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The Art of Sound: This Amazing Scholarship Contest is Looking For Student Songwriters

In 1984, New Orleans artist George Rodrigue took inspiration from a picture of his dog Tiffany and painted a picture. The strong shape of his dog evoked the idea of the loup-garou, a mythical beast of French-Cajun legend. The painting that emerged? The now-famous, Blue Dog. 

How many ways have you seen the iconic piece of pop art? Rodrigue has painted the pup into national campaigns for Absolut Vodka, and Xerox; on statewide “I Voted” stickers, and Jazz Fest Posters. One could say that the painting has become as interwoven with Louisiana culture as the legend of the Rougarou that inspired it. Now, The George Rodrigue Foundation is once again at work merging art into local society. Though, this time, their asking for the work of others. 

The George Rodrigue Foundation, in partnership with The Trombone Shorty Foundation, is calling for submissions to an inaugural Scholarship Songwriting Contest, in conjunction with the annual GRF Scholarship Art Contest.

Scholarship Art Contest

The Annual Scholarship Art Contest

The George Rodrigue Foundation has been holding the Scholarship Art Contest for students in Louisiana since 2009. The annual competition has received more than 6,900 entries since it began. In the mission of advocating for youth art development, it has been successful: more than $500,000 has been awarded to 182 applicants over a ten-year span. Previously, only visual artists could apply to the Scholarship Art Contest. But in partnership with the Trombone Shorty Foundation, GRF is adding a first to the program: the Songwriting Contest.

Both the Visual Art and Songwriting Contests fall under the larger umbrella of the GRF’s Scholarship Arts Contest. As such, they share a mutual theme: The Art of Sound. This theme challenges artists to explore the link between sight and sound, and to do so through original works. Artists will look for answers to questions such as: what does sound look like, what do you feel and see when you listen to music, and what role does music play in life and culture? More specifics on the theme can be found here.

Music often influences the work of Mr. Rodrigue. A prominent project, the painting of a 100-year-old Steinbeck piano, pushed George to ask, “what does music look like?” This year’s first Songwriting Scholarship Contest provides more than a one-man answer to this question. 

Songwriting Contest Judges

Bill Taylor is the Founding Executive Director of the Trombone Shorty Foundation. Taylor says of the contest, “We can’t wait to see what the students come up with. Hoping it will be a fun way to get their creative vibes flowing.”

Scholarship Art Contest
Contest Judge Big Chief Juan Pardo

The “we” that Taylor refers to is a studded lineup of native artists who serve as judges. The list includes Trombone Shorty, PJ Morton (Maroon 5), Tank Ball (Tank & the Bangas), David Shaw (Revivalists) and Ben Ellman & Erica Falls (Galactic). Incredibly, that’s not all: Alex Ebert (Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros), Anders Osborne, and a slew of other, Grammy-wielding artists join the decision committee. Accordingly, the contest criteria are as high-caliber as the judges. Submissions are graded for technical skills, like lyrics, melody, and song structure.

Judges for the Visual Arts contest have yet to be named. Fortunately, contest criteria has been outlined. In comparison to the Songwriting Competition, technical skills are only one part of the grading rubric. Creativity and concept make up the two other pieces that judges will use when evaluating submissions.

Scholarship Art Contest
Contest judge Jon Batiste

Scholarship Art Contest Specifics

All high school juniors and seniors in the state of Louisiana are eligible to apply for the Scholarship Art Contest, Visual or Songwriting. However, awards for each category are different, as are the number of contestants awarded. Specifics are outlined below. They have been provided from a press release from the George Rodrigue Foundation.

Winnings for the Songwriting Contest

A selection of three finalists will share $10,000 in college scholarships. Following the Scholarship Awards Luncheon on March 21, 2020, the three finalists will have a chance to record their winning songs in a state-of-the-art professional recording studio under the mentorship of Grammy-winning producers and engineers, and then perform their song on stage during the Trombone Shorty Foundation’s annual “Shorty Fest” benefit concert during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. 

Winnings for the Visual Contest

All high school juniors and seniors in the state of Louisiana are eligible to apply. Contest judges will select 15 finalists to share $45,000 in college scholarships. Following the Scholarship Awards Luncheon on March 21, 2020, the 15 winning entries will travel on public view for one year as an exhibition at museums and cultural venues across Louisiana.

Jacques Rodrigue is the Executive Director of the Rodrigue Foundation. In a statement about the contest, he says,  “Music is a Louisiana staple; we have something very special here that we want to continue to grow, starting with our youth. It’s important for us to encourage students to learn more about music and songwriting and give them a platform to showcase their talents.”

Winners could play at the 2020 Shorty Fest

Full details for the contest can be found here.


 Do you know a Louisiana student who could benefit from this program? Share this article with them so they can take their shot. Follow River Beats for the latest information on music happenings around New Orleans. 

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