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Chris Austin Songwriting Contest announces finalists

Article Published: Apr. 15, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Chris Austin Songwriting Contest announces finalists

Finalists have been selected for the 18th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by MerleFest 2010, presented by Lowe's, and scheduled for April 29-May 2 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Writers of the following 12 songs, selected from more than 1,044 entries, will compete on the Austin Stage at MerleFest on Friday, April 30, at 2:00 p.m. This year's on-site judges are Laurelyn Dossett, Wyatt Durrette and Rory Feek.

"New Love" by Josh Pickett; Cana, VA
"Whisper Sweet Goodbyes" by Jo Ellen Doering; Los Angeles, CA
"Carolina Dust" by Brink Brinkman; Pickerington, OH

"On the Winning Side" by David Tew; Turkey, NC
"Amen" by Jo Ellen Doering; Los Angeles, CA
"I Had A Little Talk With Jesus" by Richard Henry; Houston, TX

"You Opened My Eyes" by Mark Wayne Glasmire; Arlington, TX
"It Ain't Over" by Julianne Ankley; Fort Gratiot, MI
"Alive" by Lisa Torres; Antioch, TN

"Rush" by Liz Longley; Downingtown, PA
"Get It Right" by Shay Lovette; Purlear, NC
"Opening" by Chris Ayer; McLean, VA

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, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale.

Judging is based on a song's originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential.

First place winners in each category receive: a performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest on April 30, a Big Baby Taylor guitar, a check for $300, two boxes of D'Addario strings and one-year subscriptions to both Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter magazines.

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 subscriptions to Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter. In addition, for the first time in the history of the contest, the finalists will have the invaluable experience of a group mentor session with Jim Lauderdale.

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 $ 30,300 to 69 deserving students.

The 2009-10 Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship recipients are Ian Tucker Francis and Dustin Rubio-Serrano.

About Chris Austin
Chris Austin, from Boone, North Carolina, 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.

About MerleFest
MerleFest 2010, presented by Lowe's, will celebrate its 23rd year from April 29 through May 2 on the campus of Wilkes Community College. More than 100 acts will perform on 15 stages during the course of the event. A complete list of confirmed performers is available at MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and a celebration of "traditional plus" music.

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