Selected Songwriters

Bernard/Ebb 2018 Songwriting Awards Finalists

AZTEC SUN; songs by Ryan Banning & Stephane Detchou
Washington, D.C.
Performers: Lee Anderson, Ryan Banning, Stephane Detchou, Sara Ghebremichael, Joe Goltz, John Holmes, Adam Kent, Ray Lamb, Graham Robertson, Shane Weckesser

Aztec Sun brands their style as “Funk with Soul.” The band blends eclectic improvisation with a strong sense of groove, creating upbeat and infectious melodies that inspire high-energy, soulful, dance parties no matter the venue. The band’s melodic creativity is a nod to the group’s culturally diverse background and their timeless musical influences. Their unique sound is combined with lyrics that weave R&B, funk, pop and more, promising something for everyone; their mantra is simple, “Whatever makes you dance.” In 2016 they released their debut studio album, Set You Free and were named “Best Local Original Band of Washington DC” by the Washington City Paper. They have performed throughout Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia and New York.

Catherine Backus
Bedford, VA

Catherine Backus, a Tennessee native, began songwriting as part of the folk duo The Skipperdees, which she formed with her twin sister. Catherine moved to Virginia in 2015 and immersed herself in the bluegrass scene, eventually returning to her songwriting roots and starting the solo project catherine the great. She is the winner of several local competitions as well as the 2017 General Category winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Catherine is a board-certified music therapist, and hopes to provide a little bit of healing every time she picks up a guitar. She released her debut solo record, personhood, in 2017. 

DuPont Brass; songs by Anthony Daniel Jr, Jared Bailey, Isaac Bell IV, Brent Gossett and DeAnte Haggerty-Willis
Washington, D.C. Area
Performers: Jared Bailey, Stan Banks, Isaac Bell IV, Anthony Daniel Jr., Brent Gossett, DeAnte Haggerty-Willis, Matthew Thompson, Joseph Wilson

DuPont Brass, a soulful, brass ensemble hailing from the Greater Washington, D.C. area, was originally composed of five Howard University music students trying to raise money for tuition. The group, which began playing at local Metro stations, has grown into an eight-piece ensemble and eventually began performing at local weddings and private events. Together they have performed for the D.C. Jazz Festival and on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Additionally, they have been featured in The Washington Post and on WPFW 89.3FM's “Live at Five.” With training in both classical and contemporary styles, DuPont Brass has developed a sound that mixes genres, including jazz, soul, hip-hop, and R&B, which can be heard on their latest release, Eclectic Soul

Jarrett Nicolay
Alexandria, VA
Performers: Jarrett Nicolay, Brittany Jean Valint

Jarrett Nicolay, who records under the moniker My New Mixtape, blends originality and a pop sensibility in his songwriting. Jarrett's songwriting career began as a founding member of the local band, Virginia Coalition. After touring with the band, Jarrett transitioned into audio production while also writing songs for his solo releases and other local projects. His music has been featured in indie films including the 2017 Sundance film, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore. Jarrett has produced and released three full length albums, including his most recent limited-edition vinyl album, Alone Together Forever. He is currently working on a follow up album at his Mixtape Studios in Alexandria, VA.

Jonathan Plevyak
Finksburg, MD
Performers: Ethan Hanson, David Klima, Garrett Mabe, Jonathan Plevyak, Ben Reiff

Jonathan Plevyak, hailing from Baltimore, MD, writes high energy and smartly crafted pop music. His debut album, Long Way Home, was released in 2014. Since then, Plevyak has released a handful of new singles, including his first Nashville produced single, “Let Me Through,” in 2016. Jonathan, along with his bandmates who have been touring together since August 2016, have played at various venues along the East Coast, including The Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., The 8×10 and Baltimore Soundstage in Baltimore, MD, The Bitter End and QED in New York City, and at the CMA Music Awards Festival in Nashville, TN. Jonathan looks forward to releasing new music in 2018 and is currently working on an upcoming album, From the Heart

Rochelle Rice
Washington, D.C.
Performers: Romeir Mendez, Federico Peña, Rochelle Rice, Billy Williams

Rochelle Rice is a songwriter, singer, composer, and clinician whose sound is a mix of jazz-centric contemporary pop and soul. She has had the honor of working with acclaimed musicians, including touring with the internationally renowned a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey In The Rock®, and performing with Grammy-award winning rock music icon, Melissa Etheridge. Rochelle has appeared at the Strand Theater, The Kennedy Center, Blues Alley, DC JazzFest, Strathmore Mansion, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley and at the Grand Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She was a Strathmore Artist in Residence in 2015. In 2017, Rochelle sang the part of “Ruby Bridges” in the Washington, D.C. debut of Step by Step: The Ruby Bridges Suite. Rochelle received her Bachelor of Music in classical voice from East Carolina University, and her Master of Music in jazz studies from Howard University, where she was a member of the jazz vocal ensemble, Afro Blue. In 2016 Rochelle released her debut project, WONDER


YoungSongwriting Awards Finalists


Eliza Costello and Charlotte Corcoran
Bethesda, MD

Best friends Eliza Costello and Charlotte Corcoran co-write songs for the band they formed in 2015, Arsonists Club. The band name is meant to convey the girls’ fiery passion for music and life as they perform songs about experiences, both real and imagined. Together Eliza and Charlotte have performed at local venues including Jammin’ Java, Barking Dog, Villain & Saint and Sapphire Café. In 2017 they released their album, Static Coming Back. Eliza and Charlotte are in their senior year at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. 

Skyler Foley
Burke, VA

Skyler Foley, a sixteen-year-old songwriter from Burke, VA, found her love of music at a young age. At age five she began voice lessons, shortly followed by piano. It was in sixth grade that she discovered the guitar and joined the band The Outliers, of which she’s still a lead member. Skyler began writing songs when she was thirteen, originally inspired to write for the band, she has also branched out to write for solo performances. She is in 10th grade at Lake Braddock Secondary School.

Thomas and Isabel LaRosa
Annapolis, MD

Thomas and Isabel LaRosa, a brother and sister duo based in Annapolis, MD, form the alternative pop band, LaRosa. Thomas, a junior at the Key School, plays guitar, ukulele, bass, piano, drums, sings, and produces the band’s music. He has recorded, mixed, and mastered all of the band’s recordings to date and is the primary songwriter. Isabel, a 7th grader at the Key School, is the lead singer and also plays guitar and piano. She has also been instrumental in writing some of the duo’s recent songs. LaRosa performs regularly in the Annapolis and Baltimore area.

*One songwriter will win the $10,000 Grand Prize and 25hrs of complimentary recording studio time and a 2hr business strategy session at Innovation Station Music. 

**One Young Songwriter will win a $2,500 Prize.