40th Annual Banjo & fiddle contest

Saturday • September 11, 2021 • 10AM - 6pm

Free Admission • Donations Welcome

Well folks, it is time to plan for an exciting day of traditional music and family fun in Lowell, MA. The Banjo & Fiddle Contest celebrates its 40th event on September 11, 2021, from 10:00AM to 6:00PM.

The event is free for contestants, as well as all traditional music fans who would like to come and listen. Never been to a banjo and fiddle contest before? Bring your lawn chairs and settle in to watch the friendly competition and get in touch with our country’s musical roots.

Cash prizes will be awarded in 9 categories:

Old Time Fiddle
Old Time Banjo
Bluegrass Fiddle*
Bluegrass Banjo
Ethnic Fiddle
Banjo (Other Styles)
Twin Fiddle
Banjo and Fiddle Duet
Youth (14 and under)

*Includes “contest-style” fiddling

Cash Prize Values for each adult category: 1st-$100, 2nd-$50, 3rd-$25. For the Youth category cash prizes are 1st-$50, 2nd-$25, 3rd-$10.

Judging Criteria include musicality (40%), technical competence (40%), tune difficulty (10%), start and stop strength (10%)


40th Anniversary:  In honor of the 40th anniversary we are planning for some special events and participants.

We are pleased to announce the return of a “vintage” judging duo for our historic 40th anniversary contest. Don Pedi, longtime judge and “father of the bears” (artwork) will be with us from North Carolina and will team up with banjo player and collector Jim Bollman. Both have judged the contest many times, including judging together as a team. Don is an extraordinarily talented Mountain Dulcimer player and will lead a Dulcimer workshop, while Jim will lead an old-time banjo workshop, both at 10AM.

Multi-Instrumentalist and longtime contest participant and accompanist Larry Unger will return as the official accompanist for contestants (when requested) and will lead an Old-Time Jam with others at 11AM.

Rich Stillman, longtime bluegrass banjo player, teacher and fixture of the local bluegrass community will return to lead a Bluegrass Banjo Workshop and Jam Session.

Eden MacAdam-Somer, Co-chair of the Department of Contemporary Improvisation at the New England Conservatory, and frequent performer with Notorius Folk and the Klezmer Conservatory Band, will lead an Ethnic Fiddle Workshop and Jam.

Jon Gersh of WUMB Folk Radio will return as the Emcee for the contest and other exciting events of the day. This will include sharing historical remembrances, tales and vignettes as collected by Sarah Jane Nelson from Contest Founder Alex Demas and other long-time contestants.

Also, in honor of this historical event, we have added a special award, named for our contest founder. The Alex Demas Award will be awarded at the discretion of the judges to the contestant who best advances or embodies the goals of the contest as stated in our mission statement. The mission of the Lowell Fiddle and Banjo Contest is to encourage the playing of traditional music on fiddle and banjo by:

– Providing an opportunity for musicians to demonstrate technical excellence and performance skills in a contest setting
– Encouraging the participation of beginning musicians of all ages
– Providing workshops and structured jam sessions for musicians
– Welcoming musicians from all traditional communities
– Providing an entertaining afternoon of music to the communities served by the Lowell National Historical Park and Lowell Summer Music Series.

Here is the detailed schedule for the day:

10AM–11AM             Free Workshops

11AM–12PM             Organized Jam Sessions

11AM–3PM               Registration

12PM–5:30*PM        Banjo and Fiddle Contest

5:30*PM-6PM           Judges Tally Final Scores and Prizes Awarded

* Contest will end and the judge tally will begin when the final contestant has performed.

Workshops (10-11AM):
Mountain Dulcimer (Don Pedi)
Old Time Banjo (Jim Bollman)
Bluegrass Banjo (Rich Stillman)
Ethnic Fiddle (Eden MacAdam-Somer)

Organized Jams (11AM – 12 Noon):
Old Time Jam with Larry Unger
Bluegrass Jam with Rich Stillman
Ethnic Jam with Eden MacAdam-Somer

Our contest is made possible by our generous sponsors:

Premier Sponsor ($2500)

Alex Demas, Contest Founder

Platinum Sponsors ($1000)

Boston Bluegrass Union

Ashokan Music and Dance Camps

Silver Sponsor ($250)

Fiddle Hell Online Festival

Bronze Sponsors ($125)

Mudthumper Music

Music Camps North

Passim School of Music

COVID PROTOCOLS:  Please note that we will follow the COVID safety precautions in-place for Boarding House Park or Lowell High School Auditorium (rain location) in effect at the time. This currently requires mask wearing by all attendees, contestants and staff (vaccinated and unvaccinated). Free masks will be available for distribution and hand sanitizer stations will be located around the site. Food will be limited to snacks, water and soft drinks.

At the Banjo & Fiddle Contest, we invite you to come celebrate musical heritage. The repertoire of tunes played during the Contest is what Folklorists refer to as traditional music – music practiced by groups of people who share a common ethnic heritage, geographic region, or way of life. Tunes are shared within families and communities and are passed on over generations. For more detail, please see the FAQs for the Lowell Summer Music Series.

Location: Boarding House Park, 40 French Street, Lowell.

Rain Location: Lowell High School Auditorium, 50 French Street, Lowell, diagonally across the street from the park.

For More Info: Contact: info@lowellbanjoandfiddlecontest.org

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