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Catawba College Students Continue to Be Finalists in National BMI Foundation's John Lennon Songwriting Contest

July 6, 2009

Category: Academics, Events, Music, Students

Not one, not two, but three Catawba College students have been selected as finalists in the 12th annual John Lennon Songwriting Contest. This brings to five the number of Catawba students who have placed either first, second or third in the Lennon competition in the past four years, an unparalleled feat in a contest that draws thousands of entries each year from student songwriters across the country.


Katie BraggMason JewettDusti Kempf
Catawba College students, Katie Bragg of Snow Hill, Maryland, and Mason Jewett of Arlington, Texas, tied for second place. Bragg's song, "Unbreakable," and Jewett's song, "Devil Sunday," earned them each a $2,500 scholarship. Another Catawba student, Dusti Kempf of Midland, N.C., and her co-scribe, former Berklee School of Music student Jessica Drake of Harrisburg, N.C., tied for third place in the competition, each receiving a $1,250 scholarship for their "Time to Miss You."

The John Lennon Songwriting Contest scholarships were established by Yoko Ono in 1997 in conjunction with BMI Foundation and have been made possible through donations from Ono and matching funds from Gibson Musical Instruments. The contest recognizes the best and brightest songwriters between the ages of 15 and 24, and has awarded more than $225,000 in scholarships.

Catawba College 2006 graduate Dennis Reed of Charlotte brought home first place as the overall winner of the 2006 BMI Foundation's John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song "Out of Control."  Reed's finish paved the way for future Catawba College entries to skip the state and regional levels and be submitted directly into national competition. According to Catawba College Associate Professor of Music Dr. David Lee Fish who teaches songwriting and directs the school's popular music degree concentration, that sets Catawba apart and establishes it as one of the premier institutions for "the study of songwriting and popular music."

In 2007, Catawba College's Derek Daisey of Lewes Delaware tied for second place and earned a $5,000 scholarship for his song, "Where to Begin."

What's Catawba's secret? How are its students able to beat out songwriters from hundreds of other schools so consistently? Fish observes, "We take students with innate musical talent and help each develop his or her singular artistic voice. We also teach them about the craft of songwriting, which is just as important as the art."

Catawba also has a secret weapon in the form of adjunct music instructor Jimm Mosher, who produced three of Catawba's winning entries. "The Beatles had George Martin. Michael Jackson had Quincy Jones. Catawba has Jimm Mosher," comments Fish. "He works closely with the students to help make sure that each song has a musical setting that perfectly captures its essence."

A team of top music industry professionals picked the 2009 Lennon winners. The judges included Universal Music Publishing Sr. VP Jennifer Blakeman; Warner Chappell Director, Creative Peter Visvardis; Kobalt Music Publishing VP Sharon Tapper; and EMI Music Publishing Director, Creative Jake Ottmann. "These individuals obviously know popular music extremely well and to have them pick three of our students as finalists out of the thousands of entries BMI receives makes the win all the more gratifying," notes Fish.

The BMI Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1985 to support the creation, performance, and study of music through awards, scholarships, commissions and grants. Tax-deductible donations to the Foundation come primarily from songwriters, composers and publishers, BMI employees and members of the public with a special interest in music. Because both the Foundation staff and the distinguished members of the Advisory Panel serve without compensation, over 95% of all donations and income are used for charitable grants.

For more details on the BMI Foundation, Inc. and the annual John Lennon Songwriting Contest, visit the BMI Foundation website at or To learn more about popular music at Catawba College, visit


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