One of the trickiest things about being a musician is getting your music out there where people can actually hear it.
And while there’s a slew of online platforms to host music for free, that doesn’t mean people will hear it.
That’s where Swallow Hill Music comes in.
For the ninth year, the organization is hosting its annual Young Writers Competition for performers in middle and high school.
“Submissions have to be original lyrics that can be performed live,” said Cheri Gonzales, director of Swallow Hill’s school operations. “The biggest prize for our winners is the opportunity to perform at our venues, and to have some time in a professional recording studio.”
But for Thomas Koenigs, who won the contest in 2015, there was a greater prize.
“Winning wasn’t the most important thing, although it was very gratifying,” he remembered. “For me, the best part was meeting all these people, and making some crazy important connections.”
Swallow Hill is accepting submissions until 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. Gonzales said the nonprofit usually receives about 20 to 30 submissions, and from there 10 contestants are selected to perform live on April 1, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Denver.
There are no genre limitations for entry, and over the years participants have included a cappella, solo singer-songwriters, duos and groups.
“It’s really whatever the performer feels is the best way to express themselves,” she said. “We’ve had people who take the Bob Dylan, solo acoustic guitar route, to multi-instrumentalists who are able to pull off really dynamic performances.”
For Koenigs, music was a way to channel his interest in writing and appreciation for artists like Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
“I’d taken some rock classes, but had only written some basic chord progressions,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking to get up and perform something I had written, but everyone was so friendly, and helped me get better.”
The professional performance and recording opportunities are a great boon to its winners, Gonzales said, but any occasion to play music live is a plus.
“For a lot of contestants, they’re just getting started in the professional music process,” she said. “Giving them a chance to put their work out there is very important, and we make sure everyone is very encouraging throughout the process.”
Currently, Koenigs is studying English literature, but the people he met in the competition are still a part of his life.
“The whole environment for this was so supportive,” he said. “There’s no downside to taking a chance and trying this.”
For more information, and submission guidelines, visit www.swallowhillmusic.org/community/young-songwriters-competition.
Clarke Reader’s column on how music connects to our lives appears every other week. A community editor with Colorado Community Media, he admires anyone who performs their material live. Check out his music blog at calmacil20.blogspot.com. And share your performance stores at firstname.lastname@example.org.