Selected Songwriters

Bernard/Ebb 2016 Songwriting Awards Finalists

Jason Byrd (Americana, Rock), Bethesda, MD
Performing with: South Rail

Jason Byrd has been a professional guitarist, singer and songwriter since his late teens. His early musical endeavors include co-founding the blues-rock trio The Groov, and playing with Wavy Train, a Grateful Dead cover band. After moving to the Washington, D.C. area in 2001, Jason began writing songs with an Americana bent. In 2010, he won the NewSong People's Choice Award for the Northeast Region. He also won the Gold Award (Acoustic/Folk category) and the BMI Songwriter Award in the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest. Jason is currently a singer, guitarist and songwriter in the band South Rail. 
Justin Jones (Rock, Adult Contemporary), Arlington, VA
Weaned on the sounds of southern soul, blues and rock, Justin Jones started playing open mic nights in Charlottesville, VA near his hometown in his early teens. His music career now spans more than a decade and includes five albums and two U.S. tours. Justin has played at Virgin Mobile Festival, Floyd Festival, and the Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL). He says that he likes to think that he writes beautiful songs about death, sad songs about love, and hopeful songs about life.  
Connaitre Miller (Vocal Jazz, Gospel/Inspirational), Adelphi, MD
Songs Performed by: Afro Blue

Connaitre Miller is the Coordinator of Jazz Voice at Howard University where she teaches jazz improvisation, voice and vocal arranging. She also directs the vocal jazz ensemble, Afro Blue, which she formed in the spring of 2002.  Since its inception, Afro Blue has performed to wide critical acclaim having appeared at The DC Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center, The Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NY, and The White House. Afro Blue has been featured several times on NPR and was a top-four contestant on NBC-TV’s a cappella group competition, The Sing-Off. In 2013, Connaitre was honored with the prestigious Jazz Education Achievement Award by DownBeat Magazine.
Mike Ounallah (Rock/Alternative, Soul), Washington, D.C.
Performing with: Black Masala

Mike Ounallah is part of Washington, D.C.’s eclectic high energy brass band Black Masala. Formed in 2012, Black Masala, which is known for their funk, gypsy punk and soul inspired music, is the winner of four Washington, D.C. Area Music Awards including Best New Artist and Best World Music Album. In three years, the band has released two albums and played countless shows along the East Coast. Mike covers vocals, drums and percussion and is joined by bandmates Kristen Long, Monty Montgomery, Duff Davis, Kristen Warfield and Steven Cunningham. 
Frank Solivan (Country/Bluegrass), Alexandria, VA
Performing with: Mike Munford

Since Frank Solivan left Alaska in 2003 for Washington, D.C., he's built a reputation as a sought-after mandolinist, fiddler, guitarist and songwriter. His band, Dirty Kitchen, won Best Bluegrass Band honors from the Washington Area Music Association 2011-2015, won eight awards at the 2015 WAMMIES, garnered a Best Bluegrass Album Grammy nomination for their 2014 release of Cold Spell, and won the grand prize at the 2015 Mid Atlantic Songwriting Contest. Frank is a hunter, a fisherman, a gourmet chef, a singer, a poet and songwriter.
Cecilia Sugarman (Pop), Towson, MD
Performing with: Cecilia Grace

Twenty-one year old singer/songwriter Cecilia Sugarman began humming and whistling before she could speak. Homeschooled throughout her youth, she exercised the freedom to sing all day and develop her music skills. She became a songwriter at 14 and gained an international following on YouTube. Cecilia is a full-time musician, performing frequently with the Cecilia Grace band along the East Coast and in the Philippines.

YoungSongwriting Awards Finalists

Maddy Clark (Folk/Acoustic), McLean, VA
Maddy Clark is a seventeen-year-old singer songwriter who has been writing music since she was thirteen. She studied songwriting at Interlochen Arts Academy on a merit scholarship and is a two-time honoree in the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest. Maddy is currently a senior at Georgetown Day School where she acts in theater productions, sings in the choir, and leads an a cappella group. She performs locally at cafes, coffee shops and farmers markets.

Madison Gestiehr (Pop), Bethesda, MD
Performing with: Davison Duo

Seventeen-year-old musician and songwriter Madison Gestiehr, a senior at Walt Whitman High School, along with her fourteen-year-old brother, Davis Gestiehr, make up the musical group Davison Duo. At ages 11 and 8, they began writing songs in memory of their friend who passed away from cancer. Madison and Davis started performing together in 2006 at their elementary school talent show, and in 2015 they successfully auditioned for Season 10 of America’s Got Talent. Together they perform around the Greater Washington, D.C. area.
Eli Pafumi (Folk/Acoustic), Sterling, VA
Sixteen-year-old Eli Pafumi is a junior at Dominion High School and returns for his second year as a finalist for the Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Awards. He began writing music when he was eight years old and has since played at numerous Washington, D.C. area venues and opened for bands including We The Kings, Grace and Tony and Native Run. Eli won the Bring It! 2014 talent competition and the 2015 Loudoun Youth Fest Battle of the Bands. In addition to songwriting and performing, he composes and writes for theatre. His theatrical work has been performed at The Hub Theatre and Shippensberg University.