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CASC 2010 Finalists Announced!


(April 6, 2010)—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 twelve songs, selected from over 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 Feeke.


“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. The following were judges for the first round of competition during which the finalists were selected:

Donica Christensen - Director of Artist and Media Relations, Sugar Hill Records
Patrick Clifford – Vice President A&R, Ten Ten Music Group
Jimmy Fortune - Singer/songwriter and member of Country Music Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame as tenor singer for the Statler Brothers
Whitney Holmes - Americana Music Association
Sara Johnson - Senior Director of Creative Services, Bug Music Nashville
Tony Lawson - Programmer, WDVX Radio
Kendell Marvel - Songwriter
Todd Mayo - Executive Producer, Music City Roots
Shannon McCombs - Radio producer and air personality
Roger Murrah - Songwriter and Sr. Vice President, Bug Music Nashville; member of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Nathan Nicholson - Creative Director, NTN Music Publishing
John Pennell - Songwriter
Ed Williams – Director of Creative Services, Bug Music Nashville

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 2009-2010 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.