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 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 2019 Theme is:  Legends in the Making

2019 prizes:

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

2019 Dates:

July 9       –  All entries must be received by today.
July 24       –  Winners are notified (by email or phone).
August 10  –  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 of the winning song(s).]  

2019 Rules:

  1. Songwriters must EITHER be from Washington, 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 or audio CD) performing their song to the festival committee. They must also include a lyric sheet.
  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. Entries must be received by mail or email by July 9.
  8. The winners will be chosen by a panel of judges. All decisions of the judging panel are final.
  9. Judging criteria includes applicability to the contest topic, relation to the sea or other water, connection to the Northwest, and song quality.
  10. It is not necessary to win, but extra consideration will be given to songs about commercial maritime work today, in the 21st century.
  11. Winners will be notified by email or phone by July 24.
  12. First, second, and third place winners will receive a prize.
  13. 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 10. If winners choose not to appear live, the festival organizers have the option of playing the mp3 recording of the winning song(s).

Download the 2019 Poster

flyer for the Robert Kotta Memorial Songwriting Contest

Submit your Entry    

Include a lyric sheet and an mp3.
Include your Name, Email Address, and Phone Number.

You may submit your entry by email or by mail

By Email:  walice1@qwest.net

By Mail:
    Alice Winship/Maritime Folknet
    2933 2nd Ave Apt. 203
    Seattle, WA 98121

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

2019  Contest Theme: Legends in the Making
The 2019 winners will be posted here after they are formally announced at the festival on August 10

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  info@portgamblemaritimemusic.com

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