“The AMS experience opened my mind musically and personally in a way I wasn’t expecting. I have never felt so empowered.”

Mali Obomsawin (AMS 2017, 2018), Farmington, ME


Q: When are the dates for AMS 2020?
A: April 4 – April 11, 2020.

Q: When is the application deadline?
A: The deadline to apply is November 10, 2019.

Q: What are the age restrictions?
A: Participants can be no older than 22 as of April 11, 2020. There is no minimum age requirement; however, if you are under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian must attend with you.

Q: Can international students apply?
A: Yes.

Q: How many people do you accept?
A: 16.

Q: How does AMS work?
A: Participants select 2-3 of their own tunes (either originals or traditionals of any kind are welcome) to workshop with an ensemble, pre-arranged by AMS Director Mike Marshall. We generally have a morning and afternoon session each day (around 2-3 hours each). During these sessions, we divide the participants into ensembles. When it is time to workshop your tunes, you are the leader of the ensemble. One of the AMS clinicians will be on hand to keep things moving forward, and even play with the ensemble if needed. When you’re not leading one of your own tunes, you will be side-man/woman on someone else’s tune. At the end of each rehearsal session, each ensemble plays their music for the group as well as any guests we have visiting that day. There are critiques of the work and suggestions for improvement. Songwriters will have a few extra sessions on their own with the other songwriters and songwriting faculty (Darrell Scott).

Basically, you are learning and playing a lot of music. A lot.

After the afternoon session, there’s a short break for dinner. Then you attend one or two concerts at the Savannah Music Festival. And after that, probably more rehearsing and/or jamming.

Q: Are you just looking for string players? What about other instruments? Vocalists?
A: This is a program for acoustic musicians and songwriters that focuses on string band arrangements. If you are applying as a songwriter, your application should also showcase your strongest playing skills as well as your songwriting.

Q: What kind of musicians are you looking for?
A: For instrumentalists, we are looking for musicians who are dedicated to their craft and skilled in one or more of a variety of musical ways: old-time, jazz, bluegrass, new acoustic music, Celtic, classical, or any other traditional music. You might be a good soloist or you might be a great songwriter or interpreter. We value all of these musical talents.

For songwriters, we are looking for those with a completely original voice, or who can lend their original voice to a deep understanding of a particular traditional style.

Some handy skills to have:

  • Being able to learn music by ear
  • Being able to develop a part that fits with other musicians in an ensemble and supports the composition
  • Understanding a variety of grooves
  • A fairly in-depth knowledge of harmony and chord changes
  • Being open-minded as a side-man/woman
  • Willingness to take direction from a band leader and function well inside a group

We try to highlight each musician’s strengths and not ask participants to play too far outside their skill sets. The ability to read music is sometimes very helpful but may not be needed often.

Q: Will I get the chance to have lessons or one-on-one time with the clinicians?
A: There are no scheduled lessons or instrumental technique sessions. However, there are lots of opportunities for informal conversations each day.

Q: Can I apply with more than one instrument?
A: Yes. There is a place on the application where you can list a secondary instrument, and there’s room on the application for you to provide links to more than two musical submissions.

Q: I’m still in school. Will I have time to do my homework and assignments while I’m at AMS?
A: Don’t apply if you can’t devote your whole time to music while you’re here. We understand that you’re still in school and you have other commitments. But you should really try to avoid bringing any outside work to AMS. You’ll be learning new tunes, practicing new tunes, or seeing shows 12-15 hours a day.

Q: I don’t take private lessons. Can I still apply?
A: Yes! However, at least one of your reference contacts must be able to testify to your musical skill.

Q: Who should write my recommendations?
A: Well, if you take private lessons, your teacher should definitely write you a recommendation. Other recommendations could come from a musical director, someone you’ve played with in the past, etc.

Q: Where should my references send their letters?
A: All you need to do is enter your references’ contact information in the application. We will contact them for a reference which they fill out online.

Q: Do you have any tips for making a good video?
A: I am so glad you asked. The absolute, most important thing about your video submissions is for your playing to be heard. After that, the most important thing is for your playing to be seen. In general, it helps to have the camera in one place with you as its focus. It does not have to be in a fancy location, or have fancy photography, and you don’t need to look fancy, but if we can’t hear you, or if there are two mandolins on stage and the camera is so far away that we don’t know who’s playing, then that means that we can’t accurately assess your skills.  Please label all videos with your name and instrument and include the other player(s) and instrument(s) as needed.

Q: You said I need to submit “live” video for my application. What do you mean by “live”?
A: “Live” means no editing of the final product. It should be recorded all in one take. It does not have to be at a live show or in front of a live audience.

Q: Can I send in a DVD instead of uploading my video directly in the application?
A: No.

Q: Why not?
A: We have several different people assessing the applications in several different time zones. Everything needs to be digital and available online.

Q: How much is tuition and are there other expenses?
A: Savannah Music Festival provides tuition, concert passes, local transportation, and hotel accommodation for all participants.  Some meals are provided.

Q: Do you pay for my travel to and from Savannah?
A: Participants are responsible for their travel to Savannah and safely bringing their instruments to Savannah.

Q: It sounds great! How do I apply?
A: Go here to get started.

Have more Qs? We’ve got lots of As. Email us or call 912-234-3378 ext. 102.