Chris Austin Songwriting Contest update from MerleFest

MerleFest officials said Monday that the acclaimed Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will held, in a slightly altered format, even though MerleFest itself has been canceled for 2020 because of the coronavirus.

The first contest judges waded through a record 1,065 entries and selected three finalists in each of four categories: bluegrass, country, gospel and general. Those finalists will be announced before April 1.

Usually, the finalists perform during the festival in front of another set of judges who determine first, second, and third places in each category. That can’t happen this year, obviously, so the finalists will compete next year. The 2021 finalists will also be judged, separately, at next year’s MerleFest.

Proceeds from the contest fund the Chris Austin Memorial Contest at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C. Austin, who played with Ricky Skaggs and Reba McEntire, died in a plane crash near San Diego 29 years ago today, along with other members of McEntire’s band and her road manager.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.