On Saturday, the Wyoming Singer-Songwriter Competition will host a qualifying round in Laramie. The round, consisting of 10 contestants from Laramie, will be open to the public from 6-9 p.m. at the Alibi Wood Fire Pizzaria & Bakery. The contestants will perform three original songs. Audience members can follow along with printed lyric sheets.
Initially, the competition was called the Laramie Singer-Songwriter Competition. It began in fall 2012 at the Buckhorn Bar. The community-centered event brought together artists of all kinds — poets, academics, musicians and more. Jon Gardzelewski was one of the founders and he continues to lead the competition today.
The purpose of creating this competition was to bring Wyoming artists together, give those artists a chance to perform in front of an audience and celebrate the skill of songwriting. The creators of the competition believe songwriting has power to bring people and cultures together.
“It gave people who were really excellent singer-songwriters, it gave them a boost,” Gardzelewski said as he explained the importance of the competition. “A lot of people sort of launched their careers off of it.”
In 2018, the competition went statewide. The inaugural Wyoming Singer-Songwriter Competition saw 75 contestants from across the state of Wyoming, bringing with them diverse talent.
“In the first year state-wide, I’ve already seen, very clearly, a number of people who did well state-wide launch their careers off of that,” Gardzelewski continued.
In this year’s competition, there are added events to create 10 qualifying rounds. The 10 qualifying rounds occur in nine cities across the state, with Casper hosting two. In each qualifying round, up to four contestants can advance to the finals.
“Right now, we have almost 70 people signed up, and I’m anticipating we’ll go over a hundred this year,” Gardzelewski said.
“We want people to come,” Gardzelewski said. “There’s an audience vote, so the audience also gets to vote for their top songs and their top singer-songwriters.”
“It’s unique — there’s songwriter competitions in other states, but it’s usually funded by a bar,” Gardzelewski said.
He explained in other areas, these types of things are used for entertainment, but the Singer-Songwriter Competition focuses on the individual musicians and their songs.
“At the end of the day,” Gardzelewski said, “you look back over our history and I think, ‘You know, the most important musicians are the ones who are actually writing the lyric.’”
The final singer-songwriter rounds will be Sept. 20-22 in Tensleep. The finals will take place at the Tensleep Brewing Company.