Bristol, VA/TN -- Birthplace of Country Music surprised a student on the campus of Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, VA Thursday when, in front of an auditorium filled with people, they announced the winner of the Orthophonic Joy Music Contest was seated among them. Corbin Hayslett, a student at the University of Virginia's College at Wise and an instructor at MECC's Mountain Music School, was attending the summer program's Master Musician's concert in the Goodloe Auditorium when BCM executive director Leah Ross called him to the stage. As Hayslett accepted his award, the room burst into applause.
For the past several weeks Birthplace of Country Music's Facebook page has been buzzing with activity. Musicians from all over the country have been posting dozens of music videos, all entries for the Orthophonic Joy Music Contest.
The contest was a search to find one artist or band to join Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited, a reimagining of the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions, the groundbreaking recordings that continue to inspire artists around the world.
Set for release in October, Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited features entertainment legend Dolly Parton, as well as country music stars Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Marty Stuart, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and Ashley Monroe. The recording project includes 16 of the original songs from the Bristol Sessions. As Grand Prize winner of the contest, Hayslett, will travel to Nashville to record with the project's Grammy Award-winning Nashville producer, Carl Jackson (Mark Twain: Words & Music) to record the final track on the CD.
Part of the Grand Prize package also includes performance slots at the Grand Opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Aug. 2) and Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion (Sept. 19-21), and an appearance on Nashville's famed live music variety show Music City Roots.
"Picking the finalists and the eventual winner of the contest was one of the most difficult things I've every been involved with," said Jackson. "There were so many wonderful entries and there is no doubt that legitimate arguments can be made for 'winners' well beyond the five finalists. However, when the other judges and I were narrowing things down, we just kept coming back to Corbin Hayslett and his version of 'Darlin' Cora.' He is just the real deal and if you can listen to him without a smile on your face, you are much stronger than I am!"
Jackson wasn't the only one smiling. A team of expert singer/songwriters including Jim Lauderdale, Jerry Salley and Larry Cordle-who just happens to be one of Hayslett's long-time heroes, judged the contest with Jackson and the album's executive producer Rusty Morrell, who is a Grammy-nominated songwriter in his own right.
A prodigious musician and instructor of banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and upright bass at Juste Music in Norton, VA, Corbin Hayslett is also no stranger to Bristol. For the past two years he has performed at Bristol Rhythym & Roots Reunion as part of the trio Mis'ry Creek, a progressive acoustic trio he formed with fellow music instructor Chris Rose and Mountain Music School student, J.P. Stallard. His Grand Prize-winning rendition of "Darlin' Cora," and the video of his reaction to achieving the award, can be viewed on Birthplace of Country Music's Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/BirthplaceofCountryMusic.
When asked what track Hayslett would record for Orthophonic Joy, Jackson stated, "I plan on recording 'Darlin' Cora' on Corbin for the project because it has not already been recorded by another artist, it's a classic song that I wanted to include anyway, and the sheer 'Orthophonic Joy' of his performance cannot be denied!"
Earlier this week BCM announced singer/songwriter and Pound, VA native Reagan Boggs had been voted fan favorite, garnering the most "likes" from the online community.
"Though our organization played no part in the judging process," stated BCM executive director Leah Ross, "we are very pleased that two of our locals took home the Grand Prize and Facebook Fan Favorite. It's truly a testament to the amount of talent that flourishes in this region."
Mountain Music School is a unique summer camp located on the campus of MECC and is designed to offer students age 10 or older to experience traditional Appalachian old-time music.
The Orthophonic Joy Music Contest and CD project is made possible through a partnership with Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol TN/VA Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and Virginia Tourism Corporation.
For a complete list of contest rules and more information on the Birthplace of Country Music, visit www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org.