2023 Tucson Folk Festival
Stefan George Memorial Songwriting Competition
JOIN US FOR THE FINALIST SHOW AND OFFICIAL FESTIVAL KICK OFF!
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2023: 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Jacome Plaza Stage
All Proceeds Benefit the 38th Annual Tucson Folk Festival. The finalist performances will be livestreamed on our broadcast page and later made available on the Tucson Folk Festival YouTube Channel.
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, TKMA T-Shirt, 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, TKMA T-Shirt, 10 minute set on the Jacome Plaza Stage on Saturday at 6 PM
- 3rd PLACE | $50 Cash Award, TKMA T-Shirt, Bookmans Gift Card
GROVER ANDERSON – Murphys, California
At first glance, Grover Anderson looks like the kind of guy who’ll drip with earnestness and leave you aggressively “whelmed.” Then you’ll start listening to the stories he has to tell—adventurers decimated by ambition, desperate attempts by the broken to play it cool, extended metaphors that aren’t as sweet as they initially seem. He’s got love songs, too—his signature one is called “Sick of You.” And don’t worry, he’s trying to lighten up on the murder ballads; his latest album received rave reviews despite its relatively modest body count of 13. So yeah, Grover’s earnest, but he’ll keep you on your toes. You might have seen him at Alaska’s Salmonfest, the Tucson Folk Festival, or Respect on the River, or opening for Birds of Chicago, The Charlie Daniels Band, or America.
KARYN ANN – Milwaukie, Oregon
Described as a “combination of Patty Griffin grit and Amy Winehouse grace” by American Songwriter, Soul/Americana singer-songwriter Karyn Ann packs a proverbial punch with her powerful vocals and alluring emotive lyricism. Her songwriting and performance chops have earned her spotlights at the 2020 Falcon Ridge Emerging Artist showcase and the 2022 Red Ants Pants Music Festival, and more recently received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriter showcase.
KATHY BUDWAY – Tucson, Arizona
Singer-songwriter Kathy Budway has produced two CDs of original music, 3 Budways with siblings David and Maureen Budway, and Time to Move On with Shanti Foster. Kathy’s original music is also featured in her film, Who Paved the Way? which documents some of her immigrant students’ experiences with race in America. The film was shown in the Seattle Wing Luke Art Museum’s 2013 exhibition on race. Kathy currently performs with Act 3 who will also play at this year’s Tucson folk festival. She currently resides in Tucson Arizona.
SARAH BURKE – Tucson, Arizona
Sarah Burke is a singer-songwriter and performer based along the West Coast, anywhere from Arizona to Washington State. With a background in theater, ceremonial song and facilitation, dance and stage performance, she now composes her own music inspired by her journey to the authentic self. Sarah has worked closely with her mentors to understand what it means to allow uninhibited expression. The fears of being too much or not enough is something we GET to work beyond and something she often writes about in her music. Inspired by artists like Stevie Nicks, Norah Jones, and Nessi Gomes, Sarah is dedicated to holding space for those on the journey of remembering our innate right to EXPRESS inside and outside of the music world. Her art is a call to the soul to remember its power, and how to freely express its truth.
FOX AND BONES – Portland, Oregon
Scott Gilmore and Sarah Vitort comprise the retro folk inspired duo, which is often compared to revered folk rock acts of the past like Fleetwood Mac and Simon and Garfunkel with a twist of modern retro flavor a la Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Lake Street Dive, and Dawes. The pair mixes their unique brand of lighthearted yet honest storytelling, penchant for meta optimism, and playful on-stage banter to create a show that draws their audiences in and makes them feel like family.
CORRIE LYNN GREEN – Port Republic, Virginia
Corrie Lynn Green is an Appalachian Folk Singer from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She was discovered by accident by well-known producer and recording equipment engineer D.W. Fearn during the pandemic. She had been writing stories about her life growing up in rural Appalachia since she was a child, challenging the ideas instilled by her evangelical upbringing, and education status and bringing authenticity and grit to the stage as if her life depended on it. She released an incredible album in May of 2022 called Blow Away. She went on to win third place in the acclaimed Stephan George SongWriter’s competition in Tuscon, Arizona for 2022 and is slated for another coveted top ten competitor slot for 2023. With a new album on the horizon Corrie Lynn Green aims to take you on a storyteller’s journey through the stages of a life lived the mountain way.
STEFF KAYSER – Tucson, Arizona
Known for his craftsmanship, precision, and groove, insightful composer and brilliant interpreter of others’ material, STEFF KAYSER offers unique and diverse performances with a soulful soaring voice and musical talents that delight the most discerning of audiences.
