Friday, April 8, 2016

MerleFest's Chris Austin Songwriting Contest Finalists Announced

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by MerleFest, announces finalists for the 2016 contest. MerleFest 2016, presented by Window World, takes place from April 28-May 1, on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C.

Writers of the following 12 songs, selected from over 744 entries, will compete on the Austin Stage in Alumni Hall at MerleFest on Friday, April 29:

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

Austin Stanley (Nashville, Tenn.) – “The Face of God”
Marcy Each (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) – “On the Cross Built for Me”
Corey Smith and Allen Smith (Fayetteville, N.C.) – “The Road”

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

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

Now in its 24th year, the contest is an extraordinary opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of music industry professionals, under the direction of volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. The first place winners will receive $600 cash from MerleFest and a performance slot on the Cabin Stage on Friday night. All finalists will get to take part in a songwriting mentoring session with Jim Lauderdale and the on-site judges for the final round of this year’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Those judges are 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.

The first round of the CASC competition takes place in Nashville, Tenn., and is narrowed down to 12 finalists representing four categories: bluegrass, country, general and gospel/inspirational. The first-round judges were Australian country and bluegrass musician/songwriter Kristy Cox; alt-country singer/songwriter Michaela Ann; songwriter/string music and classic country artist Caleb Klauder; Americana songwriter/performer/publisher Brink Brinkman; Joe Lurgio,  Bluegrass Underground/Tenbooks Media; Ashlee-Jean Trott of Music City Roots; and Whitney Holmes of the Americana Music Association.

Judging is based on a song¹s 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.

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 $34,600 to 84 deserving students.

For more details about the contest, visit

Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 1-800-343-7857. A three-tiered pricing structure is offered for MerleFest 2016. The Early Bird Tier 1 ticket discount is available through February 15, 2016. An Early Bird Tier 2 ticket discount will run from February 16, 2016, through April 27, 2016. The third price tier will be gate pricing.

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