2024 FreshGrass Awards Finalists - FreshGrass Festival

2024 FreshGrass Awards Finalists

The 2024 FreshGrass Awards finalists have been selected! See below and thank you to all of our amazing finalists for their incredible performances.

There’s nothing like some serious, emerging talent and a friendly competition to heat up a festival. That’s why we love the FreshGrass Awards — a cornerstone of FreshGrass | North Adams @ MASS MoCA weekend celebrating the freshest talent on the festival scene, with 12 finalists competing for prizes totaling more than $20,000 cash and prizes!

With festival guests, family, and friends looking on, three finalists in four categories go head-to-head (and banjo-on-banjo!) performing one standard or traditional tune and one original composition. The grand prize winner in each category — selected by a jury of festival musicians and industry experts — takes home an array of prizes, recording sessions at Compass Records, and the band winners get to perform at the next festival.


Catfish in the Sky

Boston, MA

Catfish in the Sky is a band that’s hard to pin down. With an instrument make up of fiddle, cello, ukulele, and cajon, these young musicians are breaking musical barriers in ways that shouldn’t work but somehow do. With a style described as “upbeat Americana folk-grass for all ages,” these Berklee students are able to combine the vast array of styles and musical backgrounds they come from, creating sets that often cause bystanders to stop in their tracks and just watch. Playing a variety of fiddle tunes to covers to originals, Catfish in the Sky is sure to have something everyone will love.

The Little Mercies

Tallahassee, FL

The Little Mercies is a folk trio of three singing and songwriting multi-instrumentalists. Bronwyn Chelette (bass, banjo), Rosalee Walsh (fiddle, banjo, dance) and Shanice Richards (fiddle, guitar, dance). The three friends found each other through the Tallahassee old time music and dance scene. Each of them stood out at the local jams for their respective instrumental skills, distinctive style, and voices that could cut through the onslaught of fiddle and banjos.

Since their beginning in 2023, they have quickly become a highly demanded group within the Florida folk music scene, leaving a deep impression on their listeners. As described by the Florida Americana Festival, “Their infectious energy and unbreakable bond as friends translate into pure magic on stage. Their chemistry will entice you from the first note…The Little Mercies’ performance promises an unforgettable experience.”

High Horse

Boston, MA

High Horse is a progressive-acoustic boy band featuring four friends, three bows, and one pick. A mix of celtic and classical music, it’s a band of brothers playing alternative rock on acoustic instruments, it’s a rollicking romp of great vibes, virtuosic chops, and tight vocals.
Comprised of fiddler Carson McHaney, cellist Karl Henry, guitarist G Rockwell, and bassist Noah Harrington; the band draws from their varied musical backgrounds to explore and perform original compositions and tunes from diverse folk traditions. High Horse is based in Boston, collecting the skills and artistry learned from their education at the Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory.


Ettore Buzzini

Charlotte, NC

“Mountain music is in my blood.” When 16-year-old Ettore Buzzini says this, his meaning is as unique as his take on his beloved bluegrass: while born and raised in a blue -collar neighborhood in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC, his musical roots are a mash-up of mountain traditions, juxtaposing the high lonesome sound of his mother’s native Tennessee Smokey Mountains with the Swiss-Italian folk music of his father’s native Alps. His maternal grandfather gave him his first banjo at the age of 9, and by the time he was 10, he was picking and grinning and holding his own with the older players at the local jam sessions.

A whopping seven years later, Ettore has moved beyond technical mastery of the instrument to develop a unique and instantly recognizable sound. He released his first album at age 15, after a scout from Patuxent Records heard him at a fiddler’s convention in 2021. The album garnered significant airplay and a positive review in the revered Bluegrass Hall of Fame’s Bluegrass Unlimited. Ettore puts hard-driving banjo front-and-center, accompanied by the high lonesome vocals of the genre, and, in true bluegrass tradition, writes lyrics that speak to the human experience — experience influenced by his melting-pot 21st-century world. In true bluegrass tradition, his songs tell stories of the human experience, filtered through the imagination of a young man coming of age. His song themes range wide: a young man’s angst as he grapples with destiny and death; the lament of an immigrant who gets trapped in a cartel; a traditional Italian love song; and the timeless romantic tragedy of ships passing in the night.