DENISE LANE – Tucson, Arizona
Denise Lane is a transplant from the Bay Area, but she has spent the bulk of her adult life living and playing music in Tucson both as a solo artist and in a band setting. She is currently one-third of The Jane Heirs as well as the bandleader and primary songwriter of The Spurloafers. Her musical influences are varied, with a fondness for old country, folk, soul, blues, and progressive rock. She describes her music as the love child of Patsy Cline and Edgar Allan Poe.
AUSTIN B. SWEENEY – Phoenix, Arizona
Starting at a young age, singer-songwriter Austin B. Sweeney has been steadily blazing his own musical trail that winds through Country, Folk, Blues, Americana, and Soul music. Growing up on a family farm in Oregon, Sweeney found inspiration everywhere he looked. However, after a run of open mics, road trips, dive bars, late nights, dark mornings, and a fairly hefty amount of debt, he moved back to Oregon to continue his music career and work on the family farm for the next four years. In a turn of events no one saw coming, he packed up and moved to Arizona and has been playing in the music scene there ever since. Not one to forget his roots however, the songs he writes are infused with the work ethic and passion that is developed through a life on the farm.
TAMMY WEST – Tucson, Arizona
Kentucky born. Tucson raised. Singer-songwriter Tammy West delves into the dark spaces of our collective consciousness with grace and harmonic beauty.
Cameron Hood – One-half of the award-winning folk-rock duo, Ryanhood, Cameron Hood has broken ground in Tucson as one of the city’s most regarded songwriters, performers, and instrumentalists. He is the band’s primary lyricist and commands the stage with his inspiring presence, resonant voice, and intense guitar, ukulele, piano, and percussion skills. Cameron is currently developing Voyager, a space rock opera, in collaboration with John D. Larson. Previously, he created Surrounding Dillinger, a modern ballet about John Dillinger, with Ashley Bowman of Artifact Dance Project.
Carlos Arzate – Tucson native Carlos Arzate has been a standout member of the Arizona music community since the 90’s, first known for leading bands like Innisfail and American Android with his huge voice. While those bands were known for their loud, confrontational sound and message, he nurtured a deep love of soul, folk, Norteno, and what is broadly called Americana, influences that finally found a home in his solo project, Carlos Arzate and The Kind Souls. The voice is still huge, but these songs also make space for a quiet, yearning, and at times sweet side, passionate stories about social inequity, border realities, family, struggle, and triumph.
Don Armstrong – Don Armstrong has been hailed as a “Tucson legend” and “folk treasure,” and has performed in clubs, coffee houses, concert halls and festivals across the US, as well as on tv and radio. The Arizona Daily Star referred to him as a “consummate songwriter,” and his original songs, which have a Southwestern, traditional Americana flavor with a 1930’s flair, have been recorded by artists nationwide and sung and enjoyed worldwide. Playing guitar and five-string banjo, Don was part of the duo Don & Victoria Armstrong for 42 years before Victoria’s passing in 2014. Together, they recorded ten albums, each one receiving national acclaim. Today, Don leads the popular Tucson band, Don Armstrong & The Whiskeypalians, and tours some with Liz & Pete (Liz Cerepanya & Peter Dalton Ronstadt). The Ronstadt Record Company recently released Don’s first CD, Mother Don’t Give Up On Me Now.
Rebekah Rolland – Rebekah Rolland is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter based in Tucson. Early immersion in Arizona’s old-time and Bluegrass scene fueled her love for the tradition of storytelling through music, prompting her to study literature and music at the University of Arizona before setting out on several national tours with Tucson-based band, Run Boy Run. Five years on the road as a lead vocalist, fiddler, and primary songwriter for the group have taken her to stages across the country, from the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival to American Public Media’s A Prairie Home Companion. Currently, she is making music with her husband and long-time collaborator, Matt Rolland, as the acoustic duo RISO.
Sophia Rankin – Sophia Rankin is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter with a diverse repertoire that spans the musical genres of folk, pop, rock, and Americana. Her two first solo CDs, released while attending the University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music, were positively received by press and promoters alike. She landed first-place awards at both the 2017 Tucson Desert Song Festival and the 2018 Stefan George Songwriting competition. She now leads her own band, Sophia Rankin & The Sound, with members Connor Rankin (drums), Ben Arthur (bass), and Noah Weig-Pickering (lead guitar). Her latest album, Too Close to the Riptide, encourages Rankin’s creative wanderlust while staying true to her roots as a songwriter. Her expansion from a solo artist to a band leader pushes her to explore new sounds without straying far from her folk upbringing.
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.
2023 – Fox and Bones – Portland, Oregon
2022 – Chris Baron – Portland, Oregon
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