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And the winning songwriters are ...


Matt Hines

Matt Hines


Kelsey Collins

Kelsey Collins


Stephanie Jackson

Stephanie Jackson



Jan Swoope



Judges for Starkville's Cotton District Arts Festival Songwriter's Competition had a tough time deciding among the 20 entrants, but results are in. The top three songwriters will perform at noon April 12 on the festival's West Stage on University Boulevard. 


First prize in the 2014 contest goes to Matt Hines of Bentonia, whose "Base it on a Feelin'" impressed the panel. Kelsey Collins of Caledonia garnered second prize with her "LA Black." Third prize goes to Stephanie Jackson of Starkville, for her song "Mississippi on my Mind."  


Competition Chair James Sobaskie said, "The Cotton District Arts Festival's fourth annual Songwriting Competition will showcase some of our region's rich and remarkable musical creativity. Stop by the stage to hear three great singer-songwriters discuss their art and perform their prize-winning songs." 




The writers 


Born in Texas and raised in Mississippi, Matt Hines grew up leading his church in favorite old hymns. He is a preacher's son; the influence surfaces in his songs, especially in "Base it on a Feelin'" in which he sings about his family pew. But he isn't afraid to tackle life's darker side, in songs like "As the Crow Flies" and "When You're Gone." Artists from country, R&B, rock and pop realms have influenced his work, too.  


Read more about Hines and sample his music at 


Kelsey Collins is well-known to Golden Triangle audiences. She started writing songs at the age of 10 while spending spare time at her grandmother's small-town grocery store. With a take on life and love she describes as charmingly skewed, the frequent performer credits Nirvana with helping shape her musically. See more about Collins at 


Stephanie Jackson is also familiar to area audiences, best known for her talent on the guitar and 11-string harp guitar. She has recorded a total of 12 CDs of varying styles and has written for other artists. The classically trained musician produces and directs several shows annually and is founder and president of the Mississippi Performing Arts Community. Learn more about Jackson and preview her CDs at 


The Cotton District Arts Festival is presented by the Starkville Area Arts Council and supported by the City of Starkville, Dan Camp and The Cotton District, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mississippi Arts Commission. Find more about the festival, including registration forms and applications, at Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are still available; contact the SAAC, 662-324-3080.  


For even more weekend activities, check out Mississippi State's Super Bulldog Weekend at


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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