Registration for the 2019 John Hartford Memorial Band Contest has ended.

Registration for the 2019 John Hartford Memorial Band Contest has ended.  We'll publish the names of the final competing bands by April 1st. Stay Tuned.

The finalists will perform around a single microphone on the Boogie stage on Friday May 31, and the four finalist bands will perform on the Hartford Stage on Saturday June 1. Bands will be competing for cash prizes and an opportunity for a Hartford Stage slot at JHMF10 in 2020.

Make sure you read and familiarize yourselves with the rules.

2019 Contest Registration Details

Judges will narrow down the qualified entries to a maximum of 12 finalist bands to compete live at JHMF9.

Final contestants will be notified via email by Thursday March 7.

Any band that was booked at the 2017 or 2018 festival is ineligible to enter.


If you are selected to compete

Bands selected to compete at JHMF9 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 2019. If selected for the finals bands must be available and ready to perform at 11:00am, Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1. All competing band members will be individually responsible for the cost of park camping or other lodging. Please note that we have booked several of the bands that compete in the contest. 

2019 JHMF Band Competition Prizes

• 1st Place Prize: $1000, a Hartford main stage slot at the 2020 John Hartford Memorial Festival and reimbursement of primitive camping fees paid to park. 

• 2nd Place: $500 

• 3rd Place: $300

• 4th Place: $200


2019 Band Competition Schedule

• Band meeting 11:00am, Friday, May 31. Boogie Stage

• Preliminary Round. Noon-3:00pm, Friday, May 31. Boogie Stage 

• Finalists will be selected by 5:00pm, Friday, May 31 and announced on the Hartford Festival Stage 

• Final Round.  Noon Saturday, June 1. Hartford Festival Stage

• Prizes will awarded around 4:00pm, Saturday, June 1 on the Hartford Stage


2019 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.

• 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 2017 or 2018 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 Boogie Hill on Friday May 31, at 11:00am.  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 1, around 4:00pm 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 solosists)

-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.