2018 WINNERS ANNOUNCED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The results of the second annual Circa Blue Fest Songwriting Contest are in.

1st place: Long Ago, Jim Woolsey

2nd place: Dirt Road, Jack Shannon

3rd place: Tired of Pretending, Mike Swartzentruber

Honorable mentions were awarded to Savage River, written by Cory Wharton, and I’m Finally Going Home, by Kevin Hale.

Woolsey receives $300 and an invitation to perform his song on Friday, June 8, at the third annual Circa Blue Fest in Martinsburg, W. Va. Shannon’s second-place finish is worth $150 and Swartzentruber earns $75 for third.

Judges for this year’s contest were Kim Robins, Dawn Kenney and David Morris.

“It was a challenge judging the songs submitted for the contest this year. There were so many good ones for consideration,” said Kenney. “The range of entries was diverse, but there were some that really stood out. Congrats to all the writers who sent in their great work. Keep writing.”

Net proceeds benefit the Bluegrass Country Foundation.

Details about the festival can be found at



ENTRY FEE: $25 per song 

All proceeds to benefit the DC Bluegrass Country Foundation

DEADLINE: All entries must be received by midnight (Eastern) on Monday, May 15, 2018. Winners will be announced on Friday, May 26, 2018. 


GRAND PRIZE: $300, festival admission for two and an invitation to perform the winning entry during Circa-Blue Fest, Friday June 8, 2018. (Maximum of two performers, one of whom must be a writer of the song). 

Second Place: $150 

Third Place: $75

Honorable mentions may be awarded at the discretion of the judges. 

WHO CAN ENTER: Anyone who receives less than half of his/her annual income from songwriting royalties is eligible to enter. (This does not include income an artist makes for performing). Songs can have more than one writer, but each writer must meet the eligibility requirements. 

In songs with co-writers, prizes will be awarded to the writer submitting the entry. By entering, each writer acknowledges that the song is his/her/the co-writers original work and does not copy or borrow from anyone else’s work. 

JUDGING: The contest will be judged by a three-member panel consisting of two award winning bluegrass songwriters,  Dawn Kenney and David Morris, and a professional artist, Kim Robins. Dawn Kenney and David Morris are award-winning, chart-topping bluegrass writers. Between them, they notched four top 10s and two number one songs in 2016. They won the 2015 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest and finished second in the Hazel Dickens Songwriting Contest in 2016. Their song "Bells of Home" won the President’s Choice Award and was named "the best-written song" of 2016 by Strictly Country magazine.

Kim Robins was born into a musical family and singing from the age of five in church and in her father’s band, Robins was influenced largely by the music of Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, Ray Price, Bill Monroe, and Barbara Mandrell. She was an original member, and the youngest, of the Little Nashville Opry in Nashville, Indiana. Her mother’s encouragement that she practice daily and sing loud paid off as she traveled all over the country, opening for legends such as Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell and The Oak Ridge Boys.

Robins grew up with music in her veins but, at age 19, gave her first love a backseat to a new love – her baby girl. After earning two college degrees, singlehandedly raising her daughter and establishing a career, Robins met and married renowned banjo player Butch Robins – and her dream of performing music was reignited. With Butch’s encouragement, she started writing music and finding venues to showcase her powerful vocals. Since then, Robins has gained attention with her high-energy, contemporary sound, performing with her band, 40 Years Late, at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA), The Folk Alliance in Memphis, Merlefest, and opening for notable bluegrass artists such as Ralph Stanley, Bobby Osborne and Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice.


Performance quality will not be considered. It’s all about the song: Lyrics, melody, potential marketability in the bluegrass genre. 

Each judge will score a song on a 25-point scale, in half-point increments: 10 points maximum for lyrics, 10 points for melody, 5 points for marketability. In the event of a first-place tie, the grand prize will be awarded to the song with a highest score from any one judge. In the event of a tie for second and third, the prize money for those places will be divided equally. 

The decision of the judges is final. 

How to enter:

Electronically: E-mail one mp3 of the song and one copy of the lyrics (attached word document) to:  The song and lyrics should include the title of the entry only. No other identifying information should be on the song file or lyric sheet (including metadata). Judges will not have access to the identities of the entrants, co-writers or artists involved, just the song and lyrics.

Please type "Circa-Blue Fest Song Contest" in the subject line of the email, and include a phone number for the person entering the contest in the body of the email. Multiple entries are allowed, but submit each song separately. The entry fee -- $25 per song – may be paid with PayPal or by check or money made out to Circa Blue LLC and mailed to: Circa Blue Fest 38 Cedar Lane Martinsburg WV 25404. Multiple entries may be paid with a single check or PayPal payment. 

By mail: Send a CD containing the song (one song per CD please, but multiple entries may be mailed together), a copy of the lyrics and check or money order to: Circa Blue Fest 38 Cedar Lane Martinsburg WV 25404. Checks should be made out to Circa Blue LLC. Entry fees for multiple songs can be paid with one check. 

The CD and lyrics should include the title of the entry only. Please include a contact number separately. Judges will not have access to the identities of the entrants, co-writers or artists involved.

Contest entries cannot be returned. 

Enter today! Good luck!

There will be songwriting workshops at the Festival as well!

Workshop Schedule

Note: All workshops are free with admission to the festival.


Master Class, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with a 30-minute lunch break.

Cover all the bases with an in-depth discussion. We’ll talk about finding ideas, mapping your song, marrying lyrics and melody, how to tell if your song is good, demoing, pitching and collecting royalties. And much more.


Elements of Successful Songwriting, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

A checklist for making every song as good as it can be.

Creative Collaboration, 2-3:30 p.m.

How to write with someone else and live to tell about it.


Taking Your Songs to the Next Level, 2-3:30 p.m.

To get cut, your song not only has to be good. It has to be better than every other song the artist is listening to. This workshop will help you get there.



Dawn Kenney and David Morris are award-winning songwriters who have been working together since 2013. They each have had more than a dozen songs recorded by bluegrass, Americana and folk artists and between them have two number one songs and four that cracked the top 10. In addition to being number one for Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike, their song “Something About a Train” (written with Mitch Matthews) won the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest in 2015. Their songs have been featured multiple times in IBMA’s Songwriter Showcase. Dawn is a member of IBMA’s Songwriting Committee. David is a member of the songwriting faculty at Common Ground on the Hill in Westminster, MD.