Port Gamble Maritime Music Festival

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Robert Kotta Memorial Songwriting Contest

Each year, Maritime Folknet holds a songwriting competition to encourage more songs to be written about maritime life in the Northwest, past and present. The contest is open to all, free to enter, and is dedicated to the memory of Bob Kotta, an important part of the Northwest maritime music story.

The winners will be invited (but are not obligated) to perform their song on stage at the Port Gamble Maritime Music Festival, where they will be officially announced. First, second, and third place winners are chosen, and all three receive a prize. There are rules, there are dates, and each year's contest has a theme...

Robert Kotta Memorial Songwriting Contest graphic  

The 2024 Contest Details will be posted here in March, 2024

The 2023 Theme is:  Outward Bound

2023 prizes:

First place:     $100
Second place:  $50
Third place:    $25

2023 Dates:

June 13, 2023      –  All entries must be received by today.
July 9, 2023       –  Winners are notified (by email or phone).
August 12, 2023  –  Winners perform* their entry on stage at the Port Gamble Maritime Music Festival.
[* Winners are invited, but are not obligated, to perform their song live at the festival. If winners chose not to appear live, the festival organizers have the option of playing the mp3 recording. NOTE: If the festival happens online winners will be asked for a video of them performing their song. of the winning song(s).]  

2023 Rules:

  1. Songwriters must EITHER be from Washington State, Oregon, Alaska, or British Columbia, OR their song lyrics must be applicable to this Northwest region.
  2. Contestants must send a recording of themselves (mp3 format) performing their song, a lyric sheet (word .docx format), and contact information (email and phone) to the festival committee.
  3. Each contestant may submit one song only.
  4. All songs must have original lyrics and melody, by the contestant(s).
  5. Songs may have been previously recorded.
  6. The writer(s) must retain all rights to the song.
  7. By entering the contest, entrants give Maritime Folknet (the organization producing the contest and festival) permission to use the entered song as they see fit. This permission does not give Maritime Folknet ownership of the song, merely the rights to use it - ownership of the song remains with the writer(s).
  8. Entries must be received by June 13, 2023.
  9. The winners will be chosen by a panel of judges. All decisions of the judging panel are final.
  10. Judging criteria includes applicability to the contest topic, relation to the sea or other water, connection to the Pacific Northwest, and song quality.
  11. It is not necessary to win, but extra consideration will be given to songs about commercial maritime work in the 21st century.
  12. Winners will be notified by email or phone by July 9. 2023
  13. First, second, and third place winners will receive a prize.
  14. First, second, and third place winners may, but are not obligated to, perform their song live at the Port Gamble Maritime Music Festival on August 12, 2023. If winners choose not to appear live, the festival organizers have the option of playing the mp3 recording of the winning song(s).
  15. In years when the festival happens online only (as it did in 2021), winners will be asked for a video of themselves performing their winning song that we may use online as part of the larger the festival video and/or as a speprate video on our YouTube channel. If they cannot or do not wish to provide this, we will use their audio entry in the festival video.

Submit your Entry         (The 2023 winners are listed below - 2024 Contest details coming in March 2024)

Include a lyric sheet (word doc format) and a audio recording (mp3 format).
Include your Name, Email Address, and Phone Number.

Submit your entry by email, to:  contact@maritimefolknet.org

The Contest's Namesake

An integral part of Northwest maritime musical history, Bob Kotta was born in California. Portland was the first stop on his folk journey.  He was a founder of the seminal folk group,Howling Gael, which produced two albums and performed all around America, and in Ireland and the UK as well.

Eventually he was led to Seattle, where he, William Pint, and Paul Smith performed as the folk group, Copperfield and also as Ellipsis.  There were several releases from both bands, and they toured internationally.  He is a featured performer on the Victory Music CD, "Victory at Sea", and can be heard on CDs of several notable chantey singers, including Tom Lewis.  During this time, he worked for NW Seaport as a Director of Education, leading tours and teaching both children and adults about the age of sail, using the Wawona as the backdrop.  He also ran the music program for the Seaport and booked many great acts on the stage of Wawona.  He was a gifted songwriter, penning many songs, including "A Hundred Years Ago" with Mariide, and writing several hilarious parodies, including "Bug-eyed Sprite" and "Tequila in the Jar".

