15th Annual Bitter Jester Music Festival and Band Competition - Festy GoNuts!

15th Annual Bitter Jester Music Festival and Band Competition

Jul 16, 2021

The 15th Annual Bitter Jester Music Festival and Band Competition

Highland Park, IL

Free weekly concert series in Downtown Highland Park’s Port Clinton Square – 6:45 p.m. Fridays July 23 & 30, Aug. 6 & 13

Grand Finale Concert & Fireworks at Wolters Field – 3 p.m. Sept. 5

Bitter Jester Music Festival

Being a young artist can be a difficult experience.  For starting out musicians, there are so many unknowns to navigate, it can often be discouraging. For those that have been at it a few years, the challenges can mount up and overwhelm these folks who most likely started this path for a simple love of playing and performing music.

Often, for young musicians, local band competitions are an attractive outlet to hone their craft and gain some recognition.  These competitions can at times be fairly cutthroat and leave everyone but the winner feeling jaded with their efforts.

That’s where the Bitter Jester Music Festival comes in.

Bitter Jester Music Festival, hosted by The Bitter Jester Foundation for the Arts, is “the Midwest’s largest professional music competition for emerging musicians.”  More than a band competition, however, Bitter Jester presents a uniquely invaluable opportunity to its participants.

The Bitter Jester Band Experience

When a band of young musicians (all bands must consist of at least 50% of its members under the age of 22) enters the Bitter Jester competition, they are already on track for a great experience.

Each competing act of the multi-week concert series will be judged by a panel of music/media professionals and leading music educators who will select a winner each week. The four weekly winners – plus four additional “Wild Card” bands selected by BJMF producers – advance to a Grand Finale where cash prizes and other awards are given out before a big fireworks display.

But it is what all of the bands – not just the chosen winners – receive that makes this competition so special.

Each band in the Bitter Jester Competition gets the experience of performing in front of a crowd on a professional stage with professional equipment – but that’s just the beginning.

All Bitter Jester performers receive a wealth of critical and encouraging feedback from working music professionals, including full-page written comments, numerical scores in different categories, graphs, and charts comparing each performer’s ranks relative to their competition.  Additionally, all participants receive a soundboard recording of their performance including a real-time track of verbal feedback by one of the esteemed judges on the panel. For any up-and-coming artist, this amount of feedback and analysis can be game-changing for their musical growth.

On top of that, there is an appointed “Band Liason” on-site whose goal is to facilitate connections among these young artists.  The sense of camaraderie among these competing young acts is uplifting, as they typically befriend one and another and cheer each other on, despite being in a competition.  Connections are made amongst acts that can endure, and also prove to be incredible resources for their emerging musical careers.

“This musical competition is a great opportunity for talented young musicians to get noticed and measure their skills against those of their peers,” says festival judge Greg Easterling, a former on-air DJ with 97.1 TheDrive, WDRV. “It’s also a lot of fun! I’m proud to be associated with it as a judge and all-around supporter.”

As it is a competition, winners are eventually chosen.  At the Grand Finale Concert, the judges will narrow the field down to two finalists.  These two finalists will then go head to head and a winner is chosen based on crowd response.

The winner of the Bitter Jester Music Festival competition will receive $1000, generously donated by First Bank of Highland Park, with $750 to the runner-up and $500 to the 3rd place act.


Attending Bitter Jester Music Festival

Bitter Jester Music Festival is celebrating its 15th year.  That means that this might look a bit different than what many might envision of a ‘band competition.’

For starters, this is a series of concerts.  Beginning July 23rd, the Festival series continues each Friday in Downtown Highland Park’s Port Clinton Square – July 23 & 30, Aug. 6 & 13.  The Grand Finale Concert and Fireworks takes place at Wolters Field, beginning at 3 p.m. on Sept. 5.  All of these events are free.

With all of the amazing offerings for the contest participants, Bitter Jester manages to attract top-notch talent from all over the country.  Unlike some band competitions, Bitter Jester performers will deliver professional performances by extremely talented young musicians.

The bottom line is that the crowd will be treated to some incredible music while the acts on stage compete to deliver their best performances.

“If you’re looking for a summer music festival where you can hear really good music in a family-friendly environment with fireworks, Bitter Jester is the place you should go. It’s remarkable,” says BJMF Director of Education Michael Tseitlin, himself a
five-time competitor in BJMF and now Director of Guitar at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL.
“I volunteer for this incredible organization because my life was so profoundly shaped by it when I was a
teenager. I wouldn’t have gone into music education if it weren’t for Bitter Jester.”


More Information on Bitter Jester Music Festival

For up-to-date information about the Bitter Jester Music Festival, visit them on Facebook at @BitterJesterBattle
or Instagram at @bitterjester_musicfestival. Contributions to support the non-profit Bitter Jester Foundation for the Arts can be made by contacting foundation@bitterjester.com.

Bitter Jester Music Festival
Bitter Jester Music Festival
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About The Author


Jason has been in love with the festy lifestyle ever since his first festival experience, The Great Went in August of 1997. Whew. That was a while ago. Jason loves the way festivals free us from the constraints of the outside world, and let us be our true "fest" selves!

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