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the string band contest!

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The BOTMC String band Contest
Saturday, September 21, 2024 from 11 am til around 2:30 pm
Family concert featuring Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer at 10:15

Many thanks to the Berkeley Public Library for co-sponsoring the Family Concert!


Civic Center Park, Center Street near Milvia, adjacent to the Downtown Berkeley Farmer's Market.

FAMILY CONCERT SET with Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer at 10:15 am

CONTEST starts at 11 am with short performance by Manning Music Fiddlers and ends at around 2:30pm

Open hosted jam session!

1pm-2pm Old time jam with TBA

 Any style of old-time acoustic music is acceptable and it's fine to include vocals - old-time, bluegrass, swing, Irish, jug band, Klezmer, Cajun, Greek, Mexican, pan-ethnic satire, etc. etc.

Sign up 10:00 am til 10:30 am, but advance registration is strongly recommended (see below)

Advance registration begins SEPT. 1, 2024
Warm-ups continuous from dawn!
Limited to 12 bands!
Free to enter!

Jamming throughout the park, including hosted open jam

Past Contest Winners



Civic Center Park, MLK and Center Street, adjacent to the Downtown Berkeley Farmer's Market
Just one block from "Downtown Berkeley" BART Station, easily accessible by bus too!


Pre-registration for the String Band Contest begins on Sept. 1, 2024

Pre-registration is strongly recommended!

We'll post here when registration has closed. However, there are usually some "no-shows" so even if registration is closed, your band is welcome to show up on the day of the contest and if we can fit you in, we will -- and either way, there will be plenty of opportunity to jam in the park!

To pre-register, please provide us with the following info:
1. Name of band - you can change this later if you want to.
2.  Number of members and instrumentation (including vocals).  This can be tentative info, but it will help us in planning to have it. 
3.  Contact person for band
4. Contact person's phone number (including area code) 

Please send this info (email preferred!) to: 

NOTE:  THIS IS A NEW EMAIL ADDRESS!!!  Please use this email address, the old one is not working

You'll get a confirmation email (probably not right away) with an attached stage plot blank.  Please print it out, fill it in, and bring with you on the day of the contest.

Snail Mail:
String Band Contest
2935 Piedmont Ave.
Berkeley CA 94705

Phone number:  510-225-5508

On the day of the contest, all bands, whether pre-registered or registering on the day of the contest, MUST check in at the registration table during registration time (10:00 to 10:30 AM). Order of performance for bands that have checked in will be posted between 10:30 and 11:00. Contest starts at 11:00 AM sharp and runs til about 2:30.


No entry fee.
Entry limit:  String Band Contest is limited to 12 bands total. Bands can enter via email (preferred), via snail mail, or during registration time the day of the contest (if slots don't fill up by pre-registration). There are always some no-shows among the pre-registered bands, so it's worthwhile to show up on the day even if you didn't get it together to pre-register!

 Any style of old-time acoustic music is acceptable and it's fine to include vocals - old-time, bluegrass, swing, Irish, jug band, Klezmer, Cajun, Greek, Mexican, pan-ethnic satire, etc. etc.

1. All bands must report to the registration table between 10:00 and 10:30 AM for check-in and registration. We'll ask you to fill in a stage plot form, if you haven't brought yours with you. At around 10:30 AM, all bands will be given a number that signifies the order of contestant bands. To make the contest run smoothly, bands should be backstage when the number previous to theirs is called, and ready to perform when their number is called. If not present, they will be disqualified. Please announce the name of the tune or song before you begin, but do not give time-consuming introductions or explanations.

2. To be judged, bands must consist of at least three but no more than seven members. It's good, but not required, for each band to include at least one banjo or fiddle.  Any kind of old-time music is fair game -- oldtime Appalachian, bluegrass, rebetika, Mexican, Cajun, etc. No electric instruments, drums, or recorded music will be permitted. Electric pickups will not be permitted.

3. Contestants may not play in more than 2 bands, and may not play the same instrument in more than one band.


5. Contestants and bands need to be prepared to play two selections. 

6.  Total time for the round should be no more than 6 minutes (for both selections).

7. Bands will be judged on rhythm/timing/pace, intonation/tonal qualities, expression/soul, musicianship/style, difficulty/technique and stage presence/ease and confidence in performance.

8. Accidents beyond the control of the contestant (such as broken strings) may result in a replay if the judges so merit.

9. Decisions by our fearless and 

incorruptible judges are final. 




in lieu of (in the spirit of the original Berkeley Fiddle & Banjo Contests of the 1960s):

First prize:  one pound of rutabagas
Second Prize:  three pounds of rutabagas
Third Prize:  five pounds of rutabagas

For more information:
















Right hand poster art by Rick Shubb.  Left hand poster art by Hank Bradley.  Civic Center Park was known as Provo Park for a time during the anti-war movement, after the progressive political group of that name which was started in Amsterdam.   

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