The unrestrained youthful energy of his band’s live shows gives them the adrenaline rush of a rock concert, and audiences have used words like “thrilling,” “exciting,” and “breathtaking” to describe the experience.

Megan Mendenhall

Johnson City, TN

Megan Mendenhall has been picking three-finger style banjo since the age of nine. Sharing the same birthday as Earl Scruggs, she was destined to become a bluegrass banjo player. At age eleven, she won first place in the Bluegrass Banjo category at the Lowell Banjo and Fiddle Competition, a feat she has accomplished four times. Megan is a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter, playing banjo, dobro, guitar, and piano. She currently studies banjo with Wes Corbett and Ned Luberecki. Her picking style is influenced by artists such as Béla Fleck, Tony Trischka, and Kyle Tuttle. She plays with both The Mendenhall Sisters and Stoneface Mountain. Megan is attending East Tennessee State University where she is enrolled in the Bluegrass, Old-Time and Roots program. 

Taylor Shuck

Louisville, KY

Deeply immersed in a variety of projects, Taylor Shuck thrives in the company of fellow artists, having lent his talents to recording ventures and touring with a diverse array of regional and national acts such as The Hackensaw Boys, Nicholas Jamerson (Sundy Best), Tiffany Williams, Greenwood Rye, and Mama Said String Band. Born and raised in Kentucky, Taylor is more than just an instrumentalist and singer/songwriter—he is a force of artistic collaboration and camaraderie. Since picking up a banjo in 2004, Taylor has woven his musical tapestry, drawing from the rich traditions of bluegrass while also immersing himself in genres rarely explored on the banjo from jazz to classical, even metal. He loves building with others, and sharing his unique perspectives through his songwriting, and instrumental abilities. Inspired by luminaries like Bela Fleck, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Emily King, Maurice Ravel, Matt Menefee (Cadillac Sky), Charlie Parker, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, My Chemical Romance, and Tim Obrien, he continues to evolve, embracing new sounds and new ideas.


Carson McHaney

Boulder, CO

Carson McHaney is a versatile violinist and composer who explores the intersections of Classical music, Irish music, American Roots music, and many other genres. He has a deep love for collaborative music making and crafting emotive and narrative arrangements/compositions with his two projects: Saltare, an ensemble dedicated to exploring dance-focused music, and High Horse, a progressive-acoustic string band pushing the boundaries of tradition.

Carson has had the privilege of performing alongside esteemed artists such as Aoife O’Donovan, Jeremy Kittel, Esperanza Spalding, and The Westerlies. He has appeared at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall, and Boston Symphony Hall. Carson has also performed as a featured soloist with the Harvard Baroque Orchestra and the Eureka Symphony. As an avid chamber musician,

Carson has had the pleasure of studying with renowned artists such as the Doric String Quartet, Cuarteto Cassals, Brentano String Quartet, and Joel Krosnick. Carson is a regular festival artist at the Trinidad Bay Arts and Music Festival, where he performed as Quartet in Residence with the Cornell Quartet (2019). During his time as a founding member of the Cornell Quartet, Carson performed multiple West Coast tours, premiered new compositions, and held quartet fellowship positions at various summer festivals. As an experienced musical educator, Carson has taught private lessons for 12+ years, worked asa chamber music coach, led orchestral sectionals, and is on faculty at the Humboldt Chamber Music Workshop. Carson has also participated in musical outreach programs, working with both imprisoned people and school children, even internationally.

