Common Ground announces winners of initial songwriting contest

When Common Ground on the Hill announced that a songwriting contest would be included among their 2019 offerings for the first time, there was concern as to whether they would generate enough entries to make it interesting. After all, there are a number of prominent competitions like this in the acoustic, roots, and bluegrass music world, and starting from scratch is always tough.

But there was no reason to worry, as more than 60 songs had been entered by the time the judges got down to work in earnest.

Common Ground has been running a variety of week-long instructional camps in Westminster, MD this past 25 years. These are structured throughout the summer for music, dance, film, and other performing arts, including camps dedicated to the various stringed instruments used in bluegrass and old time music. They also host festivals and concerts, and hold discussions on a wide variety of topics on the campus of McDaniel College.

Walt Michael, bluegrass and old time artist, and founder and Executive Director of the organization, tells us that a songwriting contest was a natural for them, after teaching the craft for so many years.

“Common Ground on the Hill is excited to announce the winners of our first annual songwriting contest. Throughout our 25-year history we have featured a myriad of wonderful songwriters who have taught their craft in our Traditions Weeks classes. Among those teachers have been Pete Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Steve Gillette, Tom Paxton, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Peter Rowan, Bob Lucas, Josh Hisle, Sally Rogers, Howie Bursen, Tim O’Brien, Cosy Sheridan, David Essig and many, many others. As a result, 25 years worth of songs, crafted by Common Ground on the Hill students have reached the ears of countless listeners. We invite you to become a part of this great tradition. Come to Traditions Weeks!”

David Morris, who was one of four judges, says that it wasn’t a simple thing to get to the winners.

“This was a fun but challenging contest to judge. The quality of the songs was impressive and narrowing down 62 entries to the final three was difficult. The overall strength of the submissions says a lot about the bright future of roots music songwriting.”

Today they have announced the top finishers in the first of what is to be an annual competition going forward.

  1. Maybelle Played Guitar by Cathy Fink of Silver Spring, MD ($300 prize)
  2. I’m Finally Going Home by Kevin Hale of Brentwood, TN ($150 prize)
  3. The Widening Divide (I Had to Let Her Go) by Roy Gamse and Wren Elhai of Arlington, VA ($75 prize)

An Honorable Mention was awarded to Heroes and Sheroes by Janet Gillies and O Say Can You See by Jonathan Jensen.

Other judges this year included Caleb Stine, Sally Rogers, and Bob Lucas.

Congratulations to all the winners, and to Common Ground for hosting a successful competition.

To learn more about the many instructional events they host in Maryland, visit the Common Ground on the Hill web site.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.