Over the past two decades, hundreds of young musicians have taken part in the Acoustic Kids programming at MerleFest presented by Window World. This year—the showcase’s 20th anniversary—young musicians from the MerleFest audience will once again step on stage and perform in Andy May’s Acoustic Kids Showcases. Some participants are just learning to play their instrument, some play just for the fun of it, and some go on to international renown. Put on by long-time music educator and accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Andy May, Acoustic Kids is open to any musicians ages 16 or younger who register online before March 15.
Their accompanists may be any age, and mixed-age groups are accepted—including family bands. Music teachers often accompany their students, using the program to give their students a real-life performance experience that is difficult to find elsewhere. No matter their skill level, Acoustic Kids celebrates young musicians’ achievements, and each year, a stream of young musicians heads to Merlefest to create their own “Music, Moments, and Memories” in Acoustic Kids Showcases. A festival wristband is required to participate, but there is no additional charge. Parents can find the registration page here.
“Andy has a remarkable ability to make kids feel welcomed and valued as a person and [a] musical contributor,” says Sara Watkins, multi-year Acoustic Kids participant with Nickel Creek at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan. “I’m so glad Acoustic Kids has stayed involved in the community, because not only does it give all these kids good memories, but as the kids grow up they’ll remember that their contribution is important.”
“[Acoustic Kids] Showcases have inspired in me the confidence that comes from playing in front of thousands of people and having a successful experience. I can’t overstate how grateful I am,” exclaims Liam Purcell, multi-year MerleFest Acoustic Kids participant and Ambassador, both solo and with Cane Mill Road (2019 IBMA Momentum Award—band). “ [Andy runs] an extremely tight ship without taking any of the fun out of it.” Purcell’s band, Cane Mill Road, join One Fret Over, The Moore Brothers, Presley Barker, The Williams Brothers, and Wyld Fern—all fellow Acoustic Kids participants, past and present—as official performing artists at this year’s MerleFest.
The Acoustic Kids Ambassadors, which debuted at MerleFest in 2014, is a spin-off of the regular showcases. It shines a spotlight on young musicians who are planning to make a career of playing. The Ambassadors will play the Cabin Stage on Saturday, giving the audience a chance to get to know these young emerging artists and be reassured that “the music is in good hands!”
Registration and more info can be found at andymay.com/acoustic-kids-