Bluegrass Academy for Kids

Sponsored by Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine with support from the D’Addario Foundation

Since 1999, the Grey Fox Bluegrass Academy for Kids (BGA) has been teaching kids to play, sing and perform bluegrass music on site at the festival. The free four-day program consists of guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass, dobro and cello instruction; group sessions; harmony singing; and guest appearances by musicians who are performing at Grey Fox. The grand finale is a ‘Graduation Gig’ Sunday afternoon on the High Meadow Stage. Approximately 100 kids participate each year. They have fun, learn new skills, grow in confidence and make friends that can last a lifetime.

Thanks so much to Mark Panfil for making the Kids Academy happen in 2020. Check out the top video and enjoy their performance for the virtual Spirit of Grey Fox! 

BGA class after their Sunday Gig at Grey Fox. Photo by Dave Weiland

National & International Recognition

We are committed to keeping traditional bluegrass alive by passing it on to the upcoming generation through education. BGA has been featured in Bluegrass Unlimited, IBMA newsletter, bluegrass association publications and on Voice of America Radio. Several bluegrass festivals now have learning programs based on the Grey Fox model. Above all, we are happy to be connecting kids with bluegrass music.

BGA Staff

BGA Director, guitarist and dobro player, Mark Panfil, is a lifelong music educator from Western New York; a founding member of the Creek Bend Bluegrass Band; Chairman of the Foundation for Bluegrass Music (Nashville, TN); and a long-time instructor at Augusta Bluegrass Week in Elkins, WV. Our kid-friendly instrumental instructors will be announced shortly.


We offer instruction in banjo, bass, cello, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, in classes of approximately ten students each. While singing is part of the program every day, we do not offer classes just for vocalists.

Seniors Program Selection Process

To ensure an optimal group size and mix of instruments, student selection is based on several factors: instrumentation, experience, leadership, and prior participation. Prospective students are required to complete a short questionnaire (due by June 15) with help from their parents.

Students will be notified regarding their placement by June 30. Students who are not selected for Seniors are strongly encouraged to participate in BGA. Preference in future years will be given to students who have shown leadership in the greater Kids Academy.

If Seniors BGA sounds like a good match for your child, please complete the registration form. We will then send you the required questionnaire to complete.

Please feel free to email Tony Watt with any questions about the Seniors program.

BGA Schedule (subject to change)

4:00-5:00 pm On-site registration open. Tee shirts available at this time.
6:00-7:00 pm Sign in, get name badge, tune up, be in seats by 7:00.
7:00 pm General orientation for all students. Bring your instruments! You will be playing the first night!
7:15 pm Student assessment by instructors and class adjustments.
8:00-8:45 pm Traditional Square & Contra Dance with caller, Joyce Rossbach and music by BGA instructors. Great ice-breaker for BGA kids and their families!

10:00-Noon Harmony Singing, Sectional Instruction & Ensemble Practice
Noon-1:30pm Lunch with your family
1:30-2:00pm Special Guest Performance with Q&A
2:00-3:30pm Harmony Singing, Sectional Instruction & Ensemble Practice

10:00-Noon Harmony Singing, Sectional Instruction & Ensemble Practice
Noon-1:30 pm Lunch with your family
1:30-2:00 pm Special Guest Performance with Q&A
2:00-3:30 pm Harmony Singing, Sectional Instruction & Ensemble Practice

9:30-10:45am       Rehearse, Certificates, Class Photo, etc.
11:15am                    Meet backstage at the High Meadow Day Stage and get tuned up.
11:45-12:30pm      The Big Gig on the High Meadow Stage

Program Requirements

Before enrolling, please be sure your child:

  1. Can attend classes all four days, from Thursday night’s orientation thru Sunday’s High Meadow Stage performance.
  2. Will have an instrument for all sessions, including orientation.
  3. Has a basic knowledge of his/her instrument. For instance, fiddle students should be able to play an A scale and play a simple tune such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Guitar students should be able to play A, D and E chords and change comfortably between chords.


  1. BGA is intended for kids age 8 and up. However, if your child has not quite turned 8 but has been taking lessons, plays with basic proficiency AND has an adequate attention span, we will consider accepting him or her if room allows.
  2. We recommend that students bring a tuner to class with them — either an electronic tuner, tuning fork, or pitch pipe.
  3. Guitar, dobro and banjo students should also bring a capo suitable for their instrument.

Registering Your Child

  1. Registration begins on April 1 each year.
  2. There is no charge to participate in the academy. However, tax deductible donations are very much appreciated. BGA is part of the 501(c)3 Grey Fox Education Fund.
  3. Kids 13 and up need to purchase a ticket to attend the festival. Please visit our TICKET PAGE to purchase tickets. Kids 12 and under are admitted free with a ticketed parent or guardian.
  4. To register your child for BGA, click the registration link at the top of this page, fill in all questions and click “submit” ONCE.
  5. Many of you will want to know what the BGA tunes will be this year. Links will be posted on Mark Panfil’s website by early June.
  6. BGA Seniors applicants will receive a questionnaire due by June 15. Class will be selected by June 30. Scroll up to review  Seniors Program description.

Thank you!

If you have any questions, please email Mary Burdette or call 603-677-2178 evenings or weekends only please.