Mountain Youth Talent Contests Qualifications, Rules, and Guidelines – 2017

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Mountain Youth Talent Contests Qualifications, Rules, and Guidelines
(Revised 3/2017)

The purpose of the Mountain Youth Talent Contest is to discover, develop, and encourage talent in youth in traditional Appalachian music, storytelling and dance and provide an opportunity for young people to perform on stage before an audience. In hopes of encouraging a continuing “sense of place” for our young musical mountain youth, Jackson County 4-H and Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA), a heritage organization, are providing outlets for this local talent. The Mountain Youth Talent Contests are designed for amateur talent. Acts that may be considered professional should be brought to the attention of the organizers.

Mountain Youth Talent contests are produced at four locations:

1) Greening Up the Mountains Festival — Sylva, NC—April 22 (deadline April 14)

2) Stecoah Valley Bluegrass Festival, Robbinsville, NC – May 20 (deadline May 12)

3) Franklin Area Folk Festival at Cowee School, Franklin, NC—August 19 (deadline August 11)

4) Mountain Heritage Day, Cullowhee, NC – September 30 (for Best of Show winners)

  1. These contests are for the preservation of our mountain musical heritage, thus the act should reflect the local heritage and old Appalachian ways of our region. There is no entry fee.

Categories with examples include (but not limited to):

Vocal Performance – Individual or Group (old timey songs, old gospel songs, bluegrass, old country songs, heritage tunes)

Dance – Individual or Group (Clogging, Square Dance, Irish Folk Dance, Native American Dance)

Instrumentalists – Individual or Group (feature instruments such as banjo, fiddle, guitar, dulcimer, mandolin playing old timey songs, old gospel songs, bluegrass, heritage tunes)

Poetry/Storytelling (writings about heritage, items of historical significance, old timey ways, etc.)

NOTE: no recorded backup music is allowed. Please sing acapella. Individual performers older than 8 cannot be accompanied in the Individual Category. Accompaniment makes it is difficult to judge the individual. Two or more people are considered a group. (Those 8 and younger may benefit from having support on stage thus they will be allowed accompaniment)

  1. The contest is open to youth through the age of 18.
  2. Individuals or groups must complete an official entry form which can be found at the 4-H blog: You may also call the Jackson County 4-H/Cooperative Extension at 828-400-2114.
  3. All musicians must provide their own instruments, unless otherwise arranged beforehand.
  4. “Best of Show” winner(s) from one community talent contest cannot receive “Best of Show” in any future Mountain Youth Talent Contests in the same year.
  5. Live performances will be judged on the following criteria:

1) Talent
2) Physical appearance (neatness, costuming, etc.) 3) Stage Presence
4) Expression
5) Showmanship
6) Overall impression

  1. There will be at least three qualified (3) judges at each contest.
  2. Each participant will receive a certificate and ribbon. Prize money is available for winners at Mountain Heritage Day at Western Carolina University. Opportunities to participate in the 4-H Entertains Showcase are also available.
  3. The top two “Best of Show” winners from each community contest will be able to participate in the final contest on the Heritage Stage at Mountain Heritage Day at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.


Items our Judges Look for in a Talent Presentation

  1. An instrument should become an extension of the person…is he/she comfortable with the instrument?
  2. How well do they know the music? Do they have general ability? The more they practice, the more comfortable they become.
  3. Is it musical? Is the individual aware of musical phrasing and trying to say something in the playing or singing of the song. Phrasing is the musical sentences of lines that should vary as a conversational sentence varies. Music was meant to touch people in a way that nothing else can. A real musician enjoys the potential of that and judges can see it.
  4. Do they enjoy performing? Do the performers enjoy being on stage and serving the audience with their music. Generally, a performer recognizes that clapping is a form of language and that bowing is important to do…so that you are saying, “Thank you.”
  5. Does the individual show respect to the audience with attention to his/her personal appearance?
  6. Stage presence…depends on how well the performer knows the music so that he/she is: 1) free to give eye contact to the audience. 2) free to feel emotions in themselves in performing. This brings the audience in to the realm of emotion.
  7. Many judges are music teachers. One judge has stated it this way: “As a teacher, I can see talent and I can see when someone practices a lot. If you have talent but do not work at it on a regular basis your performance will not be as good as someone else who works everyday because they enjoy it.”
  8. You have to enjoy what you are doing. It always shows in the overall performance.
  9. Best of Show: From all the performances, the “Best of Show” winner will have most of the above attributes and talents. It takes more ability to sing and play at the same time; it takes more ability for a group to sing and play well together. But sometimes the pure talent of a person will rise above the group and stand out.