From the pool of submissions, FreshGrass organizers invite four finalists to compete for the FreshGrass Banjo Award. On the festival weekend, the finalists travel to North Adams and perform in front of a jury and a large live audience. The jury will select a runner-up and winner, and they will be announced on Sunday afternoon from the main stage.

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2018 winner

Ryan McCauley— 1st Place

Growing up in Dublin, Ryan, 22, grew up in Dublin and performed regularly in the city’s extensive music scene. A clawhammer master, his music is steeped with old-time Irish flare.


All four finalists will get the following:
• $500 award grant each (but you must show up on the festival weekend and perform in the competition in order to collect this)
• One pop-up performance in the museum on Saturday or Sunday
• Complimentary three-day pass to the festival for each finalist
• Permission to sell your albums at the festival (if applicable)
• Name listed in the FreshGrass line up online and in any marketing materials
• Chance to win the runner-up or grand prize!

Runner-up: $300 additional cash grant
1st Place: $1,200 additional cash grant, brand new top-of-the-line banjo, and a main stage performance slot at FreshGrass 2018


• There is no fee or payment of any kind to enter the contest.
• All participants must fill out the online submission form to be considered for a finalist slot.
• You may not be signed to a record label or be subject to a pre-existing third-party publisher agreement. Self-released CDs and DIY distribution are OK.
• Scruggs style, clawhammer style, or something unique are all acceptable.
• The submission must include one original tune composed or written by the performer and one traditional or standard bluegrass tune.
• Finalists will be chosen by the FreshGrass organizers based on originality (40%), instrument skill (35%), proficiency in the tradition (25%).


• Each finalist will play two songs in front of the jury and a large live audience.
• You may have one accompanying musician playing with you.
• You will have a maximum of 10 minutes on stage (not including set-up), or 5 minutes per song. Songs that go over 5 minutes will negatively affect your score.
• One song must be a standard or traditional bluegrass tune and one song must be original material, written by the performer.
• The jury will be looking for dynamic range in your choice of song tempos, rhythms, and tone.
• You must provide your own lodging and transportation to and from the FreshGrass festival.
• The live competition will be recorded and, at the discretion of FreshGrass, may be included in a FreshGrass compilation video, or may be aired on PBS, or streamed on No Depression.