2023 Tucson Folk Festival
Stefan George Memorial Songwriting Competition
JOIN US FOR THE FINALIST SHOW AND OFFICIAL FESTIVAL KICK OFF!
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2023: 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Jacome Plaza Stage – 311 E Congress St, Tucson, AZ 85701
Suggested Donation at Door: $10
All Proceeds Benefit the 38th Annual Tucson Folk Festival. The finalist performances will be recorded and later made available on the Tucson Folk Festival Youtube Channel.
This year’s finalists include both notable Tucson songwriters as well as performers traveling in from out-of-state! Finalists to be announced soon.
The Stefan George Memorial Songwriting Competition is a beloved part of the festival each year – a chance for established and emerging songwriters to share new insights, new songs inspired by the times, and play for an audience that is hanging on every lyric. Each year, over 75 entrants compete for 10 spots in the finalist showcase at the Tucson Folk Festival. The winner of this showcase receives a coveted evening slot at the Saturday night festival.
Each year, a 1st Place, 2nd Place, and 3rd Place winner are decided by a panel of judges considering the performers’ originality and uniqueness, song structures and arrangement, talent, and general stage presence.
- 1st PLACE | $300 Cash Award, Free Registration to 2023 Folk Alliance International Conference, Bookmans Gift Card, 25 minute set on the Jacome Plaza Stage on Saturday at 6:15 pm
- RUNNER-UP | $150 Cash Award, Bookmans Gift Card, 10 minute set on the Jacome Plaza Stage on Saturday at 6 PM
- 3rd PLACE | $50 Cash Award, TKMA T-Shirt and Cap, Bookmans Gift Card
BRETT ALTMAN – New York City, New York
Brett Altman is a singer-songwriter based just outside of New York City. A self-described late bloomer, Brett didn’t first perform publicly until the age of 20. Now, he can’t get enough of playing and connecting with new communities. His upbeat music is a fusion of pop and folk, with songwriting that illuminates moments of everyday life. For fans of Jackson Browne and Jason Mraz.
NICO BARBERAN – Chicago, Illinois
Nico Barberan is an eclectic guitarist, composer, and music instructor born in Santiago, Chile. Nico moved to Chicago, to immerse himself in the city’s diverse music scene, stepping on important Chicago stages and festivals. He has a unique, inspirational guitar style that stems from a playful attitude towards music and an extraordinary ability to incorporate music from his homeland and other South American countries. His career has reached stages in Chile, Mexico, Colombia, and throughout the United States.
CHRIS BARON – Pacific Northwest
Chris Baron hails from the Pacific Northwest. When he picks his favs, he always pick ‘the quirky song’ on an album. But it has to have a certain prettiness. For his original songs, Baron likes surprises and subtle messages. He is excited by the different compositional choices a songwriter makes between a recorded album, and a live performance. Lately he writes most of his songs to be performed. He says, “I’m pretty sure that travel is the great leveler, and the best factor is the X.”
CORRIE LYNN GREEN – Virginia
Corrie Lynn Green is an Appalachian singer from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She is a singer songwriter bringing her unique perspective of life in the hollow towns surrounded by the Shenandoah National Park.
MARK HOLDAWAY – Tucson, Arizona
Mark Holdaway is best known as the “Kalimba Guy”, but he has been playing guitar-based folk and world music in Tucson since he arrived here in 1995. After several years of submitting songwriting applications, he has been recognized as a Tucson Folk Festival songwriting finalist in 2021 and 2022. His songs explore as wide ranging topics as gender issues to the weather.
KATHLEEN KELSO – Los Angeles, California
Kathleen Kelso, 25, is an LA-based singer-songwriter who spends her time making observations about the world, then making them rhyme. A born performer, she has a charming onstage presence that balances out the melancholy found in many of her songs. She draws inspiration from many musical traditions, but feels most comfortable in the indie/folk genre. And if she’s not making music, you can probably find her making quilts!
ALLISON LEAH – Nashville, Tennessee
With just a guitar in hand, “Allison’s style makes any performance feel as intimate and honest as the words in her songs” (Lightning 100). Allison Leah is a folk-pop singer-songwriter based in Nashville, TN. While her ethereal melodies and crystal clear voice will hook you in, it is the message of her music that will keep you coming back for more.
KAY MIRACLE – New York / Washington
Kay Miracle is an Americana Troubadour with over 200 original songs. She lives in both New York and Washington State and finds her muse on the train rails across America. Kay uses songwriting to heal PTSD with Veterans and help victims of trauma to find their voice using music for healing. Kay has won numerous songwriting awards in New York, Washington DC, Washington State and Louisiana.
