Applications Are Open for the 2022 John Hartford Band Contest

2022 Contest Registration Details:

Registration will remain open until 11:59pm ET on February 28th. Judges will narrow down the qualified entries to a maximum of 12 finalist bands to compete live at the 2022 John Hartford Memorial Festival. Final contestants will be notified via email by Monday, March 7th. Click Here to submit your Band Contest Application.

If you are selected to compete

Bands selected to compete 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 2022. If selected for the finals, bands must be available and ready to perform at 11:00am, ET, Friday, June 3rd. The top four band will perform again on Saturday, June 4th. All competing band members will receive free primitive tent camping. All entrants will be considered for booking. We have booked many of the bands that competed in previous contests. Click Here to submit your Band Contest Application.

2022 JHMF Band Competition Prizes

• 1st Place Prize: $1000, a Hartford main stage slot at the 2023 John Hartford Memorial Festival.

• 2nd Place: $500 

• 3rd Place: $300

• 4th Place: $200


2022 Band Competition Schedule

• Band meeting 11:00am, CST, Friday, June 3rd at the Boogie Stage.

• Preliminary Round. Noon-3:00pm, ET, Friday, June 3rd at the Boogie Stage.

• Finalists will be selected by 5:00pm, ET, Friday, June 3rd and announced on the Hartford Main Stage.

• Final Round. Noon, ET, Saturday, June 4th. Hartford Main Stage.

• Prizes will awarded around 4:00pm, ET, Saturday, June 4th, on the Hartford Main Stage.


2022 JHMF Band Competition Rules

• Please note: Contestants are required to use just a single 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.

• A Maximum of 12 bands will be selected for the band contest.

• Bands must consist of 3-6 members. 

• Any band that was booked at the 2019 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 Friday June 3rd, at 11:00am, ET.  Judges may confer to ensure fairness and consistency in the rating process.

• 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 4, around 4:00pm, ET, on the Hartford Festival Stage.


Bands Score in These Categories

25% 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. 

25% 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 soloists)

-Expression-How good are your soloists and dynamics?

25% 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?

25% 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.