A! Magazine for the Arts

Richard Leigh

Richard Leigh

Richard Leigh Songwriters Festival held in Abingdon

April 30, 2019

Songwriters from the region will be competing for a $300 cash prize and an opportunity to perform with Nashville’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 Gayle’s hit, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Each year, Leigh returns to the region to perform chart-topping hits that have earned him country music’s highest honor, bringing fellow members from the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame with him. This year’s lineup includes Tony Arata (“The Dance,” recorded by Garth Brooks), Even Stevens (“I Love a Rainy Night,” recorded by Eddie Rabbitt), and Jim McBride (“Chattahoochee,” 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.