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MerleFest 2016 Announces Chris Austin Songwriting Contest Winners

MerleFest 2016 honoring the winners of the 24th Annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. The finalists are pictured with Jim Lauderdale and the judges of the contest. Photo by Jim Thompson
MerleFest 2016 honoring the winners of the 24th Annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. The finalists are pictured with Jim Lauderdale and the judges of the contest. Photo by Jim Thompson

Yesterday evening, bluegrass and American roots music festival MerleFest announced the winners of the 2016 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Writers of the following 12 songs were selected from 744 entries and competed on the Austin Stage at MerleFest on Friday, April 29.

MerleFest 2016 winners:

Bluegrass
1st Place – Aaron Bibelhauser (Louisville, Ky.) – “Blue Collar Dreams”
2nd Place – Courtney Rorrer (Madison, N.C.) and Asa Gravley (Beckley, West Va.) – “Midnight Tears”
3rd Place – Cindy Giejda (Farmingdale, N.J.) – “Jail Break”

Gospel/Inspirational
1st Place – Marcy Each (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) – “On the Cross Built for Me”
2nd Place – Austin Stanley (Nashville, Tenn.) – “The Face of God”
3rd Place – Corey Smith and Allen Smith (Fayetteville, N.C.) – “The Road”

Country
1st Place – Buddy Guido (Mohawk, N.Y.), Paul Kelly (Santa Fe, N.M.) and Willie Scheollkopf (Buffalo, N.Y.) – “This Livin’ May Be Killing Me”
2nd Place – Sarah Morris (Shoreview, Minn.) – “I Go Back”
3rd Place – Meris Gantt of Handlebar Betty (Blowing Rock, N.C) – “House of Cards”

General
1st Place – Sarah Sample (Sheridan, Wyo.) – “A Heart That Falls Apart”
1st Place – Adam Bonomo (Brooklyn, N.Y.) – “Redshifted”
2nd Place – David Morris (Gaithersburg, Md.) and Chris Dockins (Burke, Va.) – “Weeds”

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale served as volunteer contest chairperson. The on-site judges for the final round were critically acclaimed bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Milan Miller; 2013 CASC winner and founding member of acclaimed Americana trio Red June John Cloyd Miller: and singer-songwriter Sarah Potenza, best known for her recent success on NBC’s “The Voice” and second place win in the 2014 CASC. All finalists took part in a songwriting mentoring session with Jim Lauderdale and the on-site judges.

The first place winners in each category received $600 cash from MerleFest, performed on the Cabin Stage on Friday night to rave reviews and were even joined at one point by superstar bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland as a special surprise.

The first round of the CASC competition takes place in Nashville, Tennessee and is narrowed down to 12 finalists representing four categories: bluegrass, country, general and gospel/inspirational.

Judging is based on a song’s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. The contest is open to those whose primary source of income (50 percent or more) is not derived from songwriting or publishing.

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is a unique 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 Jim Lauderdale. Judging is based on a song’s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest help support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $38,000 to 81 deserving students. 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.

For more details about the contest, visit www.merlefest.org/ChrisAustinSongwritingContest.

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