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New Talent Takes Stage at Texas Folk Music Festival

Earlier this month, thousands of folk music enthusiasts gathered at a hill country ranch in Texas for the 37th annual Kerrville Folk Festival. A number of old timers were on hand, including folk legend Peter Yarrow of the trio Peter, Paul and Mary. But, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Kerrville, Texas, the festival also put the spotlight on some new singer-songwriters who may one day be legends themselves.

It is pure bliss for fans of folk and acoustic music, 18 days of concerts on outdoor stages followed by informal playing at campsites that goes on into the early morning hours.

This is a place where musicians and songwriters can share tunes and find mutual support.

The Kerrville Folk Festival provides new talent with a stage and a contest through which judges select six up-and-coming singer-songwriters for cash awards and valuable publicity.

Legendary folk singer Peter Yarrow came here to celebrate his 70th birthday as well as the rebirth of folk music.

"Here are the next Bob Dylans and here are the next Woody Guthries and here are the people who can inspire the kind of heart and determination to make the world a place that is connected," he said.

One of this year's new talent winners was CJ Watson of Nashville, Tennessee, who draws inspiration from legendary folkies like Yarrow.

"You get a sense of responsibility when you meet them, that they expect the next generation to carry that on and try to make sure that music does something good for the world," he noted.

Winner Betty Soo, a Korean-American from Spring, Texas, says she also enjoyed spending time at the festival with the other new talent contenders.

"We all spent so much time together I feel like these are old friends of mine even though I have only known them a week," she said.

Betty Soo says her parents, who are both doctors, were somewhat startled by her career choice.

"I think they are happy for me," she added. "I don't think they really understand necessarily why I would not choose a job that paid, but it pays in other ways and I think they get that. So as long as I am not going hungry I think they are happy for me."

Kerrville Folk Festival founder Rod Kennedy says supporting new talent has been his main goal since he first put this event together in 1972. He says just appearing here can boost the careers of a lucky few.

"They need help," he explained. "They need a manager and a publicist and an agent and a number of them leave here with that. We think this is the way to heal America, one song at a time.