Judges

Contest Judges

Becky Buller

Johnny Williams

Jeanette Williams

Kris Truelsen

Mary Munsey

Becky Buller

Becky Buller has written songs for three Grammy award-winning albums (Crooked Tree Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway 2023; The Travelin’ McCourys The Travelin’ McCourys 2019; Laws Of Gravity The Infamous Stringdusters 2018) as well as compositions for Bluegrass legends Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and many more.  The Becky Buller Band made multiple appearances on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry.  Becky teaches private music lessons from her home studio in Manchester, Tenn.; she serves on the boards of the IBMA Foundation and the ETSU Alumni Association; she’s Jeff’s wife and Romy’s mama.  Her album, Distance And Time, was a 2021 IBMA Album Of The Year award nominee.  She is a 10-time IBMA award winner and records for the Dark Shadow Recording label.

Johnny Williams

Johnny Williams (Danville VA) He was the bluegrass division winner of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest in 1998 & 1999. He has also been a finalist for the SPBGMA Male Vocalist and Songwriter the past few years in Nashville TN. Johnny has co-written with Tom T. and Dixie Hall. He has many songs recorded by top acts in bluegrass such as Doyle Lawson, Special Consensus, Jr. Sisk, Larry Cordle and Jeanette Williams to name a few. He recently was awarded with the Crooked Road Artist in Residence for July 2022 thru July 2023. He has been chosen to judge major events such as Merlefest, SPBGMA, Galax Fiddlers Convention, VFMA Events and others. He has been named Virginia State Champion Male Vocalist, PICABO Male Vocalist (twice), and PICABO Songwriter of the Year. Johnny has co-written with Tom T. and Dixie Hall. He and his wife Jeanette were awarded “Lifetime Achievement Awards” by the city of Danville VA for their contributions to bluegrass music for the past thirty years both nationally and internationally.

Jeanette Williams

Jeanette Williams: (Danville VA) Winner of two songwriting awards (2007 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest and 2008 IAMA Songwriting Contest) has over thirty-two years of performance experience in Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel. She has co-written with Tom T. and Dixie Hall. Jeanette’s early influences were Classic Country, Blues, Roots, and Rock n’ Roll. She plays bass with the band, Shelton & Williams. With more than nineteen SPBGMA nominations thru 2022, and three wins for Female Vocalist of the Year (2009, 2012 and 2013), two IBMA awards (2006 and 2009 Recorded Event of the Year, with the Daughters Of Bluegrass, she continues to be a sought after performer and guest vocalist for many other bands. She also serves as a judge for SPBGMA. She and her husband Johnny were awarded “Lifetime Achievement Awards” by the city of Danville VA for their contributions to bluegrass music for the past thirty years both nationally and internationally.

Kris Truelsen

As Program Director of WBCM Radio Bristol, a community radio station and branch of Birthplace of Country Music, Kris leads all programming initiatives. Launched in 2015 on a successful crowd-funding campaign led by Kris, Radio Bristol has become a staple for those interested in regional country and roots music. Kris hosts Radio Bristol’s flagship show “Farm and Fun Time” which syndicates on PBS television throughout the south. He also tours internationally with his band Bill and the Belles who have built a dedicated fan base over the last decade.

Mary Munsey

Mary Munsey, from Abingdon VA, received her BA in music ed from Emory & Henry and her Masters in Music from James Madison University. She has been an elementary, middle & high school choral director for 18 years & is currently in her 12th year as director of the music department at VHCC (Virginia Highlands Community College).

She’s had a wide & varied career in music performance, teaching, piano accompanying for church and school choirs, bassoonist in symphonies, bass, mandolin & guitar playing in acoustic groups, and singing, and playing saxophone and keyboard in many bands.

She’s been writing & performing music for many years locally and nationally including multiple performances at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, TN, Carter Fold, Rhythm and Roots and Bluegrass Festivals including Ralph Stanley’s Festival in Coeburn VA.

Her song “Nine Days Old” won the 2010 Woody Guthrie International Folk Songwriting Contest and she performed a set of her originals at Woody Fest in Okemah OK July 15th, 2010. She placed 2nd in the IBMA’s (International Bluegrass Music Association) lesson plan contests in Nashville for both 2009 and 2010 and presented her elementary bluegrass plans at the IBMA Conference in October 2010.

In 2011 she had songs place in the Dallas TX, Wisconsin & Connecticut songwriter’s competitions. She performed in East Hartford CT in Aug 2011 at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival where she placed 2nd in the songwriting contest with her song This Side of The Wall. She presented a songwriting workshop in 2011 for the Virginia Highlands Festival and performed a solo concert at Heartwood opening for Jim Lauderdale. In the summer of 2012, she placed third with her song Nothin’ New in the International Woody Guthrie Songwriting Competition in Oklahoma. She won 1st in the Neuse River Songwriting Contest in February 2013 with This Side of the Wall and performed at the festival near Wilmington NC. Her song Eight Lives to Spare was a winner in the Smokey Mountain Songwriting Competition in 2019 and has placed twice in the Gathering in the Gap festival.

Her CD Nine Days Old includes some heartfelt material, but also includes songs that display her off-beat sense of humor. Reflections, released in 2013 includes instrumentals, country, bluegrass, and bluesy pop. Shades of Refinements released in 2015 features original jazz and blues. This recording displays her joy of playing saxophone and keyboard as well as songwriting. She is currently working on another CD of originals. Her recent song To Save a Few is a video tribute to area veterans and is dedicated to all who serve or have served in our military. You can find it on youtube at mary munsey To Save a Few. All profits from this project are given to Tunnel to Towers organization.

Recently, she has helped facilitate the Virginia Highlands region songwriters’ group which meets monthly at VHCC and is open to all interested songwriters. Contact her for more information. Check out marymunsey.com for more information.