THREE OAKS – An Alaskan with a Ph.D. who left the world of science to write and perform live music is the winner of the 2022 Acorn Singer-Songwriter Competition.
After being named the winner of the 10th annual event, Kray Van Kirk (nicknamed “Dr. Kray” earlier in the evening) thanked those who took the seats in the theater on July 21 “on behalf of me and all the other artists for having supported live music”.
“I did a show a few months ago in Phoenix, and the bartender loved it,” he joked, before stating that nearly half of his friends who performed on the road dropped out during the course. years “because they just couldn’t”. not survive the pandemic.
Van Kirk began his opening number for the competition, “O My Fathers”, noting that St. Francis of Assisi stood undressed in front of the bishop before “going naked into the world” while Woody Guthrie felt that a folk singer’s job is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”.
“It would probably bother a lot of you if I stood naked in front of you,” he joked, laughing a lot before strumming his 12-string guitar and singing along.
Van Kirk made the trip from California to the competition by train and, due to delays due to “a flash flood and landslide”, he arrived just in time.
“He showed up this afternoon, dropped his bags and there he is,” said singer-songwriter competition emcee Peter Carrey.
Six finalists performed original songs from the Acorn stage, with singer-songwriter judges Anne Harris, Donnie Biggins and Jon Goldman commenting on each contestant’s performance (Harris told Van Kray she loves the 12-string and that her voice was beautiful).
These first-round performers were: Daniel Deitrich (who performed “Hymn for the 81 Percent”); Jack Cunningham (“Your mouth is dripping with honey”); Abbie Thomas (“Lucky Penny”); Tim Stop (“Slowplay”); Nich Lampson (“18”); and Van Kray.
The trio of judges were ultimately faced with the difficult task of choosing three finalists, and they were: Thomas, Lampson, and Van Kray (Harris told Van Kray she loved 12-string and her voice was beautiful).
Each performed a second original song, and audience members then voted to select the top three in order.
Thomas (who said she became a full-time musician after losing her day job during COVID when she was seven months pregnant and then had to sell her house – “and it was the best thing ever never happened”) placed second in the voting with Lampson (who said her song “18” was about growing up in the Midwest – adding that he lived in Columbus, Ohio, Indiana and Pittsburgh) was voted third .
The top three artists each received a cash prize ($1,000 for first place, $300 for second, and $200 for third) provided by Art Wible.
Last year’s winner, singer-songwriter Scott Hildebrand, and 2018 champion, Emma Hamel, added to the magic of the evening with guest performances.
Harris and Biggins performed together in the early evening.
A 10th grade alumni singer-songwriter concert featuring Hamel and Scott & Lila (Hildebrand duo) is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday, July 29 at The Acorn.
Here are the profiles of the six finalists in this year’s Acorn Singer-Songwriter Competition:
Jack Cunningham made a name for himself in the region with his strong, passionate voice and poetic writing. Its acoustic-based sound is centered around beautiful melodies and strong lyrical content that tells a story, while sparking imagination and interpretation.
Daniel Deitrich’s honest, heartbreaking yet hopeful lyrics find their way into massive American anthems, catchy indie rock hooks, as well as intimate acoustic confessionals.
Nich Lampson is originally from Columbus, Ohio and now lives in South Bend, Indiana. Nich has been playing music for 13 years and writing songs for 4 years. He headlined his own shows around South Bend and played in a college band.
Tim Stop is a singer-songwriter from the Midwest who has toured extensively internationally, opening for rock legends Chicago and REO Speedwagon. His cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” became a mainstay on SiruisXM’s “The Coffee House” channel. He is currently finishing a self-produced album, featuring world-renowned drummer Keith Carlock.
Abbie Thomas is a full-time freelance singer-songwriter and earns her income performing live music at wineries, breweries, private area events and the occasional opening act. She started performing live part-time in 2019 and transitioned to full-time in 2021 after losing her full-time job with the company during the covid shutdowns.
Fine-tuned guitarist with a precise baritone, Kray Van Kirk holds a doctorate. from the University of Alaska. After living in his van for five years and playing music in the United States and Canada in the early 90s, he thought a career in science might be a little safer. Eventually, he realized he was writing better songs than the statistical models, and he picked up his guitar and walked away.
Here are the profiles of the judges of the Singer-Songwriters Competition:
Anne Harris’ latest album, “Roots”, is a collection of acoustic and instrumental fiddle pieces paying homage to the influences of American folk and roots traditions that have been a key force in shaping her sound. In addition to his six independent records, the singer-songwriter has collaborated, live and in the studio, with a large and diverse group of artists, including Otis Taylor, Guy Davis, Markus James, JP Soars, Jason Ricci, Cathy Richardson , Anders Osborne and hippie legends Jefferson Starship. She appears on screen as the star of “The Musician”, an independent short from acclaimed director Mark Schimmel. The film’s score features music by Harris and has received more than 20 accolades on the film festival circuit, including Best Actress at the 2021 Chicago Indie Film Awards. She also recently embarked on a landmark violin commission. , becoming the first black female violinist in the United States to have a black luthier, Amanda Ewing, make her a violin.
Donnie Biggins is a singer/songwriter from Oak Park, Illinois. He is a member of Chicago’s The Shams Band and owner/operator of Chicago’s concert hall, Golden Dagger. Donnie is also the talent buyer for The Acorn in Three Oaks, MI. Donnie has been writing songs and performing live since 2005. He released his first solo album, Profiles, in November 2016. The album received press coverage and airplay by the Chicago Tribune/Chicago Now, Glide Magazine, WGN Radio , WXRT, CHIRP Radio and Radio. A Chicago.
Jon Goldman has served on the Acorn Center For Performing Arts Board of Trustees since April 2021, serving as Chair of the Programming Committee. With his finger on the pulse of the area’s music scene, Goldman hosts “Jonny’s Secret Stash,” a radio/podcast show featuring local musicians and those passing through town. When he’s not following Dead and Company or Phish, he can be seen in concert halls across Harbor Country.