The east coast called, and Bob moved to Massachusetts to work at the Kendall Whaling Museum as Director of Education.  Music was never far from his hand, and he is featured on a CD of Pirate Songs that came out of that time.  He had just received a master's degree from Simmons College, and was looking forward to teaching at the local high school when he died untimely.
Bob Kotta

Contest Winners

2023  Contest Theme:  Outward Bound
    First Place:  Tim Fast   for composing "Cast Me Lines"
    Second Place:  Fae Wiedenhoeft   for composing "Outward Bound"
    Third Place:  Peter Rothbart   for composing "The Adak Liquor Store"

2022  Contest Theme:  Storms and Stormy Weather
    First Place:  Rob Corbett   for composing "Haida Gwaii Nights"
    Second Place:  Justin Wood   for composing "Lighthouse Keeper"
    Third Place:  Lyndsay Wills   for composing "Storm Coming"

2021  Contest Theme:  Islands
    First Place:  Bob Morgan   for composing "Lopez Lullaby"
    Second Place:  Jan Zurcher   for composing "An Island Life for Me"
    Third Place:  Claire Anderson   for composing "For Now We're Island Bound"

(the contest was not held this year)

2019  Contest Theme:  Legends in the Making
    First Place:  Wendy Joseph   for composing "Tugboats Pulling on the Bridge Lines"
    Second Place:  Justin Wood   for composing "Six Pack Dan"
    Third Place:  Cecilia Eng   for composing "A Crabber's Life"
    Honorable Mention:  Jan Zurcher   for composing "From Father To Son"

2018  Contest Theme:  The One That Got Away
    First Place:  Fae Wiedenhoeft   for composing "Fishing"
    Second Place:  Rob Kneisler   for composing "The One That Got Away"
    Third Place:  Michael Codding and Claire Anderson   for composing "Sirens of Shilshole"

2017  Contest Theme:  Now & Then
    First Place:  Jane Fallon   for composing "Heading Ashore"
    Second Place:  Rob Kneisler   for composing "Still, the Salmon Run"
    Third Place:  Justin Wood   for composing "Johnny Still Goes to Hilo"

2016  Contest Theme:  Shipmates
    First Place:  Thomas Sproger   for composing "The Trawlers of Ilwaco"
    Second Place:  Rob Kneisler   for composing "Last Man Standing"
    Third Place:  Justin Wood & Michael DiRoberts   for composing "Shipmates"

2015  Contest Theme:  Voyages
    First Place:  Fae Wiedenhoeft   for composing "The Little Western"
    Second Place:  Pierre Rose   for composing "Running the Easting Down"
    Third Place:  Jan and Jim Zucher   for composing "Sail Ye Off"

2014  Contest Theme:  Weather & Tides
    First Place:  Jan Zurcher and Jim Zurcher   for composing "The Wreck of the Anna J"
    Second Place:  Kathi McKenzie   for composing "Oh, The Sea is Calling"
    Third Place:  Allan Hirsch   for composing "The Denny Party"

2013  Contest Theme:  Maritime Work
    First Place:  Fae Wiedenhoeft   for composing "The Sailor"
    Second Place:  Jan Zurcher   for composing "Tall Ships"
    Third Place:  Brendan Regan   for composing "Bering Seattle"

(the contest was not held these years)

2009  Contest Theme:  Maritime Work in the 21st Century
    First Place:  Jon Campbell   for composing "Catch and Release"
    Second Place:  Ken McCann   for composing "Born to Sail"
    Special Mention:  Stephanie Bonsanti   for composing "The 21st Century Menu"

Questions about this contest should be directed to  contact@maritimefolknet.org

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