Andy and Lauren May have been hosting Acoustic Kids Showcases at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS for longer than I have been playing mountain dulcimer!  This special program gives kids (age 16 and younger) an opportunity to perform on a main stage, no matter what their instrument or skill level.  All you have to do is submit an audition recording (nowadays, that is usually a Youtube video, but back in my day it was a cassette tape!)

I first participated as an Acoustic Kid in 1995, when I got to play "Jesus Loves Me" on the big stage! I continued to participate in the program, both solo and with my family band "Scenic Roots", until 2000 when I started entering the National Mountain Dulcimer Contest, which conflicted with Acoustic Kids.

It was after an Acoustic Kids performance that I met David Schnaufer for the first time.  He gave me a copy of "Swing Nine Yards of Calico" and encouragement to keep playing my dulcimer!  It was there I learned that "the show must go on!", even when a rainstorm shuts down the sound system.  A picnic table became a make-shift stage and we played our songs to a dedicated audience anyway.  At Acoustic Kids, I met Nickel Creek one year.  Another year, I watched Dan Crary warm up by playing scales for half an hour.  I learned to perform, and I learned what it takes to be a serious musician.  I made friends and was inspired.  I also experienced first-hand the importance of adults investing in young musicians!

This year, Andy and Lauren May invited me back as an alumni, both to perform and encourage other kids.  Pictured above is Leah, a wonderful guitar-playing, song-writing ten-year old, who was intrigued by my dulcimer.  I gave her a quick lesson, and soon she was making music on it!

I can think of no greater honor or privilege than to carry on the incredible legacy of folks like Andy and Lauren May, by continuing to invest in young musicians.  Whenever I write a new curriculum or teach a new student, I am inspired by all I learned as an Acoustic Kid.  The support I receive through Patreon helps underwrite this important work, so THANK YOU!

PS- Do you know a young musician, of any skill level, who would love to play on a "big stage"?!!  Encourage them to apply for Acoustic Kids Showcases -- they take place at several festivals across the US.