Contest aims to give songwriters the spotlight

Songwriting CompetitionIf you're a budding songwriter looking for your big break, you don't have to head to New York or Los Angeles – you can stay right here in Montgomery County.


The Bethesda Urban Partnership is producing the Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Awards, a contest in which the winning songwriter will receive a grand prize of $10,000. Each applicant can submit up to three original songs, and either individual writers or bands can apply. 

A panel of judges will pick the finalists, who will then do a live performance on March 6, 2015 at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club where audience members will hear two of the newly written songs. The winner will be selected at the end of the show. Those interested need to apply by Dec. 5, 2014 at 11:59 p.m.

Laura Foit, marketing and communications manager for the Bethesda Urban Partnership and the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District, said Cathy Bernard, current president of the Bethesda Arts and Entertainment District, created the contest.

“She was inspired by her late uncle Fred Ebb, an accomplished songwriter from whom the competition is named,” Foit said. “Bernard's uncle and John Kander are the renowned songwriters and creators of Broadway hits, such as ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago’ and iconic songs including ‘New York, New York.’ Ms. Bernard saw this contest as an opportunity to encourage musical creativity and award regional songwriters, as well as bring a unique, new musical event to downtown Bethesda for the public to enjoy.”

There will be two separate categories in the competition: the Young Songwriter Award for people 17 and younger and the adult competition. Foit said the judges will evaluate each song based on composition, lyrics, originality, melody and harmony.

There will also be two sets of judges: one for the first round of the competition and the grand prize jury, who will select the winner. Some of the judges include Dr. Mary Jane Ayers, teacher and department chair at Duke Ellington School of the Arts; Matt Gardiner, associate artistic director at Signature Theater in Arlington, Va.; and Connaitre Miller, associate professor of music and coordinator of vocal jazz studies at Howard University.

Foit said the big part of the competition is the performance round, where finalists will really have an opportunity to shine.

“The concert will feature the contest finalists performing their original songs,” Foit said. “The grand prize jury, who will be in attendance, will determine the winner during the concert and announce the $10,000 prize recipient at the close of the show. A young songwriter, under the age of 18, will also be honored with $2,500. Concert tickets will be available for $10 per ticket to purchase beginning in January on our website,”

The three grand prize judges will be Eric Schaffer, co-founder and artistic director at Signature Theater; Washington D.C. actress and singer Nova Payton, who's opened for huge acts like Stephanie Mills and The Chi-Lites; and Chuck Meade, co-founder of the 90s alternative country quintet BR549.

Foit said the competition provides the perfect platform for songwriters to display their skills because many of today's competitions focus on singers and performers and not the behind-the-scenes folks. Not only is the Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Awards a great chance for people to earn recognition and win  money, she said, it's also a celebration of the songwriting craft as a whole.

“The tagline for the contest states, 'It's about the words and music,'” she said. “The music and delivery of a song is important, but a story is also told through the carefully chosen lyrics and melody. Songwriting is an impressive craft and the Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Awards is proud to be able to showcase and support regional songwriters.”

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