Songwriters from the region will be competing for a $300 cash prize and an opportunity to perform with Nashvilleâ€™s songwriting greats as part of the seventh annual Richard Leigh Songwriters Festival at Virginia Highlands Community College, Abingdon.
The annual contest is part of a two-day celebration of songwriters that is named for Grammy Award winner Richard Leigh, a 1973 VHCC graduate. Leigh won a Grammy Award for writing Crystal Gayleâ€™s hit, â€œDonâ€™t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.â€ Each year, Leigh returns to the region to perform chart-topping hits that have earned him country musicâ€™s highest honor, bringing fellow members from the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame with him. This yearâ€™s lineup includes Tony Arata (â€œThe Dance,â€ recorded by Garth Brooks), Even Stevens (â€œI Love a Rainy Night,â€ recorded by Eddie Rabbitt), and Jim McBride (â€œChattahoochee,â€ recorded by Alan Jackson).
All proceeds from the festival benefit the Great Expectations Program, a support service for foster youth enrolled at VHCC.
The 2019 festival begins at 5:30 p.m., Friday, May 24, when the top three finalists in each category of the songwriting contest perform their winning song at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace (formerly the Heartwood, Abingdon, Virginia) and receive prizes ranging from $50 to $100. The evening also features performances by the 2018 finalists and concludes with a brief performance by each of the four Nashville songwriters.
The festival continues the following evening, Saturday, May 25, when Leigh, Arata, Steven and McBride perform their award-winning songs and tell the stories that inspired them. The in-the-round performance begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, Abingdon, Virginia.
The overall winner for the 2019 Richard Leigh Songwriters Contest is also announced Saturday. The top prize is $300, a recording session at The Earnest Tube, Bristol, Va. (providing live direct-to-lacquer recording, $400 value) and membership/benefits in the Nashville Songwriters Association International ($225 value).
Tickets for the Richard Leigh Songwriters Festival are $15 for Friday, $25 for Saturday, or $35 for both days. Tables for the Saturday night showcase event may be purchased for $500 (seating for eight). To purchase tickets, visit www.vhcc.edu/songwriters. For additional information, call (276) 739-2569.