for the Train Clause:  A contestant may stop one time for a train to pass.  The pause will not count against their six (6) minutes.  During this pause, the contestant may not speak to audience (or their accompanist) or tune their instrument.  When the train passes, they must restart with the same song.
 10. Judges’ decisions are final.

In an effort to judge the contest objectively and equally, the following criteria will be considered by the judges and assign point values in each area.  The contestant with the highest point total from all judges shall be the winner of the contest.

40 points possible     1. EXECUTION & ARTICULATION – Dynamics will be considered.  Are the notes clear and distinct? Tone – Are the notes full or thin sounding? Timing – Is the tempo steady and constant? Dexterity – Are the notes played in difficult positions up and/or down the finger board or is the piece played for the most part in first and/or second position? Are there too many mistakes?  Tuning – Is the instrument in tune with itself ?
20 points possible     2. ARRANGEMENT – Contestant’s version of the tune selected. Is it appropriate to the tune and arrangement?
30 points possible     3. EXPRESSION, DYNAMICS & SHOW VALUE – The music should be played with life and feeling. It should not appear listless nor should it drag.

10 points possible     4. OVERALL IMPRESSION


OLD TIME FIDDLE CHAMPIONSHIP –  Each contestant will play a hoedown, a waltz, and a tune of his/her choice in that order on a standard tuned 4 string fiddle..  No trick or fancy fiddling will be allowed. Contestants will be disqualified for playing Mockingbird, Black Mountain Rag, or Orange Blossom Special.

BLUEGRASS MANDOLIN CHAMPIONSHIP – Contestants will play three instrumental numbers in either traditional or contemporary bluegrass style. Standard Tuning.  Capo not allowed.

FLAT PICK GUITAR CHAMPIONSHIP –  Contestants will play three instrumental numbers in traditional fiddle tune or bluegrass style. ALL contestants must play with a FLAT PICK.  NO FINGER PICKING WILL BE ALLOWED.  NO COMBINATION OF FLATPICKING AND FINGERPICKING WILL BE ALLOWED. The alteration or the tuning of the low E (6th) string will be permitted. The low E (6th) string can be changed to any note desired, not limiting the tuning of the 6th string to “Drop D” or a low D note but to any desired pitch. No other string tuning or variance from the standard E (1), B (2), G (3), D (4), A (5) will be permitted.  Standard or traditional style capos may be used, but no capos which allow the alteration of individual strings, such as the Third Hand Capo, will be allowed.

BLUEGRASS BANJO CHAMPIONSHIP –  Contestants will play three instrumental numbers in either traditional or contemporary bluegrass style on a 5 string banjo.  Standard Tuning.  Capo allowed.

BLUEGRASS RESONATOR GUITAR CHAMPIONSHIP –  Contestants will play three instrumental numbers in either traditional or contemporary bluegrass style. Standard Tuning.  Capo allowed.

BLUEGRASS BASS CHAMPIONSHIP – Each contestant will play a Waltz, a Walking Bass, and a number using a “Slapping Bass” style in that order on an Upright Acoustic Bass. Standard Tuning. Contestants will use a minimum of 1/2 of each of the 3 songs for a Melody lead break.  An instrumental accompanist will be allowed (in addition to the rhythm accompanist) to play lead on the three songs.

Here are some of our past winners!

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR OIBF 2019 Youth Instrument Champions! Pictured with Byron Berline (L) and Ron Mashore (R).
Presenting our Youth Competitions Winners for 2018 with Chair Ron Mashore

Congratulations to our 2017 Youth Contest Winners! 

2016 Youth Competition Winners with Byron and Ron2016 Youth Competition Winners onstage with Byron Berline and Ron Mashore

2015 Youth Competition Winners on the Main Stage
2015 Youth Competition Winners on the Main Stage

Old Time Fiddle 2015: 1st Place – Grace Williamson (she won 2nd place fiddle in 2014),  2nd Place – Rodrigo Carmena
Bluegrass Mandolin 2015: 1st Place – Samantha Williamson (she won 3rd place in 2014),  2nd Place – Grace Williamson
Flatpicking Guitar 2015: 1st Place – Kaleb Glover,  2nd Place – Samantha Williamson, 3rd Place – Harrison Themer
Banjo 2015: contestant Grace Williamson

Bluegrass Mandolin 2014: 1st Place Brandon Foust, 2nd Place Regina Scott, 3rd Place Samantha Williamson
Banjo 2014: 1st Place Randyl McKinney, 2nd Place Preston Mayes
Flatpicking Guitar 2014: 1st Place Michael Foust, 2nd Place Preston Mayes, 3rd Place Caleb Morton
Old Time Fiddle 2014: 1st Place Samantha Williamson, 2nd Place Grace Williamson, 3rd Place Martin Dixon