Second 'High Note' Music Competition Connects Student Artists with Industry Insiders

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 4, 2018) — When Kennesaw State University students Royland Lyons and Alex Stoecker organized a collegiate singing competition last year backed by major entertainment industry players, the experience felt unreal. Now that they have done it twice, the two realize that they have tapped into something special.

Friday, Sept. 21 was the second annual High Note Music Competition. Held at the Austin Residence Complex Amphitheater, the event saw student musicians from Kennesaw State, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, and the University of Georgia compete to win a recording session with Grammy-winning producer Chris Henderson.

High Note Judge Mat Still
Co-organizer Alex Stoecker with event Judges (left to right) Bram Bessoff, Matt Still, Chris Henderson, and Michael Chase

“The main focus of this event is to make sure artists are able to stay in school and earn their degrees all while pursuing their music,” says Lyons, a marketing major who created High Note in 2017 as a way to raise awareness of student musicians at Kennesaw State. “It gives them the opportunity to perform in front of music industry professionals while staying in school.”

He does not use the term “industry professionals” lightly. Judges included Henderson, as well as fellow Grammy-winning producer Matt Still, Sony Red’s Director of Southeast Promotion Michael Chase, and Bram Bessoff, CEO of Indiehitmaker. The event was hosted by local media personalities Vince Sims from CBS46 and Francesca Amiker with 11Alive.

High Note Industry Insiders
High Note organizers, judges, hosts, contestants, and volunteers

Among the event’s sponsors were the Michael J. Coles College of Business and the Kennesaw State Odyssey Peer Mentoring Program.

While the first High Note invited contestants from two schools, this year the roster doubled to four colleges, with each sending one student. Stoecker, a recent graduate of the international business management program, and Lyons worked with several student groups at participating schools to audition performers.

The competition featured two rounds, with artists performing cover songs during the first round and original compositions during the second.

Kennesaw State sophomore Hannah Murphy earned first place for the second year in a row. In addition to the recording session, the singer/guitarist’s prize was a $1,000 donation in her name to UNICEF.

“I’ve been performing for seven years and ideally would love to make a career out of music,” she says. “The High Note Competition has given me some really amazing opportunities to advance that future career.”

High Note Winner Hannah Murphy
High Note Winner Hannah Murphy

Murphy supports the competition’s goal of allowing students to gain exposure without compromising their academic studies.

“High Note has given me – and all the participating artists – the opportunity to blend school and music together,” she says. “So many people tell you that you have to either be a student or be a musician. High Note breaks those rules and encourages artists like me to do both.”

Approximately 300 students attended the High Note competition to cheer on the performers. Although organizing an event of this scale is not easy, Lyons and Stoecker learned plenty of lessons from the previous competition that helped things move more smoothly this year.

“I really learned to be a lot more patient with our event organizers,” Lyons says. “Last year I felt like I was stressed all the time. This year I decided to trust the process and know that it’s all going to work out in the end. People always come through for you.”

High Note Volunteers
Alex Stoecker and Royland Lyons (center) with volunteers

Thirty student volunteers helped run the event along with members of the Peer Odyssey Mentor Program. Other students designed and distributed flyers, and reached out to participating universities to find contestants.

Stoecker and Lyons raised $6,000 through paid sponsorships and in-kind donations to support the event. Many of the donations were in the form of prizes for the winners.

The top three performers received access to indiehitmaker, a service that develops artists through fan engagement, release planning, and sales reporting. They also received financial education and coaching from Backstage Economics Alliance, and will have their music streamed on popular services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play by Eminent Music Group. The second place winner was interviewed on the air by Q100 radio host Adam Bomb.

High Note Winner Hannah Murphy

With the second High Note competition behind them, Lyons and Stroecker are already making plans for future events. Their goal is to continue adding participating schools across Georgia and, ultimately, across the Southeast.

“I want to start expanding into other states,” Lyons says, “like Florida, Alabama, or Tennessee. Now that we have UGA and Georgia Tech involved, those are schools that will help us get the attention of other universities outside Georgia.”

- Patrick Harbin

Photos courtesy of Derrick Palms, Palms Perspectives