MerleFest Media Contacts: Karen Byrd, Publicist: 615-595-1500 or Karen.byrd@xxxxxxxxx Christie Hutchens, WCC Public Information Officer: 336-838-6292 or [ mailto:Christie.Hutchens@xxxxxxxxxxxx ]Christie.Hutchens@xxxxxxxxxxxx 17TH ANNUAL CHRIS AUSTIN SONGWRITING CONTEST, HOSTED BY MERLEFEST, ANNOUNCES WINNERS WILKESBORO, N.C. (April 28, 2009)--The 17th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, held during MerleFest 2009 presented by Lowe's, is proud to announce this year's winners. The following six writers have now joined an elite group of previous winners which also includes Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via and Johnny Williams: Bluegrass Category "Love Gone By" by Carol Hausner and Colin McCaffrey of Montpelier, Vermont Country Category "Man of Few Words" by Dennis K. Duff of Kuttawa, Kentucky Gospel Category "Beyond the Rain" by Brink Brinkman of Pickerington, Ohio General Category "Unmarked Pavement" by Miles and Letha Costin of Raleigh, North Carolina These first place winners performed their winning songs on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest on Friday, April 24, and they won an acoustic guitar, a check for $300, two boxes of D'Addario strings and a one-year subscription to Acoustic Guitar magazine. Three finalists were chosen in each category, out of over 840 entries received this year. All finalists performed their songs on the Austin Stage on Friday, April 24, before winners were selected. Second and third place winners in each category were awarded performance slots on the Friday night Songwriters Coffeehouse, as well as cash prizes, D'Addario strings and Acoustic Guitar subscriptions. Songs were judged by a volunteer panel of songwriters, publishers and other music industry professionals including singer/songwriter and former CASC winner Tift Merritt, Leonard Podolak of The Duhks, and John Lohman, Program Director of the Virginia Folk Life Program at the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities, under the direction of this year's volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy®-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. Judging was based on a song's originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $25,000 to 68 deserving students. The 2008-2009 recipients are Ryan Jeffery Call and Kimberly Ilene Osborne. Ryan is enrolled in WCC's college transfer program with plans to transfer to North Carolina State University for the completion of his bachelor's degree. Kimberly is enrolled in WCC's office systems technology program. MerleFest would like to thank the following sponsors of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest: Fishman Acoustic Power, D'Addario Strings, Acoustic Guitar, and Epiphone. The Austin Stage is sponsored by ASCAP and Sugar Hill Records. About Chris Austin: Chris Austin, from Boone, North Carolina, worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time he was discovered by executives at Warner Bros. Nashville, who offered him a recording contract. While releasing singles including "Blues Stay Away From Me," "I Know There's a Heart in There Somewhere" and "Out of Step," Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in "Same Ol' Love," recorded by Skaggs in 1991. On March 16, 1991, Austin's life was cut tragically short when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire's band, as well as her tour manager, crashed in the mountains near San Diego. Pete Fisher, then of Warnersongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and Pickin' for Merle video associate producer, initiated the songwriting contest to honor Austin's memory. About MerleFest: MerleFest 2009, presented by Lowe's, took place from April 23-26, drawing over 70,000 music fans over the four days of performances by almost 100 artists on 15 stages on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest honors the memory of instrumental virtuoso Eddy Merle Watson and the contributions of Doc and the entire Watson Family to the musical traditions of the region and nation. MerleFest began in 1988 as a fundraiser for the college and remains the largest fundraiser for the institution. Jennifer Isaacs - Music Director WGDR 91.1FM Community Radio at Goddard College P.O. Box 336 Plainfield, VT 05667 www.wgdr.org (802) 454-7367 (X 3) For phone tracking - All day Mondays. Flexible times the rest of the week.