From Tree Hill to Nashville Songwriters Festival

by Rick Grant
Two years had passed since I covered an event at Tree Hill. During that time, Tree Hill received a generous monetary gift from Joseph A Strasser to enhance Tree Hill’s outdoor facility into a first class amphitheater, which was dedicated last year.
When I arrived last Saturday for the conclusion of the inaugural “From Tree Hill to Nashville” songwriters festival, I was surprised by the magnificent covered amphitheater. It’s perfect for folk music festivals and other musical events. There’s a large green in back of the amphitheater which could be a cool venue for viewing outdoor movies.
Hit-making Nashville music producer Michael Knox gave of his time to travel to Jacksonville to judge the event and hold a workshop helping budding songwriters to break into the big time music biz. I arrived just as the finalists in the songwriting contest took the stage for an encore performance.
Third place went to Craig Hand. He is an experienced guitarist and talented songwriter with a great country voice and confident demeanor. He has been gigging around the region for quite some time and has written many memorable songs.
14 year old Kelty Shellhorn won in three categories. Despite her young age and inexperience, she impressed Knox with her raw talent for writing catchy songs and performing them well.
Bryan Fogle took top honors at the event with his inspired songwriting that came from his life experiences. He performed with folksy charm and accomplished musicianship. Bryan is currently residing in Nashville and following his musical dreams.
Top 3 Songs:
1) Bryan Fogle
2) Kelty Shellhorn
3) Craig Hand
Top 3 Artists:
1) Kata Rhe
2) Kelty Shellhorn
3) Rebecca Hewitt
Best Green Song:
Al Monte
Upcoming Star:
Kelty Shellhorn
The acoustics inside the dome resounded with the right balance of ambient sound. A small sound system was more than adequate.
Tree Hill board member, Teri Philips praised the efforts of all the volunteers who helped put-on this debut event. “We feel confident that this event will grow exponentially in the future. When the Butterfly Festival first started, it drew a small crowd. Now, it’s a big deal and we are obliged to have buses to travel to outside parking lots to accommodate the crowds,” Teri said.
The annual Butterfly Festival put Tree Hill on the map and it is no longer the “best kept secret” nature preserve in Jax. Likewise, “From Tree Hill to Nashville” songwriters’ festival will build an audience and becomes a traditional Jacksonville music event.
Any place that preserves Florida’s natural environment is special. Tree Hill is a peaceful oasis in the middle of suburban sprawl–a great place to contemplate nature and even write songs.