GABRIELLE PIETRANGELO – Tucson, Arizona
Gabrielle Pietrangelo is an independent musician based in Tucson. After releasing one solo album early in her career, Pietrangelo immersed herself for many years in harmony driven collaborations, including Silver Thread Trio and Sister Solace. Her 2020 EP release, On My Way Back Home, marked a return to roots of solo performance, guitar driven arrangements, finger picking, open tuning and ethereal melodies and harmonies. Gabrielle is currently working on a full length album.
TERRITORY & HOMBRE – Tucson, Arizona
Territory & Hombre are Terry and Tobin Kite, two brothers from Saguaro National Monument East. Their music is written and recorded around the dinner table after family meal every Sunday. The songs are then mostly ignored and forgotten, so they are excited to be able to share some of them at the Tucson Folk Festival. Territory & Hombre have won no awards and have had to be physically escorted out of public gatherings on more than one occasion.
James Tanguay – Musician, Author, Luthier, and Photographic Artist. James has been living and creating in beautiful Tucson since 1982.
Denise Lane-Chamberlain – Singer/Songwriter – Denise Lane has been living and writing songs in Tucson for the past 20 years, performing both as a solo artist and as a founding member of the bands The Spurloafers and The Jane Heirs.
Maiya Block Ngaybe – Accomplished Piano Player, Songwriter and Composer – Maiya is from the small town of Rio Rico, Arizona where she began piano lessons at the age of four. Although her background is in classical piano, she has since wandered through various genres including folk, bluegrass, pop, blues and jazz. She has picked up the mandolin, ukulele, guitar,and several percussion instruments on the side, but mostly gravitates towards jazz piano these days.
Ismael Barajas – World famous Flamenco guitarist, Singer, Producer, Composer – Ismael is one of the most amazing composers and vocalists of our time. At the Age of 14 Ismael was awarded a scholarship to attend the U of A school of music. In conjunction with his studies he began teaching guitar at a young age to public school students as well as students at the U of A. His styles include: salsa, jazz, bossa-nova, flamenco, classical and Mexican folk. He is an accomplished singer songwriter, producer and creative mind. He is the owner of Mi Casa Studios here in Tucson AZ.
Marguerite Salajko – Piano, Cello player and Composer – Marguerite grew up in Tucson and went to ASU for undergrad in cello performance she graduated and moved onto the boston conservatory at Berklee for her Masters. Performances include : Tucson Symphony, True Concord Voices and Orchestra, Tucson Pops Orchestra, The Arizona Opera, Arizona Philharmonic, Boston Conservatory Honors Quartet and is currently a coach at Tucson Junior Strings.
The Tucson Folk Festival songwriting competition began in the early 2000s by a passionate group of songwriters and performers. Today, the competition is in tribute to one of those founders, Stefan George.
Noted for his outstanding songwriting, Stefan George had a passion for music that drove him to excel in virtually every musical endeavor he set his sights upon. And there were many, even within the confines of our so-called folk music festival where he played with so many different ensembles and configurations including the String Trotters, Arm and Hammer, White-bread, Songtower, BK Special, Four Corners, the Ditchriders and, of course, under his own name and that of his beloved partner, Lavinia White.
While Stef was already making a name for himself throughout the late 1980s and ‘90s, and often playing in primetime slots at the festival, for 20 years he could still be seen backing his mother, Emilie, usually in the hot mid-afternoon sun, whose sets were part performance and part history lesson of Eastern European folk music and traditions that she grew up with and were so much a part of her life. While it would be both difficult and redundant to add to what has already been written about Stefan, it should be noted he and Emilie were as much a part of this festival as any one or two people could be.
2022 – Chris Baron – Pacific Northwest
2021 – Annie Sorrells & Jerry Green – Phoenix, Arizona
2020 – Competition cancelled due to COVID-19
2019 – Nick and Luke – Brooklyn, New York & Baltimore, Maryland
2018 – Sophia Rankin – Tucson, Arizona
2017 – Eric Ramsey – Phoenix, Arizona
2016 – Janelle Loes – Phoenix, Arizona
2015 – Jen Hajj – Idyllwild, California
- October 1 | Application acceptance opens ($25 Application Fee for all submissions)
- December 15 | CLOSED: Application acceptance closes
- January 1 | Songwriting Contest Finalists announced
- January 8 | Deadline for Finalist commitment to attend
- March 31 | Friday Night Finalist Competition (Festival Kick-Off Concert)
- April 1 | Winner and Runner-Up Perform Sets on Plaza Stage