Rules, Procedures, and Details
Eligibility: Open to all those who pre-register and are paid MerleFest ticket holders only. Advertised, paid performers for MerleFest 2013, or previous champions of the contest may not enter. Registrants must follow the procedures outlined below and final participants' order will be selected at random.
Format: The order of appearance will be determined by drawing numbers one half-hour before the contest begins. Prior to each contestant's performance the emcee will announce the names of the tunes to be played and will indicate if a selection is an original composition. Judges will tally scores in seclusion, while on-stage; participants may introduce themselves to the audience. Finalists and winners will be announced as soon as scores are tallied. Scores will not be made available.
In the first round, each contestant will play two instrumental numbers. Many participants choose to play one standard or traditional tune and one original or an original interpretation of a non-original tune. Medleys of tunes are not permitted. A single accompanist is permitted though not required and accompanists are not permitted a solo performance.
For the final round, each finalist will play two numbers. One will be an instrumental of their choice with accompanist if they wish and a standard vocal number assigned by random drawing. During the standard vocal number, the festival will provide a singer/guitarist while the contestant accompanies and performs solos and back-up to the singer/guitarist. Each contestant will draw a song title from a hat; all songs will be moderately up-tempo bluegrass standards. Contestants will be allowed a brief consultation with the singer/guitarist regarding key, tempo, and arrangement.
Judging: In an effort to judge the contests objectively and equally, the following criteria will be considered by the judges and assigned point value in each area (final score cards will not be given out):
- Arrangement (40 Points): Contestant's version of the tune selected. Is it appropriate to the tune and instrument? Difficulty and originality will be considered.
- Execution and Tuning (40 Points): Fingering, picking, and dynamics will be considered. Is the banjo in tune?
- Spirit (10 Points): The music should be played with life and feeling rather than appearing listless or dragging.
- Overall Impression (10 Points): The general effect of the contestant's performance.
Additional Rules and Regulations:
- Contestants may not speak into the microphone.
- Contestants must play only acoustic banjos. No electrical instruments will be allowed for contestants of accompanists.
- Contestants may have one rhythm instrument player for accompaniment. Contestants will not be allowed to take two banjos for their own use on stage.
- MerleFest and the Merle Watson Bluegrass Banjo Championship reserves the right to eliminate contestants whose style of playing and selection of material is not in keeping with the flavor of the festival.
- A medley of tunes is not permitted.
- Contestants may not repeat a song due to broken strings.
- All contestants must follow the registration procedures.