CBA Youth Program

The Youth Program consists of recreational, instructional and performance components and manages an instrument lending library.

Programs for children at the Father’s Day Festival, held each year on the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, began over two decades ago and expand every year.

CBA Youth Academy 2022 logo

CBA Youth Academy

CBA Youth Academy is a four-day music camp for 8 – 16 year olds held during the CBA Father’s Day Festival. Registration is Open now – and we expect it to sell out shortly!

Online Bluegrass Academy logo with blue bear mascot

Online Bluegrass Academy

We just launched our new ONLINE Bluegrass Academy – a learning channel for youth of all ages. You can join now!

In September 2021, the IBMA Kids on Bluegrass program was not able to get together in person in Raleigh, North Carolina. But that didn’t stop them. With help from the California Bluegrass Association, these 30 talented youth decided to collaborate in a virtual performance, and selected songs to commemorate four music icons that we’ve lost during the past year.   See it here         

A recreational program for children, is held during the CBA Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival each June in Grass Valley.
Guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and bass are all taught at various levels of experience. Singing is emphasized.

KOB remains one of our most popular events with a performance on the Father’s Day Festival main stage.

Our Lending program gives kids an opportunity to practice, perform and try something new, thanks to the generosity of our members.

Support Our Kids’ Programs

Financial support, as well as in-kind donations of instruments and accessories, are an essential basis of our kids programs. Your gift helps strengthen and enrich our Bluegrass culture by encouraging the next generation to play and enjoy music.

Kids on Bluegrass

The California Bluegrass Association is well known and acknowledged for our Kids on Bluegrass (KOB) program. KOB has been emulated by festivals around the world including the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) annual event, the World of Bluegrass.

CBA member Frank Solivan, Sr. put together a group of young pickers at a festival a quarter century ago because his young musician son, Frank Solivan II, wanted to play on the main stage. Play they did, and the Kids on Bluegrass (KOB) program began. Today KOB is directed by Frank’s successor, Helen Foley, who herself has risen through the CBA’s youth programs.

Kids on Bluegrass will be back at this year’s Father’s Day Festival, and it will be better than ever! Running for over 35 years, KOB is a program where kids come together and practice for multiple days in preparation for shows on the Main Stage at the festival. This is the perfect place for talented youth looking to develop a strong stage presence, work together with members of a band, practice putting on a real show, and make life-long friends and memories!

All kids interested in KOB – both new and returning – will be asked to audition on Thursday morning of the festival before rehearsals start. In order for participants to be able to take full advantage of what the program has to offer, they will be expected to know how to play backup rhythm in time with others, know multiple tunes by heart, and have a tune or song in mind that they might be interested in leading. Singers are encouraged to participate! Auditions are open to any “kid” under the age of 18. (We have even had qualified 7-year-olds!) Since KOB is not centered around teaching kids how to play their instruments, beginner level performers are encouraged to explore opportunities provided by the other CBA programs such as KidFest or the Youth Academy.

KOB is a concentrated experience, with practices only on Thursday and Friday and a single show on the Main Stage on Friday afternoon. In place of the KOB show regularly scheduled for Saturday afternoon, we will be putting on a very special CBA Youth All-Stars show! Stay tuned on the Youth section of the website for more details about this celebration of the incredible talent the CBA has helped foster, as well as more of the who, what, when, and where of Kids on Bluegrass at Father’s Day.

Helen Foley, Program Director


KidFest, a recreational program for children, is held during the CBA Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival each June in Grass Valley. There is dedicated outdoor space where children gather for crafts, games and music. An adult must accompany the child. The area is within listening distance of the stage so parents can enjoy the music while making certain their small charges are entertained. KidFest is a busy place with toddler to pre-teen crowds. The schedule for these activities is always included in the festival program.

This year Kid Fest is being coordinated by the team of Ruth and Brenden (Doc) Duterte who are veterans of running fun camp activities with kids for many years. Ruth is a master at Sun-dye t-shirts which will be available for all to make, big kids and parents too! There will be fun crafts, face painting, chalk art, leather crafts, music with Doc, the “Singing Pediatrician” and tons of fun we haven’t thought of yet! Doc and Ruth are also heading up FunGrass during CBA Music camp, so check that out on the website too!

CBA Youth Academy:

CBA Youth Academy is a four-day music camp for 8 – 16 year olds held during the CBA Father’s Day Festival.

Registration is limited to 50 students and is for beginning and intermediate skill levels. Classes will be available for guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass, and voice/songwriting.

The Academy is directed by Kimber Ludiker (Della Mae and three-time National Fiddle Champion). Faculty consists of professional musicians with assistance from CBA Youth Program graduates and will feature a few members of GRAMMY-nominated band Della Mae.

The Academy begins Wednesday at 1:00 pm, and will start at 10am Thursday through Saturday. We’ll celebrate the end of camp with a concert on Saturday!

Registration opens March 1.  The cost is $300 for CBA members or $350 for non-members.  Join the CBA here.

$100 and $200 scholarships are available while funds last.

A parent or guardian must be present on the Fairgrounds during the Festival/Academy.

Contact [email protected] with any questions and we’ll see you in Grass Valley in June!


Kids Instrument Lending Library

The Kids Instrument Lending Library was the brainchild of Darrell Johnston, past CBA Treasurer. Darrell had a great love for bluegrass and old time music and was passionate about children learning to play the music. He learned about one young girl’s need for a fiddle, so he purchased a small fiddle, donated it to the girl and the Darrell Johnston Kids Instrument Lending Library began. Darrell passed away shortly after this deed and the CBA decided to formalize a lending program and name it after him.

Subsequently, Randy January took over the Library and expanded the inventory of donated bluegrass instruments (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, banjo, dobro). There are now almost 70 instruments in the hands of the children of CBA members.  Recently, Randy handed off the administration of  the Library to Sharon Khadder, who can be contacted at the address below. We accept donations of playable instruments needing little repair/set up. The instruments are labeled and then are ready to be put into the hands of children. We have strings, cases, picks, instructional materials available as well. We have member luthiers who assist us with setup and small repairs.

Mandolin Café ( has twice held major events for the library and Mandolin Café is a sponsor of the CBA Youth Program. We welcome other sponsors or donors to step forward to help us get more instruments into the hands of more children.

Requirements for borrowing an instrument are few: parents must be current CBA members and must arrange for pickup with our librarian. We also ask for a one-time $20 donation per instrument, which helps pay for strings, repair, etc. We encourage the child with the instrument to attend one of our festivals each year and check in with us to see if the instrument is still in good playing condition and is being used. Many families check out a number of instruments until they find the instrument their child wants to play.

Donations are always welcome and, of course, essential. We particularly need smaller size instruments. Donations of instruments or accessories are tax deductible because of our 501(c)3 status. We will send a letter of acknowledgment but setting an estimated value of the donation is the responsibility of the donor.

Cash donations will be used towards buying instruments and accessories.

Our Lending Library librarian is Sharon Khadder.  She can be contacted at [email protected]

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