Memphis International Blues Challenge - Scheduled for January 24-28th, 2023!

January 24th - 28th 2023!!


About the Challenge 

The International Blues Challenge represents the worldwide search for those Blues Bands and Solo/Duo Blues Acts ready to perform on the international stage, yet just needing that extra big break. Each Affiliate of The Blues Foundation has the right to send a band and a solo/duo act to represent its organization at the IBC. 

The Memphis IBC is judged by blues professionals from across the world who have years of experience in listening to, producing, and creating blues music. The Blues Foundation has established a set of criteria by which all acts are evaluated throughout the five days of the IBC. 

Affiliated organizations are required to stage a regional preliminary IBC competition, with the winner of that event representing the organization in the International Blues Challenge held annually in Memphis, TN along historic Beale Street. While Affiliated Organizations are encouraged to follow The Blues Foundation’s structure and rules during their local challenges, each organization is free to structure its preliminary rounds as it sees fit, as long as a true challenge between multiple acts takes place resulting in a single band and/or solo/duo act being identified.

NAZBA IBC Rules and FAQ's – 2021 

The purpose of these rules is clarify NAZBA policy regarding the competition and to help prevent misunderstandings and confusion. In general, NAZBA follows the Blues Foundation rules, particularly relating to scoring. Each affiliate is able to make their own additions to the Blues Foundation’s in order to better serve their individual circumstances. The question and answers below encompass a majority of circumstances the Board has encountered over the years but does not represent a complete list. If there are questions that are not answered in this communication, please email for further clarification.    

1) Who is eligible to register for the NAZBA IBC? 

All performers must be fully paid NAZBA members at the time of the IBC application. New members may apply simultaneously with the IBC application, by including the appropriate membership fee (currently $20) and application information. NOTE: NAZBA reserves the right to deny any applicant membership, who in the judgment of the NAZBA Board, has been or has the potential to be disruptive to NAZBA business.  All members agree to adhere to the NAZBA Code of Conduct as a condition of membership. 

NAZBA Board Members are permitted to compete in the NAZBA IBC, but will not be part of the voting process for matters affecting IBC policy, such as selecting judges, or the number of timeslots, or IBC lineup (this is random already) or other matters that might suggest a potential conflict of interest.


2) Who can participate in the NAZBA IBC? 

Arizona currently has three Blues Foundation affiliates, capable of hosting a sanctioned IBC event: Tucson, Phoenix, and NAZBA. Based on a recent change in the Blues Foundation Rules, as a general rule, acts within a 250 mile radius should compete in their own region FIRST, before they would be permitted to compete in another area IBC. Exceptions have been made and may be considered on a case by case basis.   

3) Can I perform in BOTH solo/duo and band competitions? 

NAZBA follows the current Blues Foundation Rule that a performer cannot compete in both the solo/duo and band competition. Therefore a performer must limit his/her choice to either the solo/duo or band competition.  

4) Can I perform in multiple acts during the competition? 

NAZBA does not allow the same performer to compete in multiple bands for the competition. For example, the same drummer cannot be playing in multiple acts for the competition.   

5) Why are there a minimum number of acts required at the NAZBA IBC? 

In past competitions, there have been approximately 4 "bands" and for solo/duo acts each year. It is not possible to predict how many acts will be entered in any given year, but in order to have what NAZBA considers a "fair" competition, NAZBA will determine a minimum number of acts needed for a competition to move forward. Should the minimum not be achieved, then entrants will be given a full refund.  

6) How does the 250 mile Rule affect bands from out of the area? 

Part of NAZBA’s primary mission is to serve the Blues musical audience in its area. As such, priority will be given to Northern Arizona acts wishing to compete in NAZBA’s IBC. However, the question remains “what is a Northern Arizona act?” 

Definition: A Northern Arizona Act is one where a majority of members reside in the general areas of Northern Arizona, including, but not limited to Flagstaff, Prescott, Sedona/Camp Verde, Kingman, Winslow, and Payson.  What if members reside in different parts of the State? 

Example: Blues Solo Act – Member resides in Winslow. Ruling would be the Act to be considered Northern Arizona. If the Act resided in Phoenix, then the Act would NOT be considered a Northern Arizona Act. 

Example: Blues Duo Act – Member 1 resides in Phoenix, Member 2 in Flagstaff. Ruling would be the predominant featured player residence would determine whether the Act was a Northern Arizona Act or not. This determination would be done by non-competing Board members.  

Example: Blues Trio – Member 1 resides in Greater Phoenix area, Members 2 and 3 reside in Prescott. Ruling would be this is a Northern Arizona Act.  

Example: Blues Quartet – Members 1 and 2 reside in Tucson, and members 3 and 4 in Prescott. Ruling would be the predominant featured player residence would determine whether the Act was a Northern Arizona Act or not. This determination would be done by non-competing Board members.  

7) Since the NAZBA IBC is the last one on the calendar, can I apply to both the Phoenix Blues Society and NAZBA’s IBC at the same time? 

Yes. However, if you win the Phoenix IBC (Tucson or Las Vegas do not currently host IBC events), you must notify NAZBA immediately as you will no longer be eligible to compete in the NAZBA IBC. 

8) How are acts notified of the NAZBA application availability and deadline? 

Once non-competing NAZBA Board members agree on a release date, that date will be known only to those individuals and will be released via the NAZBA Facebook website with appropriate due date and contact information.      

9) Can I swap out a player after winning the NAZBA IBC? 

Under certain circumstances, yes, however NAZBA reserves the right to make such determination. Example 1: The winning act’s lead singer and front person cannot go to the IBC. What happens now? First, it is the Acts responsibility to notify NAZBA, IN WRITING, detailing the circumstances at the earliest possible time. Given this person is a key player in the act, the non-competing Board members will likely elect to send the second place band in their place. 

