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The Will McLean Festival Young Musician's Program

The Will McLean Music Festival is proud to provide a premier educational and motivational opportunity for young people elementary through college ages.

 Whether you are a young songwriter, play an instrument, sing, or simply have an interest in acoustic Folk, Americana, Gospel, International Folk, Old Time, or Bluegrass styles we have a place for you.

 The Will McLean Foundation has partnered with several other Not-For-Profit young music educational organizations and we offer college scholarship opportunities.

 Have a look around our website and contact us if you would like more information.

We would like to thank Friends of Florida Folk for their sponsorship.

Please follow the links under “Young Musician's  Program” to learn more about our exceptional program and how you can become involved.

No experience necessary! (Seriously, no musical experience necessary!!)

Participating in the Youth Musician's Program allows youth of any experience level to become inspired or continue exploring their love of music. 

Scroll down to read more and register by February 14, 2024!

Come join us!

For Developing Young Musicians

The Song Collaboration

A highlight of each year’s festival is the Young Musician's Song Collaboration. Youth participating in the Youth Program gather at the beginning of the festival and collaborate to create an original song all their own. Throughout the weekend, they develop and practice the song, and perform it on the Magnolia Stage at the conclusion of the festival. All youth are invited to join the collaboration. 

Shooting Star Stage

The Shooting Star Stage is a dedicated venue for the festival’s Young Musician's Program. It hosts a variety of workshops, the Program Breakfast Meet and Greet, the Young Muscian's Song Collaboration, and the Battle of the Bands. It also serves as a meeting point and gathering place for program participants during the festival weekend.

Young Performer Showcase

Young musicians and musical groups seeking performance opportunities may apply for a spot in the  Young Performer Showcase. Traditionally held on Saturday afternoon on the Azalea Stage, this opportunity features some of the best of our young performers, many of whom have grown up through the years developing their musical talent through the festival’s Young Musician’s Program. 

Applicants must include previous performance example(s).  

Battle of the Bands

The annual Battle of the Bands is another inspiring tradition of the Will McLean Festival. This event provides the unique opportunity for young musicians to meet and closely collaborate with new friends, stretch the limits of their talents, support each other, and have a tremendous amount of fun in the process. Participants are assigned to different bands and have the opportunity to collaborate and practice in preparation for the contest on Sunday afternoon.

Get Registered for the Young Musician's  Program

To learn more about the Festival Youth Program and to register click the button below! 

Registration ends February 14, 2024.

There is no cost to youth to participate, and youth can choose to participate in some or all of the activities throughout the weekend.

The Young Performer Showcase Application

For those who have an interest in applying for a set in the Young Performer’s Showcase. Participation in the Showcase requires a video of previous performance experience. 

Alivia Hunter

2023 Festival Participant - Alivia Hunter is a student at UF studying history. She writes and performs modern folk music inspired by old folk tunes, Greek mythology, and fantasy books. If you’d like to find her music on the Internet, she has an album called “Thoughts about Life” out on Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify. WMF YouTube 


Otemeal stands for Old Time Ensemble

2023 Festival Participants - Coming together as musicians of many different backgrounds, our group unites as friends wanting to play and perform old time music with one another. Music has been an important part of our lives - many of us are pursuing degrees involved with music - and we wish to impart the passions we have for music on others every time we play and perform. WMFYouTube

James Huston

2023 Festival Participant - James Huston started playing the fiddle at the age of 10 years old and at 14 he had added piano and Native American flute. He has performed for President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter. James is now a collge student and a mentor with the Young Musician's program. WMF YouTube

Bus 86

2023 participants - Bus 86 is a family band that started playing at Willfest back in 2018.  They started as part of the youth program in 2017 and have enjoyed sharing their original songs ever since.  Their inspirations include artists such as The Beatles, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Jim Croce, The Cars and many more. Family members: William Hackbarth, Stacy Hackbarth, Casey Hackbarth, Talon Hackbarth. WMF YouTube

Holt & Cabe

2023 Festival Participants - Holt & Cabe is a brother duo from Southwest Florida that composes and performs original Americana music. Their unique, tongue-in-cheek story songs take audiences on an acoustic listening journey. Holt (on guitar) and Cabe (on mandolin)
They also learned to play other instruments including harmonica, ukulele, foot tambourine, fiddle, banjo, resonator guitar, accordion, saxophone, and more. WMF Youtube

Connor Jones

2023 Festival Participant - Connor is a regular performer at Will Fest, having attended since he was 10 years old, performing with his older brother Forrest in their duo band the Debbies, formerly known as NPR, and more recently with the Gentleman, accompanying his duo partner Talon Hackbarth of the family band BUS 86. Connor has been a percussionist since he was 7 years old, acquiring his first Cajon at Will Fest. Now, many years later, he has become a 3rd generation singer songwriter and guitar player. Performing songs he has written for a solo project with albums released under the name, Slow Child @ Play. WMF YouTube

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