America Supports You: Contest Seeks Military Songwriters

 By Paul X. Rutz
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2006  - Some talented troops will soon have their songs professionally produced thanks to "Songs from the Soul of Service," a partnership in Texas.

William Brown, director of development for the Dallas Songwriters Association, said submissions will be accepted at the association's Web site,, until Feb. 15. The group plans to hold a concert at Fort Hood, Texas, on June 10, with the winning entries professionally produced and performed by well-known musicians.

"We were looking for a way of using what we're good at to provide some service," Brown said. "What we're good at is running song contests and evaluating songs, so why don't we marry those two things together and see if we can provide ... entertainment for the men and women of the military?" Brown explained.

Current members of the armed forces are eligible to submit their original compositions, or do so on behalf of an immediate family member. Contestants may enter their songs in one of seven categories, with a limit of three songs per category.

So far, the association has received more than 200 submissions, and as the deadline approaches, the rate of submissions has been increasing exponentially, due in part to help from area businesses, Brown said.

"We're starting to get a lot of submissions, especially because made available a free online submission feature for us," he said. "People can go from our Web site to BroadJam, upload their music, and then e-mail us their entry forms and lyrics, and it's free. In a normal contest, that's a fairly expensive proposition."

Brown said E-Cloud, a Dallas Web design firm, also has lent some important support, donating its services for free and running the site for more than a year.

"Most of our submissions come in from overseas, and the way they're able to contact us is by interfacing with that Web site, and we just didn't have the wherewithal to do it," he said. "Without (BroadJam and E-Cloud), we'd have had a much less successful interaction with those songwriters out there."

Though the Dallas Songwriters Association has been around for 18 years sponsoring annual amateur songwriting contests, Brown said its members found themselves breaking new ground in working with the military to plan this one.

"From my discussions with everybody up and down the various (military) branches, it's not something that they have had any experience with," he said.

Brown said his team of 13 volunteers has so far succeeded, thanks to connections with experts such as Army Reserve Maj. Darlene Wilson, a public affairs officer in Austin, Texas. Brown also credits his association's membership in America Supports You, a Defense Department program facilitating grassroots support for the military.

The group chose Fort Hood as the site for the concert after speaking with Wilson, who told them the post's Howze Theatre had the facilities and expertise to meet their concert needs.

Funding is tight, but Brown said he is confident his group will raise the more than $5,000 required to put on the event before it happens in June.

The group also expects to produce a CD that will be distributed to each servicemember who enters the contest and possibly sold to the public, Brown said.

Final decisions on which artists will perform the winning songs have not yet been made, partly because the association is waiting to see what song genres end up in the finals.

Brown said no matter which songs win, it's important to keep in mind the sacrifices many make in defense of the nation. That's why servicemembers' families are allowed to participate.

"We want to also capture the experience and honor the work that's being done by those families," he said. "Let's not forget about them."