Example 2: The winning act’s bass player, who does not sing, cannot make the IBC. What happens now?  Once again, after written notification is received, the non-competing Board members may elect to allow a suitable replacement in the lineup. The non-competing Board decision will be based on whether Board member(s) believes the replacement will result, at a minimum, in the same or better quality of act. The non-competing Board members still reserves the right to send the second place band under either scenario. 

No more than one (1) replacement within an act will be considered.  

NOTE: If the Blues Foundation registration process has closed (typically the Monday of Thanksgiving week), then NAZBA may not authorize any changes. Changes after this point must be approved by the Blues Foundation.         

10) How are the slots filled? 

Once a determination is made by non-competing Board member(s) as to whether an act is “Northern Arizona” or “Arizona at-Large.” Preference will be given to Northern Arizona based acts to fill available slots first. If there are more Northern Arizona acts then available slots, preference ranking will be given to those acts that turned in their completed and paid applications on a first come, first served basis. If one of the Northern Arizona slotted acts drops out, the act that ranked next in date/time application received would get the slot. In the event all available slots are filled by Northern Arizona acts, Arizona at-Large acts would be entitled to a refund of their entrance fees and NAZBA member fees should they desire. 

11) How are Judges and lineup determined? 

Judges are selected by the non-competing Board members and preference is given to individuals who have competed in any local IBC and or Memphis IBC. Lineup is randomly determined AFTER the first act, which is always Solo-Duo. The opening solo/duo act is randomly selected from the pool of solo/duo competitors. We do this in order to have less confusion on stage why trying to dial in sound. After the opening solo/duo act, the sequence of remainder acts is random.  Scoring outcomes will be verified by a non-competing NAZBA Board member and/or their designee.   

12) Why can’t I bring my amp? 

NAZBA follows the Blues Foundation rules related to setup time and backline. Guitar and bass amps, along with drums will be provided as in Memphis so no guitar or bass amps may be brought on stage. If you are a harp or keyboard player, you are permitted to bring your own amp. Drummers are asked to bring whatever makes them comfortable (cymbals, throne, pedals, snare, etc.), keeping in mind that you are still required to set up and begin play in 5 minutes. 

13) When will the scores and winners be announced? 

Winners will be announced at the conclusion of the competition. Scores will be scanned and emailed to the original act applicant within a week. NOTE: NAZBA does not provide a ranking of where your position was in the final outcome.   

14) Must all the music be original? 

No, but originality is now the second most important scoring in the event. While originals are preferred, they are not mandatory. It is mandatory that each act announce that a particular piece is either original, or an original arrangement of an existing song. Failure to do this will result in loss of points.   

15) What do I get if I win? 

NAZBA will pay a stipend to the winning Band (currently $1000) and solo/duo acts (currently $250/$500 respectively) in a check made out to the IBC applicant. The check will be at your disposal AFTER the Act has made a substantial commitment in getting to Memphis. This would be evidenced by hotel reservations, air fare etc. Typically, the check is mail out in mid-December. The check is contingent upon the Act competing in Memphis and should the Act not go to Memphis and perform, the Act will be in default of the stipend received and owe those dollars to NAZBA.



2021 BAND WINNERS - Scott O'Neal Band, featuring Scott O'Neal, guitar and vocals, Gary VanSlyke, bass, Tom Mc Millian, keys, Scott Ellis, drums, Mick Townley, guitar, Mary Kelley, backup vocal, Becky Ryniak, backup vocals
2021 SOLO/DUO WINNER - Marko Donnelly

2020 - NO COMPETITION due to Covid 19.  

2019 BAND WINNERS - Sir Harrison Band, featuring Harrison Begay - guitar, Mahlon Hawk - Bass, David Gauboa - drums, and Terry Anderson - saxaphone. 
2019 SOLO/DUO WINNER - Swamp Poets, featuring Christian Berry - guitar, and Tall Paul Epoch - harmonica.

2018 BAND WINNERS - MEMPHIS IBC SEMIFINALISTS - Mother Road Trio, featuring Mike Shiner - vocals and upright bass, Larry Czarnecki - vocals and guitar, and Sam McCrae - vocals and harmonica.
2018 SOLO/DUO WINNER - Jacqui Foreman - vocals and guitar.

2017 BAND WINNERS - Hollow Canyon Band, featuring Gail Peterson - vocals, Tom Grills - guitar, Dr. Bob Sellani - drums, and Gary VanSlyke - bass.
2017 SOLO/DUO WINNER - D.L Harrison - vocals and guitar.

2016 BAND WINNERS - MEMPHIS IBC SEMILINALISTS - Arizona Blues Allstars, featuring Renee Rice (Claybon) - vocals, Tom Grills - guitar, Dr. Bob Sellani - drums, and Tracy Lee Mortiner - bass.
2016 SOLO/DUO WINNERS - Swamp Poets, featuring Chris Berry - guitar, and Don Whitcher - slide guitar.

2015 BAND WINNERS - RD Olson Blues Band, featuring RD Olson - vocals, and harmonica, Darryl Porras - guitar, Jamie Waldron - upright bass, Dr. Bob Sellani - drums, Tom McMillian - B3, Andy Neilson - slide trombone, and Lee Sullivan - alto sax.
2015 SOLO/DUO WINNER - Did Not Enter

2014 BAND WINNERS - RD Olson Blues Band, featuring RD Olson - vocals, and harmonica, James Roberson - guitar and slide guitar, Jamie Waldron - upright bass, Dr. Bob Sellani - drums, Eric Williams - keyboard.
2014 SOLO/DUO WINNER - Ray DeSylvester - harmonica.