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.

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.

KOB remains one of our most popular events with two performances on the main stage of our Father’s Day Festival

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.
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, college student Helen Foley, who herself has risen through the CBA’s youth programs.

KOB remains one of our most popular events, with two performances on the main stage of our Father’s Day Festival. Children 3-18 with musical skills meet with Helen Foley and staff beginning on Thursday morning of the Festival. By Friday at dinnertime, they have an hourlong set put together and ready to present.

This is a performance program and requires long rehearsal time from its participants. The reward for the kids (and parents) is huge. Children learn that performing music takes discipline and the ability to work together in a group.

Some of the graduates of the KOB program have become professional musicians and appear on stages all over the world. The IBMA often invites select young musicians from our KOB program to travel to the World of Bluegrass to perform.


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.

Kathleen Rushing ( coordinates this program. Activities include crafts, tie-dying, lemonade making, musical games, musical performances and water play on the grass. Kathleen also coordinates our FunGrass activities which occur (for a small price) during our CBA Music Camp, which precedes the festival.

CBA Youth Academy

CBA Youth Academy is a four-day music camp for 8- to 16-year-olds, held on the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, California during the Annual CBA Father’s Day Bluegrass Festivals. The Academy starts Wednesday of festival week and ends on Saturday. Guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and bass are all taught at various levels of experience. Singing is emphasized.

We publish our own CBA Youth Academy Songbook which every student receives. The songbook includes classic bluegrass and old-time songs, as well as many songs by California songwriters.

Kimber Ludiker directs the Academy ([email protected]). Over the years, faculty have included members of Front Country, the Barefoot Movement, and Della Mae, in addition to many young CBA musicians.

The Academy is produced and directed by the California Bluegrass Association. Beginning and Intermediate players are welcome. Fifty children only. Parents or guardians must attend the Festival and be present on the Festival Site during the Academy. Registration opens in February.
For more information contact [email protected].

Kids Instrument Lending Library

is 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.

Since then, Randy January has taken over the library and the inventory of donated bluegrass instruments (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, banjo, dobro) has grown. There are now almost 70 instruments in the hands of the children of CBA members. 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 a current CBA member and must arrange for pickup with our librarian. 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. Donations of instruments or accessories are tax deductible because of our 501(c)3 status. We will send a letter of acknowledgement 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].

Support California Bluegrass Association's Youth Programs

Make a tax-deductible donation today!