Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 and 2021 Chris Austin Songwriting Contests!

Bluegrass

  • 1st Place: Aaron Burdett (Saluda, NC) – “Rockefeller”
  • 2nd Place: Joel Mabus (Portage, MI) – “Shine”
  • 3rd Place: Molly Mathewson (Athens, IL) – “The Tie that Binds”

Country

  • 1st Place: Sarah Jane Nelson (Nashville, TN), Kenny Foster (Nashville, TN) – “Sins of the Father”
  • 2nd Place: Marie Bradshaw (Centerville, UT) – “American Dream”
  • 3rd Place: Sarah Jones (Nashville, TN), Royale Lynn (Nashville, TN), Priscilla Block (Nashville, TN) – “Wyoming”

General

  • 1st Place: Jomo Edwards (Austin, TX) – “You Need It”
  • 2nd Place: Bradley Lauretti (Shelton, CT) – “South Dakota”
  • 3rd Place: Dori Freeman (Galax, VA) – “The Rollin’ Hills”

Gospel/Inspirational

  • 1st Place: Mark Atkinson (Charleston, WV) – “Home”
  • 2nd Place: Erinn Peet-Lukes (Golden, CO) – “Take Back Your Angels”
  • 3rd Place: Benjamin Luckhaupt (West Harrison, IN) – “Songs About Heaven”

Bluegrass

  • 1st Place: Andrew Small (Floyd, VA) – “Yesterday’s Blues”
  • 2nd Place: Scott Patrick (Christiansburg, VA), Jeff McClellan (Kingsport, TN) – “One Black Rock at a Time”
  • 3rd Place: Gregory Poulos (Northville, MI) – “Sunny Days (Are Comin’ Once Again)”

Country

  • 1st Place: Ian Meadows (Higganum, CT), Dustin Meadows (Old Saybrook, CT) – “Trouble”
  • 2nd Place: Carly Burruss (Atlanta, GA), Mike McFadden (Nashville, TN), Scott Terry (New York, NY) – “Wheel of Fortune”
  • 3rd Place: Calista Garcia (Arlington, VA) – “Nobody Digs a Wallflower”

General

  • 1st Place: Shay Martin Lovette (Boone, NC) – “For Rose Marie”
  • 2nd Place: Brieana Capone (Asheville, NC) – “Rainbow Stained”
  • 3rd Place: Justin Poindexter (New York, NY), Sasha Papernik (New York, NY) – “Out With a Girl/Out With a Boy”

Gospel/Inspirational

  • 1st Place: Daniel Davis (Bristol, VA) – “Dear Lord”
  • 2nd Place: Louisa Branscomb (Asheville, NC), Dale Ann Bradley (Middlesboro, KY) – “I’ll Take Love”
  • 3rd Place: Cathy Fink (Silver Spring, MD) – “Hold Each Other Up”

Also announced was the ending of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest after nearly 30 years. Host Jim Lauderdale was honored for his over twenty years of shared expertise, enthusiasm, and engagement. Emcee Mark Bumgarner and Arnold Lakey, Wilkes Community College Foundation President, were also honored for their years of service.

Thank you to all that have participated throughout the years!

Sponsored By:

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About the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

Chris Austin PhotoTo understand why we have the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, first you need to know who Chris Austin was. Shy, quiet Chris Austin from Boone, North Carolina, turned courageous one Saturday night as he snuck into the Grand Ole Opry so a friend could introduce him to Ricky Skaggs. Soon, the young artist from Boone had a three-year job as Ricky’s sideman playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and singing. It took Chris far away from the mountains where he fell in love with the guitar at 9 and joined his father’s bluegrass band at 14. Working for Skaggs afforded Chris, who had attended the Country & Bluegrass program at South Plains College in Texas, the opportunity to be seen by executives at Warner Brothers Records, who offered him a recording contract. Over those next few years Warner Brothers released several singles, “Blues Stay Away From Me,” “I Know There’s A Heart In There Somewhere,” and “Out Of Step.” A respect for the power that songs have in their ability to make a positive impact in the world led Chris to devote all of his energies to songwriting. Notable writers such as Frank Dycus, Charlie Black, Roger Murrah, Jim Rushing and many others saw an enthusiastic and talented writer in Chris, just as Skaggs heard in “Same Ol’ Love,” Ricky’s top 5 hit with Epic Records. That song, written by Chris and Greg Barnhill was the first major cut for both writers. On March 16, 1991, only a few hours after the recording of “Same Ol’ Love,” Chris was killed in a tragic plane accident near San Diego along with other members of Reba McEntire’s band and her tour manager. Pete Fisher, then of Warner Songs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and “Pickin’ for Merle” video associate producer, initiated the contest to honor the memory of Austin.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest help support the WCC Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception, the Chris Austin Scholarship has helped 109 students and awarded over $47,100.