Jacqui Armbruster

Allentown, PA

Jacqui Armbruster is a dynamic multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and improviser from Allentown, PA. An active performer in the Greater Boston area, Jacqui can be found in a wide array of musical settings ranging from concert halls to house concerts. Jacqui’s musical collaborations reflect their diverse passions- whether in a string quartet, an old-time jam, or sharing their original music in a songwriters’ circle, Jacqui brings their omnivorous musical approach to each opportunity they get to share music with others. Their current project, Almost Olive, is in the process of recording their first EP, which is set to be released this summer. Jacqui’s varied musical interests have led them to collaborate with and study from musicians all over the globe. Notable recent collaborators include Becca Stevens, Aoife O’Donovan, Leo Genovese, Chico Pinheiro, Layth Sidiq, and Arun Ramamurthy. Past teachers include Kirsten Docter, Nick Cords, Jamey Haddad, and Adriana Linares.

Jacqui earned their Bachelors degree in Viola Performance from Oberlin Conservatory in 2022 as a member of Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honors Society and recipient of the Pi Kappa Lambda Award for Musicianship, the Theodore Presser Undergraduate Award, and a Flint Initiative Grant. Jacqui has been a featured soloist with the Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble led by Tim Weiss, where they premiered a concerto for singing violist, and has held principal positions in Oberlin Orchestra and the New England Conservatory Philharmonia. Jacqui received their Masters of Music in Contemporary Musical Arts with Academic Honors from the New England Conservatory in Spring of 2024, where they studied with Eden Macadam-Somer, Carla Kihlstedt, Lautaro Mantilla, Liz Knowles, and Ted Reichman. In their spare time, Jacqui is a devout plant parent and a passionate consumer of coffee.

3rd Fiddle Finalist TBA!

Coming soon


Ethan Robbins

Boston, MA

Ethan Robbins is the guitarist/songwriter of Americana band, Cold Chocolate, a genre-bending Americana band that fuses folk, funk, and bluegrass to create unique a sound all their own.  Ethan began his bluegrass career at Oberlin College where he began to explore how this hard-driving fast-paced genre could be stretched. A classical violinist from age four, Ethan fell in love with the guitar when he turned fourteen and his father bought him five quintessential albums: The Band’s “Music from Big Pink,” Bob Dylan’s “Bringing it all Back Home,” John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereo-plane,” Hank Williams “Live at the Grand Ole Opry,” and the Grateful Dead’s “Workingman’s Dead.”  Ever since, Ethan has attempted to bring those raw, rootsy sounds into his own original material.His band, Cold Chocolate, has established itself as a force in the Americana genre.   Ethan and his band have shared bills with Leftover Salmon and David Grisman, and regularly perform at venues and music festivals up across the country.

Jake Eddy

Parkersburg, WV

Jake Eddy is a bluegrass guitarist born and raised in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  He began his music career and lifelong addiction to the road by playing banjo professionally at the age of fourteen with bluegrass-legend Melvin Goins. His guitar playing, which is primarily influenced by bluegrass and jazz, is showcased on his debut album of fiddle tunes, entitled “Jake Eddy,” which features such greats as Grammy-award winning Bryan Sutton, Rob Ickes, and Kenny Smith. He tours as a sideman with the Becky Buller Band from Manchester, TN as well as his own group. His current touring group features his brother, Carter on the upright bass and NC-native Graham Brewer on the mandolin!

G Rockwell

Boston, MA

An award winning multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and bandleader, G Rockwell has performed and competed on stages across the country. 

His unique style of Americana sits somewhere between the traditions of bluegrass and gypsy jazz; with the modern influences of artists like David Grisman and Tony Trischka. G brings a cross-cultural sound into his original music with global influences from Celtic fiddle music to Middle Eastern folk tunes.

Graduating from the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in 2024; G performs and teaches on multiple instruments. When he isn’t performing with G Rockwell Band, you might find him on stage with Jacob’s Ladder, Bookmatch, Cahaba Roots or High Horse.

G has worked on multiple studio album/EP projects with bands, playing guitar, banjo and mandolin. His original compositions have been released on  Spark! (2019), Beacon Street Time (with Micah Nicol 2021) and Bouyancy (2023)

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