North Adams, MA -- The FreshGrass Award, a highlight of the eponymous three-day bluegrass and roots music festival held each fall at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MASS MoCA), crowns up-and-coming musicians who offer a fresh take on the genre. Now in its third year, the Award expands from three categories to four — giving unsigned bands, duos, and banjo and fiddle players a chance to compete for cash prizes totaling over $25,000, recording time at Compass Records’ studio in Nashville, and a slot on the stage at FreshGrass 2016. The competition, judged by a panel of industry professionals led by the legendary FreshGrass favorite Alison Brown, is held during the festival on September 18-20, 2015, and contest performances are open to the festival audience.
To enter, contestants submit two videos via the festival’s website, freshgrass.com — one live performance of an original composition and one live performance of a bluegrass traditional. Notes festival producer Chris Wadsworth, “We want to hear musicians who know the rules well enough to break them!”
Award submissions are judged by compositional originality, instrumental and vocal skills, bluegrass proficiency, and stage presence. Submissions open April 15 and close on July 31. Award finalists are notified in mid-August, and the contest takes place on an indoor stage throughout the three-day festival. Finalists also receive two chances to play their tunes for festival-goers on pop-up stages across the museum campus, including in its galleries. Winners are announced from the festival main stage on Sunday afternoon, September 20.
Over $25,000 in prizes offered to the brightest up-and-coming bluegrass stars in four categories, Band, Duo, Banjo, and new this year, Fiddle
Developed in an effort to boost the careers of promising young musicians, the FreshGrass Award looks for future stars of the bluegrass festival circuit. The 2014 Best Band winner, Twisted Pine, has filled clubs around the Northeast since its FreshGrass debut last year, and performs at this year’s festival. Twisted Pine’s Ricky Mier (who was also the winner of the 2014 Best Banjo contest) says, “FreshGrass is about treating artists and audiences well and creating an environment where everyone can be at the top of their game. The Award is part of that — all the best young bands in the country come and feel very nurtured.”
“It’s a thrill,” Wadsworth continues, “to watch the next generation of music-makers hunker down in this contest while the top bluegrass musicians in the country are playing right outside the doors on festival stages, jamming in workshops, picking in the courtyards, and sometimes jumping on to the contest stage to have a listen.”
In addition to the contest, workshops, and the festival’s legendary jam sessions — during which professional musicians pick and play among the crowd — attendees are encouraged to bring their own instruments. A free, secure instrument-check is available all three days of the festival. FreshGrass also includes children's programming and camping. Admission to MASS MoCA galleries is included with a festival pass, and festival-goers enjoy dozens of pop-up concerts set among dramatically scaled exhibitions of contemporary art.
Advance 3-day adult tickets are now available for $93, with students tickets priced at $83, $46 for kids 7-16, and free admission for kids six and under. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount on festival ticket prices. Single-day tickets may be offered closer to the event, as space allows. FreshGrass details will be updated on the festival website, FreshGrass.com, and on Facebook at FreshGrass Festival. FreshGrass is held rain or shine.
FreshGrass is sponsored by No Depression, Compass Records, American Roots Music Program at Berklee College of Music, and the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. Additional support is provided by Berkshire Gas as part of its ongoing music series at MASS MoCA. FreshGrass is a co-production of MASS MoCA and FreshGrass, LLC.
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is one of the world's liveliest (and largest) centers for making and enjoying today's most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. Hundreds of works of visual and performing art have been created on its 19th-century factory campus during fabrication and rehearsal residencies, which makes MASS MoCA among the most productive sites in the country for the creation and presentation of new art. More platform than box, MASS MoCA strives to bring to its audiences art experiences that are fresh, engaging, and transformative.