Two Songwriting Contest Deadlines Drawing Near

Hazel DickensEntry deadlines are approaching for two top songwriting contests that are of interest to bluegrassers.

The deadline to enter the DC Bluegrass Union’s second annual Hazel Dickens Songwriting Contest is Jan. 15. Winners will be announced March 10. The entry fee for each song is $30. The prizes, selected by a three-judge panel, are $500 for first prize, $250 for second and $100 for third. Honorable mentions may also be awarded.

Details can be found at

Writers have a bit longer to enter the granddaddy of all songwriting contests for bluegrass and Americana music, the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest. Entry deadline is Feb. 1. The entry fee is $30 per song. Prizes are $500 for first place in each of four categories (bluegrass, country, gospel and general), $250 for second and $50 for third, plus music merchandise. The three finalists in each category are selected in advance, then perform for a panel of judges at the festival, where the category winners are chosen.

The four winners get to perform their winning song and one other original on the Cabin Stage, which is adjacent to the main stage. (That might be the coolest part of the prize package. Last year, when Dawn Kenney and I were fortunate enough to win the bluegrass category for Something About A Train, which we wrote with Mitch Mathhews, we played in front of thousands of folks between killer sets by the Marshall Tucker Band and the Sam Bush Band.)

Details of that contest can be found at

Feel free to post your questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them before the deadlines.

Good luck!

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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.