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Tim Timberlake’s Tips for Watching the Fourth Annual Banjo Competition

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Last year's Scott Street Five-String banjo competition finalists came to Richmond from as far away as Arkansas, Connecticut and Ohio. 

 "We're gratified that in our fourth year of the competition, we›ve attracted so many talented young players from all over the eastern U.S.," says Tim Timberlake, the president of JAMInc, which stages the annual Folk Fest competition that began in memory of local lawyer and banjo enthusiast Scott Street.

Thanks to the Street family, JAMInc is in the position to offer these gifted young musicians some significant support and motivation: $1,000 first-place prizes in each division, $600 for runners up and $400 for third place.

The bluegrass judge this year is James Bailey, who replaced founding member Bill Emerson in Washington's legendary Country Gentlemen when Emerson joined the Navy in 1974. Guitarist Jim Hurst, a member of the Claire Lynch Band, is also on the judging panel as well as 19-year-old Victor Furtado, member of the Wildmans.

Timberlake has provided a list of things to ponder when watching the finals on Saturday at the CarMax stage:

1. How long does each contestant perform? Every contestant plays no more than four minutes.  The players can have one accompanist if they wish or play solo.  They can play one tune or a medley to demonstrate their range.

2. What should we watch for? The contest has two divisions for both bluegrass, Earl Scruggs-style three-finger picking and claw-hammer, old-time frailing players.  Take note of how differently the right hand is used.

3. What are the judges looking for? The judges' evaluation will be based on the three t's: timing, taste and tone. [When the six finalists] play … the judges will be seated beside the stage.

4. Does crowd applause help? Technically no, but the judges are part of the audience and though they won't be applauding, they might be influenced by the reaction any given player gets. The audience ideally is there to show support for all contestants.  There's no applause meter.  The winners will be determined solely by the four judges.

5. If the audience loves the music, will there be recordings for sale? It's possible that some finalists could have recorded material and we'll be encouraging them to bring it for sales after the competition.

The fourth annual Scott Street Five-String Finals takes place Saturday, Oct. 13, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the CarMax Family Stage.

Back to the Unofficial Guide to the Richmond Folk Festival

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