2019 Big Island Open Mic Songwriting Contest: Hilo (Slight Return)

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The Hawaii Songwriting Festival’s Open Mic Contest came to a close last Sunday at Kukuau Studio in Hilo. Nineteen contestants competed for free attendance to the Hawaii Songwriting Festival’s three-day music festival/conference at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort – worth $230!

Hosting Sunday night’s event was Kukuau Studio’s curator Bub Pratt. Pratt is a multi-talented musician, has several recordings available, and appears at various venues around the island. The Open Mic panel of judges featured radio host Maelan Abran and Charles Michael Brotman, President of KMF (Kauai Music Festival) and Co-Director of the Creative Lab Hawaii Music Immersive.

Angel Heartsymbol

The participants included (in order of appearance): Mano A. White, Alex Wiseman, Tistan White, Kath Fraser, Guy Grizzy, Teresa Young, Blueeyesunshine, Kauih Hayman, Kalei Webster, Julian Borrego, Grace Scanlan, Victor Solt, Damoave, Marrianne Bacon, Rojane Prideaux, Robert  Savery, Angel Heartsymbol, Michael Bradley Taylor, and Shane Rose. The contestants’ songs were judged on lyrics, song structure, music, and if the song’s hook is compelling.

Marrianne Bacon

Waimea’s Marrianne Bacon took first place for her song “John.” Bacon, and several others, took on a personal challenge to perform at all 2019 Big Island Open Mic Contests. At the Hilo Town Tavern she sang “Space Monkey,” at the Big Island Brewhause she did “Money,” and at the Kona Brew Pub she backed up singer Scott Buchholz on a song she co-wrote with him called “More Real Than Magic.” Third place winner was Julian Borrego, and Robert Savery took second.

Having attended all four contests, I was thrilled to see and hear all the amazing talent the Big Island has to offer. You may have even seen some of these hard-working musicians play at various venues, farmer’s markets, or casually strumming their guitars on the beach, working out a new tune. Many are at the early stages of their career, and some just make music for the simple joy that it brings. Hopefully you’ll continue to support our music scene and the local musicians with a contribution to their tip jar, or even a smile and a compliment.

Robert Savery

The Hawaii Songwriting Festival (HSF) is a wonderful opportunity for Big island musicians to learn more about how to get your work heard and to learn from music industry professionals. I believe musician Rachael Scott summed it up nicely when she said, “It’s like taking a college course over a three-day period… you come away with so much knowledge, and networking with other musicians is really valuable.”

About HSF

The 17th annual Hawaii Songwriting Festival will take place at the Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel on the Big Island, from June 20-22. If you’d like to register for the Festival, you can find the details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hawaii-songwriting-festival-2019-registration-52699975044

The Hawai’i Songwriting Festival is for songwriters from all walks of life and at all levels of their careers. Come learn about the craft and business of songwriting from professional songwriters and music industry executives, develop new relationships with songwriters from around the world, and get your creative batteries charged up in a beautiful setting surrounded by people who all share your passion for music.

Registration for the three-day conference includes one non-transferrable ticket to the “Hit Makers” Concert on June 22, 2019. Kenny Loggins will be the headliner this year.


Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.

Photos: Steve Roby

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