Rockygrass Instrument Contests
The RockyGrass Music Competitions are traditional bluegrass competitions that began at the 1st Annual Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival in 1973. Instrumentalists compete on flatpick guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro, and fiddle to receive beautiful instruments and cash prizes.
The preliminary round is held in the Wildflower Pavilion on Friday and the final rounds are held on the RockyGrass main stage on Saturday morning for all to enjoy — with many of the finalists’ performances broadcast live on KGNU Boulder-Denver.
Registration is now open online.
- The entry fee is $15 per contest.
- Since the contests are held inside the festival grounds, all contestants must have either a 3-day pass or single-day tickets for Friday (the preliminary round) and Saturday (finals on the main stage)
New instrument (See below)
2019 Prize: Deering John Hartford 5-String Banjo
Deering’s American-made Hartford model banjo, designed and built for legendary banjoist/performer John Hartford, has the world-renownedDeering Grenadillo (wood) tone ring.
The dark walnut stained, satin finished maple neck and resonator are highlighted by the Steamboat-style, fingerboard inlays and Paramount style peghead. No other banjo in the world sounds like a Hartford. Powerful, sweet, warm and rich with no shortage of volume makes this banjo super versatile as well as lighter in weight than a bronze tone ring banjo. The wood tone ring ages like a violin or guitar, faster than bronze tone ring banjos.
2019 Prize: Preston Thompson D-MA Guitar
The Preston Thompson Dreadnought guitars are all crafted to produce the tone and volume that the dreadnought guitar was originally designed to achieve.
These are traditional instruments and all models are based on the famous 1937 Herringbone Dreadnought, owned by the late, great Charles Sawtelle of the award winning bluegrass band, Hot Rize. All feature Red spruce (Adirondack) tops chosen for tap tone and stiffness, advanced X brace placement, hand graduated top thickness, pre-war hand carved scalloped braces, nitro-cellulose lacquer finishes and time tested design features such as dovetail neck joints. It’s all about sound, and that is what the Thompson Dreadnought specializes in. Thompson Dreadnoughts are built with the finest woods, materials and craftsmanship to deliver that sought after pre-war sound and playing feel. This D-MA model features Sinker Mahogany back & sides, Adirondack top.
2019 Prize: San Juan Mandolin F-5
Located in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado, luthier Bobby Wintringham specializes in making mandolin family instruments one at a time, with an emphasis on hand building and giving each instrument superior tone and playability while staying within the parameters of traditional mandolin design.
A mandolin is a tool for musical expression; at San Juan Mandolins our goal is to make an instrument that inspires you, the player, to truly express yourself.
2019 Prize: Beard Deco Phonic Model 57 Squareneck
This new series of resonator guitars crafted at the Paul Beard Mastershop in Maryland reflect the stylings of the Art Deco period in which the resonator guitar was originally developed.
Applying innovative modern construction techniques to create a vintage vibe and sound is what gives these new instruments their appeal! Says Jerry Douglas: “The word ‘Deco’ conjures images of a time when design was at its peak. A period in architectural history unmatched by any other. The resonator guitar was born during this time and echoed art deco elements. Paul Beard’s newest line of resonator guitars honors that tradition in appearance and tonal quality. Beneath the historic exterior lie Paul’s own structural advances. By representing the original sound with the advantage of stability, it’s only right that these guitars should bear the name ‘Deco’.”
2019 Prize: Thomas Verdot Paragon Fiddle
Thomas Verdot studied violin construction with the late Karl Roy, former head of the violin making school in Mittenwald, Germany.
He then studied restoration with Hans J. Nebel, a fourth generation “Fiddle Maker” who was the former head of the restoration department of the Rembert Wurlitzer firm in New York. Verdot’s Paragon violins are high quality European instruments, finished in-house, adjusted for the best possible performance.
The preliminary round is held on Friday, July 24 in the Wildflower Pavilion (inside the Festival grounds). The 3 top contestants on each instrument will advance to the contest finals on the Festival main stage on Saturday, July 25. Here are the schedules for each instrument:
- 1st prize: New banjo (make/model TBA)
- Prelims: Friday, 11:30am, Wildflower
- Finals: Saturday, 10:30am, Main Stage
- Flatpick Guitar
- 1st prize: New guitar (make/model TBA)
- Prelims: Friday, 1:00pm, Wildflower
- Finals: Saturday, 10:15am, Main Stage
- 1st prize: New mandolin (make/model TBA)
- Prelims: Friday, 2:30pm, Wildflower
- Finals: Saturday, 10:00am, Main Stage
- 1st prize: New fiddle (make/model TBA)
- Prelims: Friday, 4:00pm, Wildflower
- Finals: Saturday, 9:45am, Main Stage
- 1st prize: New dobro (make/model TBA)
- Prelims: Friday, 5:30pm, Wildflower
- Finals: Saturday, 9:30am, Main Stage
- 50% Overall Ability (includes difficulty, expression, material selection, taste, execution)
- 25% Rhythm
- 25% Tone
This year’s instrument contest showcased another dazzling display of virtuosity in the Wildflower Pavilion and the finals on the main stage. Congrats to the winners on all 5 instruments:
- 1st place: Max Schwartz (South Miami, FL)
- 2nd place: Chris Roszell (Denver, CO)
- 3rd place: Brian Alley (Portland, OR)
- 1st place: Luke Lovejoy (Cloverdale, IN)
- 2nd place: Sullivan Tuttle (Palo Alto, CA)
- 3rd place: Michael Furry (Littleton, CO)
- 1st place: Dylan McCarthy (Lyons, CO)
- 2nd place: Jack Dunlevie (Denver, CO)
- 3rd place: Ethan Batan (Spencer, IN)
- 1st place: Shira Ellisman (Porter, TX)
- 2nd place: Andy Lentz (Oakland, CA)
- 3rd place: Andy Reiner (Lafayette, CO)
- 1st place: Rune Jensen (Boulder, CO)
- 2nd place: Joshua Hight (Salt Lake City, UT)
- 3rd place: Tad Smith (Fort Collins, CO)