Brandon Sampson, who helped start the Americana Showcase six years ago, decided to add local talent to the roster for the upcoming season.
Auditions held last week had three rules: Musicians had to play original music, had to play their own instruments and had to be local.
Twenty local musicians met the criteria and auditioned on July 9 outside the Rochester Civic Theatre.
Six learned last night that they made it: Sterling Haukom, Paul Anderson, Brittany Bly, Steve Mack, Sarah Monson and duo Cole Ebertowski and Bailey Williams will be joining the showcase this fall.
The monthly concerts, in Rochester, bring national singer-songwriters to play their music and discuss their craft.
“The whole idea of the showcase from the start was to introduce new talent to the community,” Sampson said. “We’ve done that by bringing in national acts, out-of-town artists to the community as sort of an introduction to their new music.
“Now, we dabbled in the thought of bringing in those diamonds in the rough, musicians already in the community,” he said. “We want to invite them to come onstage with veteran or national acts in the industry, and we thought the best way to find new talent was to put some on the stage and let them prove themselves.”
The original goal was to find one musician or duo and add them to the showcase’s roster, but Sampson said there were too many talented singer-songwriters performing at the audition to pick just one.
“Going in, I thought, ‘Well, I should just be able to pick one.’ And I started hearing people play and I was very impressed,” Sampson said on Friday. “We will pick at least three, possibly four.”
That was before Sampson ended up selecting six acts.
For those that didn’t make the cut this year, Sampson said he will definitely conduct tryouts again next year.
“It was crazy how many wonderful musicians tried out,” Sampson said. “I hadn’t heard of many of them, but it’s crazy how many amazing musicians are around here. We need to get the word out.”
Tony Pucci, who tried out but came up short. still found the experience to be positive. Pucci, of Rochester, played two songs he wrote more than 20 years as a teenager. Now 47, he said he’s made 128 CDs of original music that he calls “the diary of my life,” though, in his estimation, only four of the songs are really good. He performed two of them — “Out of Place, Out of Time” and “Dancing Along the Edge” — for the audition.
“I hadn’t played in awhile and had been thinking about getting back out there,” Pucci said. “I had set up a concert (on Aug. 21) at the Creative Salon, and right after that, I got the email about the tryouts, so I decided to get back out there.”
The six chosen acts will each work with an Americana Showcase veteran ahead of taking the stage next fall. Sampson said the singer-songwriter concerts started slowly six years ago, but each year, the crowds have grown. Last year, the shows averaged between 200 and 300 fans.