Songwriting Contest Open Through Feb. 18
MerleFest 2009, presented by Lowe's, will once again host the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Now in its 17th year, the contest offers an opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under the direction of this year's volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale.
The contest recognizes winners in four categories -- country, bluegrass, gospel and general. First-place winners in each category receive: a performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest 2009 (April 23-26), an acoustic guitar, a check for $300, two boxes of D'Addario strings and a one-year subscription to Acoustic Guitar magazine.
Second- and third-place winners in each category receive performance slots on the Friday night Songwriters Coffeehouse, as well as cash prizes, D'Addario strings and Acoustic Guitar subscriptions.
Chris Austin, from Boone, worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time he was discovered by executives at Warner Bros. Nashville, who offered him a recording contract. While releasing singles including "Blues Stay Away From Me," "I Know There's a Heart in There Somewhere," and "Out of Step," Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in "Same Ol' Love," recorded by Skaggs in 1991.
On March 16, 1991, Austin's life was cut tragically short when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire's band, as well as her tour manager, crashed in the mountains near San Diego. Pete Fisher, then of Warnersongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and "Pickin' for Merle" video associate producer, initiated the songwriting contest to honor Austin's memory.
This year's deadline for submissions is Feb. 18. To be eligible to enter, a songwriter must not derive more than 50 percent of his or her total income from songwriting or music publishing. Additional information about eligibility and requirements is available at www.merlefest.org.
Songs may be submitted via U.S. mail or online via Sonicbids at www.sonicbids.com. Once submitted, songs are judged by a volunteer panel of Nashville songwriters, publishers and other music industry professionals. Judging is based on a song's originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. Twelve finalists, three from each category, will be announced during the first week of April. Each of the 12 finalists will compete on the Austin Stage at MerleFest 2009.
Previous winners of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest include Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via, and Johnny Williams.
Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $25,000 to 68 deserving students. The 2008-2009 recipients are Ryan Jeffery Call and Kimberly Ilene Osborne. Call is enrolled in WCC's college transfer program with plans to transfer to North Carolina State University for the completion of his bachelor's degree. Osborne is enrolled in WCC's office systems technology program.
For additional information about the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, call the contest hotline at 1-800-799-3838 or Laurie Hayes, CASC coordinator at (336) 838-6158, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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