Now in its 21st year, the NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition is one of North America’s premier showcases of emerging performers and songwriters today. This crowd-sourced effort seeks to identify the truly exceptional artists within our communities and to work closely with them to develop their careers and introduce their music to a broader, international audience while building a supportive community of performers and songwriters across all genres of music and levels of skill.
But, as important as songwriting skills and stage presence is to this competition, it’s our panel of esteemed judges — all members of the music industry — who have to make the difficult decision: What musical act will take home the grand prize.
This year’s judges include:
Ariana Hellerman — Director of art and events for Arts Brookfield, which supports innovation in music, dance, theater, film, and visual art through free art exhibitions and vibrant cultural experiences within the public spaces of Brookfield properties. She’s also the founder of Ariana’s list, a year-round consultancy producing cultural events in public spaces in NYC. The guiding mission of her work is to make arts more accessible to and representative of all people.
André Cholmondeley — By day Andre is usually on tour somewhere, teching guitar, bass & software, for a variety of legendary artists. Otherwise out with Project/Object: Music Of Frank Zappa, on two continents for over 25 years, often with any of a dozen of Zappa’s alumni. His electronic solo project is We Are Ants to Them. He’s also a plant-based life coach and enthusiast.
Matt Hendrickson — Matt Hendrickson has more than 25 years of experience in magazine and digital journalism. Currently, he’s a Contributing Editor for the Southern lifestyle publication Garden & Gun, a position he’s held for the past 14 years, overseeing the music coverage for the magazine. He began his career at Rolling Stone, serving as a writer and editor for 12 years, penning cover stories on Green Day and Rage Against the Machine, among others, as well as covering the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. From 2005-08 he held a three-year visiting professor position at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. For the past 15 years, Matt has contributed to the New York Times, Details, Billboard, Travel & Leisure, among many others, as well as running his own media consulting company, Big Swede Media, where his client list includes Fast Company, AT&T, Ford, JW Marriott, CBS and Interscope Records.
Claude Coleman Jr. — Best known as the drummer for the alternative rock group Ween. He has also worked with Eagles of Death Metal, Chocolate Genius, the Wooden Soldiers, Elysian Fields and 3 Input Woman, and has been a touring member of the Mike Dillon Band on multiple occasions. A multi-instrumentalist, Coleman is also the singer-songwriter for his own group Amandla. Since 2017, he has co-owned and actively managed SoundSpace@Rabbit’s, a music rehearsal and art studio facility inside of a 1947 Black-owned tourist court and soul food cafe’ known as Rabbit’s Motel, in the historically African American district of Southside, Asheville, North Carolina.
Gar Ragland — Gar Ragland is a producer, musician, and president and co-founder of the NewSong Music Group. Ragland relocated to Boston to study composition and improvisation at the New England Conservatory with MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award winning pianist, composer and educator Ran Blake. It was there in 2001 that he started producing his fellow classmates’ demos and records, and co-founded NewSong Music. In 2005 Ragland moved to New York City, working out of his studio in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. In 2012, he relocated with his wife and three children to Asheville, NC, to take up residence at Echo Mountain Recording Studios; and in 2020 founded Citizen Vinyl, presenting sponsor of NewSong Music. Ragland is a voting member of the Recording Academy (Grammys), and formerly served for five years as the board chair of the Asheville Area Arts Council (ArtsAVL).