On Wednesday night at the University of Miami’s Maurice Gusman Concert Hall, student songwriters shared a sense of nervousness and excitement as they performed their original music at the Songwriter’s Showcase, an event for students to compete for a chance to open at Grammy-award winning musician Bruce Hornsby’s concert.
Out of 12 performing acts, junior Elaine Maltezos was declared the winner. Maltezos sang an original song, “My Arms Are Not My Own,” playing acoustic guitar with accompaniment from friends.
“I was really surprised,” Maltezos said. “I didn’t really think about it as a competition.”
Maltezos said that she was more excited to perform than nervous.
“Most of the time I let myself make up at least one line. If I’m playing with people that know the song well, I sometimes will make up an entire verse,” she said said.
Out of 25 candidates, the 12 performing acts were selected by Cat 5 Music Publishing, the first student-run music publishing company in the U.S., which is primarily operated by UM students in the music business program
The second and third runners-up were Jahfe, a reggae band that includes three UM students, and junior Bridget Davis.
“It feels good to be recognized,” Davis said, adding that her winning song “Beneath The Oak Tree” is a story about jilted lovers. Davis said that it is important for songwriters to take the opportunity to showcase their work.
The songwriters received feedback from an experienced panel of judges. The judges included Hornsby, Ramon Arias from PIER Music, Leslie Ahrens from EMI Music Publishing and UM faculty member John Redmond, who teaches International Music Publishing.
Nicole Warling, a professor in the Frost School of Music, was excited to see five of her students perform their songs.
Ten of the 12 performances were by students from the University of Miami. Performers Marc Solomon and Cory Duke, both non-UM students, discussed the importance of showcasing their work. Solomon drew the inspiration for his song, “Isabella” from real-life experience.
“The song is about a small town girl from Puerto Rico that I met at a festival and hooked up with,” Solomon said. “The real girl’s name is Jenna and she was a model.”
Solomon and Duke have played together for seven years and met at a UM summer music camp. They both teach music at Pines Music.
One of the emcees of the evening and the director of Cat 5, Eric Hafner, found it hard to choose a favorite performance.
“The acts were all so good and so different. It’s really hard to compare them,” Hafner said.
Reynaldo Sanchez, Cat 5’s faculty adviser and a professor at the Frost School of Music, worked with Hornsby to come up with the idea for the Songwriter’s Showcase. Sanchez explained that the showcase will become an annual event for Festival Miami.
“We are really trying to foster a performing songwriter community,” Sanchez said. “The talent level in this school and this community is really amazing.”
Some of the songwriters will be performing at 8 p.m. at the Coral Gables Books and Books on the first and second Saturdays of November.