The 2018 John Hartford Band Contest is now closed for submissions. We left the rules page open so prospective entrants for future contests can peruse and get it together for 2019! 

John Hartford Memorial 2018 Band Competition

Registration will remain open until Tuesday February 20 . We are now accepting entries for qualifying bands that will be narrowed down to 12 competing bands. The 12 bands will perform around a single microphone on the Hippy Hill stage on Friday June 1, and the four finalist bands will perform on the Hartford Stage on Saturday June 2. Bands will be competing for cash prizes and an opportunity for a Hartford Stage slot at JHMF9 in 2019.

Make sure you read all these rules first!

2018 Contest Registration Details

Judges will narrow down the qualified entries to 12 finalist bands to compete live at JHMF8.

Final contestants will be notified via email by Wednesday February 28.

Any band that was booked at the 2016 or 2017 festival is ineligible to enter.


If you are selected to compete

Bands selected to compete at JHMF8 will be required to pay a $100 entry fee to secure their spot in the contest. This fee must be paid within 7 days of notification or you will forfeit your place in the contest. All selected band members will be provided with full festival passes to the John Hartford Memorial Festival 2018. If selected for the finals bands must be available and ready to perform at 11:00am, Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2. All competing band members will be individually responsible for cost of park camping or other lodging.Please note that we book many of the bands that compete in the contest. This year we have booked at least 3 of last years contest bands. 

2018 JHMF Band Competition Prizes

• 1st Place Prize: $1000, a Hartford main stage slot at the 2019 John Hartford Memorial Festival and reimbursement of primitive camping fees paid to park. 

• 2nd Place: $500 

• 3rd Place: $300

• 4th Place: $200


2018 Band Competition Schedule

• Band meeting 11:00am, Friday, June 1st. Hippy Hill Stage

• Preliminary Round. Noon-3:00pm, Friday, June 1st. Hippy Hill Stage 

• Finalists will be selected by 5:00pm, Friday, June 1st and announced on the Main Festival Stage 

• Final Round.  Noon Saturday, June 2nd. Main Festival Stage

• Prizes will awarded around 4:00pm, Saturday, June 2nd on the Hartford Stage


2018 JHMF Band Competition Rules

• Please note: Contestants are required to use just a single stage microphone for the preliminary and final rounds of the band contest. 

• Most electrified instruments, drum sets, and amplifiers will not be allowed.

• Bands will have 1-2 additional channels if needed for electric bass, pedal steel, and or keyboard.

• 12 bands will be selected for the band contest.

• Bands must consist of 3-6 members. 

• Any band that was booked at the 2016 or 2017 festival is ineligible to enter.

• Set time constraints: Each band will have 15 minutes total including set up and breakdown. This will give you 2-3 songs for your set (10-12 minutes performance time). The judges will mark you down significantly if you go over.

• Each band plays 2-3 songs in the preliminaries and 2-3 songs in the finals. (see timing explanation above)

• Repeat of only one song played in the preliminary round is allowed in the finals.

• Bands entering the contest may have no common members.

•The contestant order will be randomly assigned at the contest site prior to the start of the competition at the band meeting on Hippy Hill on Friday June 1st, at 11:00am.  Judges may confer to ensure fairness and consistency in the rating process.

• In the event of ties or virtual ties, the judges as a group will be allowed discretion to confer to reach a consensus regarding the winner. A virtual tie is defined as total scores within 5 points of each other.  If a “tie-breaker” is called, you must play one song that is different from your previous songs. It’s a good idea to have a tie-breaker tune ready.

• Contestants should not talk to the judges or the clerks concerning their scores during or after the contest. The decision of the judges is final. Completed judging forms are not available to the contestants or the public. If you have a formal protest, bring it to the head clerk first. They will forward it to the right person

• Scores are not cumulative from the prelims to the finals. The finals are a new contest; everyone starts on a fresh and equal footing.

• Prizes are awarded Saturday June 2nd at 4:00pm on the Main Festival Stage


Bands Score in These Categories

• 30% Material Selection 

-Difficulty-How technically difficult is the material?

-Taste-How closely would you relate this material to John Hartford’s Music?

-Authenticity-Whether it be Old Time, Bluegrass, Newgrass, Texas Swing, Whatever,... How authentic to your genre is your music?

-Originality-John Hartford was an innovator and a father of newgrass. Where have you taken your material? How original is it?

John Hartford’s music is allowed but please no more than one Hartford song per set. 

• 30% General Instrumental Musicianship 

 -Timing-Is the band tight on beginnings, endings, changes, and solos?

-Rhythm-How strong is the pulse of the band?

-Intonation-Are chords and notes clear and in tune? (band and solosists)

-Expression-How good are your soloists and dynamics?

• 30% Vocal Performance (lead and harmony)

-Intonation-Are the vocal lead and harmony vocals clear and in tune?

-Overall Quality-How good are your lead vocals and harmonies?

• 10% Stage Presence

-Audience Rapport-How well do you engage the audience?

-Entertainment Value-How entertaining are you overall?

-Comfort-Does it look like the band is comfortable?

-Expertise-How professional are you on and off stage? 


Tips from the Contest Judges

• Crowd reaction is a portion of your score. Come early to the festival, pick late, and make new friends/fans that can boost your performance to the next level. 

• If you have made the competition you deserve to be here.

• Even if you don’t make the finals this is an opportunity for you to show your stuff at the late night jams. Bands have been discovered and booked for the JHMF in this fashion. 

• Music competitions are a test of nerve as much as skill.  Your ability to perform elegantly under pressure goes with the territory.