THREE OAKS — The 2019 Acorn Theater Singer-Songwriter Contest winner is a recent high school graduate who wowed a full-house audience (and three esteemed judges) with a ukulele-accompanied tune inspired by a literary classic.

Judges (and lead-off performers for the evening) were: Robin Bienemann (a staple of the Chicago music scene for more than two decades who has shared the stage with Dan Hicks, Christine Lavin and Junior Brown, and who performs regularly solo and with his wife, Jenny Bienemann); Patti Shaffner (a musical and theatrical performance veteran of 30 years who is equally at home with jazz, folk, blues and musical theater who has opened for Michael Smith, Dan Navarro and Special Consensus Bluegrass band); and Jim Peterik (the Grammy winning volcalist and singer of “Vehicle” by the Ides of March who also was a member of .38 Special and Survivor), told the audence about the process of co-writing the hit “Eye of the Tiger.”

Peterik talked about receiving an answering machine message from Sylvester Stallone before performing a spirited acoustic version of “Eye of the Tiger.”

After figuring out it wasn’t a prank call, Peterik said said “Sly” (which is what Stallone said he could call him) was interested in having Survivor do a song for his upcoming “Rocky 3” movie. Inspired by prior “Rocky” movies, the song ended up fitting in with the new film very well indeed.

Peterik also played “Vehicle,” a song he wrote to get his wife, Karen (who was at the theater) back.

Performers presenting original songs on one instrument (in order, playing guitar unless otherwise indicated) were: Abbie Thomas of Goshen, Ind (she performed her song “Fireflies” at the piano); Larry Zenk  of St. Joseph (“Don’t Feel Like Doin’ Much Anymore”); Priscilla Sabourin of Chesterton, Ind. (singing her “Ms. Gatsby” while playing the ukulele); Terry Farmer of Ann Arbor (“Love is Inclined”); Aye Cay of Goshen (singing “The Deluge”): Wendy Martin of Elkhart, Ind. (“Stronger Than You Know”); Stephen Bruce of La Porte, Ind. (“Never Say Goodbye”); and Marcus & Marketo of South Bend (“You Are”).

The judges picked the top 3 finalists (Caye, Sabourin and Marcus & Marketo), and the full-house audience then got to vote for their favorites after another round of performances.

Sabourin ended up being named the 2019 Acorn Theater Singer-Songwiter Contest champ while Caye and Marcus & Marketo tied for runner-up status.

Sabourin said she’s been writing songs since she was in the seventh grade, adding that she started out on the ukulele so it was fitting that her “first big performance out of high school” would involve that instrument.

“This song was inspired by one of my favorite English class books, so I hope you all enjoy ‘Ms. Gatsby.’”

They did, and the judges let her know it.

Peterik said the song was filled with clever rhymes and called Sabourin “an old soul.”

“What really impressed me was your presentation because you actually acted out the whole song.”

Shaffner said she loved the “post-modern jukebox” tune.

Cash prizes (sponsored by Ari Wibble) totaled $1,500, with $1,000 going to the first place singer-songwriter.

Finalists also receive video recordings of their performance and consideration for future performing opportunities (the winner is guaranteed an opening spot at the Acorn).

Shaffner was on another Three Oaks stage two days later, performing with guitarist Scott Pazera as the opening act of the Saturday, July 20, American Music Festival held on the School of American Music Arts & Education Center Spring Creek Stage facing Dewey Cannon Park in Three Oaks.

Also performing at the American Music Festival were: The American Music Project (Garth Taylor and Dalton Stanage); Homestretch Ride; The Erly Band (which also performed at that evening’s Rotary Club Pig Roast, see page A5 for more); The Round Oak Cornet Band; and Down by the Dock.

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