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Bands compete in first OMMA Youth Bluegrass Contest

The first annual Ozark Mountain Music Association Youth in Bluegrass Contest is in the books, and reports are that it was a wonderful experience for everyone involved! Young bands traveled across the Ozarks and several states to the Event Center at Branson Meadows, where they competed in two rounds on Saturday for generous cash prizes plus an opportunity for the first-place winner to perform at the iconic Station Inn venue in Nashville, Tennessee.

 



Ozark Mountain Music Association, under the direction of Wendy Wright, stepped in to host the competition after changes in the festival format at former venue Silver Dollar City. Mary Parker and Sophia Wright, both of whom have been involved in OMMA traditional and bluegrass music camps for several years, served as masters of ceremonies, and D.A. Callaway and Mike Smith, organizers from the event’s early years, were on hand with plenty of compliments and encouragement.

 

Competing bands included several family groups as well as some groups of friends who met at OMMA music camps or at festivals around the country. Youth bands may include a parent recruited to play a support instrument, but main instrumentalists and vocalists are under age 20, some as young as seven or eight years old.

 

Each band performance was of a prescribed length. Judging criteria included instrumentation and vocal details along with overall performance, stage presence and audience appeal. Competition winners were:

1.     Verdigrass, players from Guthrie and Bartlesville, Oklahoma; and Mountain View, Arkansas

2.     Missouri 65, from southwest Missouri

3.     Flatlander Mountain Boys, from Exeter, Missouri

4.     Sofie & the New Relics, from central Arkansas

5.     Bomb City Bluegrass, from Amarillo, Texas

 

Other groups competing included:

·       Coon Holler Kids, from Terre Haute, Indiana

·       Cynthia Ridge, from Edmond, Oklahoma

·       Harmony Hill, from Wilson County, Kansas

·       Homestead Holler, from Ozark and Crane, Missouri; and Mountain View, Arkansas

·       Lost Creek Band, from Bruner, Missouri

·       Roan Street Ramblers, from east Tennessee

·       Tequa Trio, triplet brothers from Williamsburg, Kansas

·       The Arizona Wildflowers, from southern Arizona

·       The Borderliners, from along the Arkansas/Missouri border

·       The Foggy Coast Kids, from Pacifica, California

·       The Willis Twins, from Greenup, Kentucky

·       The Roller Family, from New Richmond, Wisconsin

·       Twisted Junipers String Band, from Springfield, Missouri; and Ashville, North Carolina

 

See the awards presentation video, plus other great photos and videos, at the Ozark Mountain Music Facebook page.

 

In addition to prizes, several young musicians received scholarship money from Bethel University in Tennessee, which offered up to 10 scholarships up to $75,000 each over a five-year period. Williams Baptist University in Arkansas also offered several scholarships.

 

In addition to the colleges and Station Inn, many other donors and sponsors helped make the prize money and the fun gathering a reality. OMMA expressed thanks to Missouri Arts Council; The Petersons; Banjo Ben Clark; DCB Construction; Kyle Automotive; Ozarks Roots Music & Art; Greater Ozarks Bluegrass Society; Dark Shadow Recording; and the Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters, along with several generous individuals.

 

The fun began before competition even started, as some families traveled to the Branson area early to enjoy area attractions. Musicians from several bands attended the Thursday evening jam session at the Mountain Grove schoolhouse east of Branson. On Friday evening, contestants gathered at the Event Center to become familiar with the venue, get acquainted with other groups, and jam. Robert and Karlene McGill of Reeds Spring, whose vision for passing traditional music to a new generation led to the development of OMMA, also dropped by to enjoy the competition.

 



It was clear from chatting with participants that bluegrass competition is not all about prizes. “This music helps me feel connected with my great-grandparents, who enjoyed relaxing with music and dancing after working hard on their farm,” said one young lady. One grandmother traveling with a family group said she loved the way bluegrass music has helped her grandsons make friends who share their values and faith.

 

Many participants were looking forward to the Ozark Mountain Music Association summer camps. Bluegrass camp will be June 11–15 at The Homestead near Branson and is currently at capacity; but openings are still available for old-time music camp, scheduled for July 17–20 in Mountain View, Arkansas. Find details and registration info, as well as how you can contribute toward scholarships for this fun and worthwhile cause, at www.ozarkmountainmusicassociation.com.

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