Dr. Jeff Byers Fellowship for Musicians – Open for Submissions May 1 to October 31, 2022

The Story Behind the Fellowship – by Janet Byers

Jeff Byers was a Duke-trained, Vanderbilt dermatologist who passed away on January 9, 2021 due to hepatic hemangiosarcoma. Although his professional career was in medicine, Jeff’s primary passion and calling in life was music. This gift was nurtured from age three to sixteen by his sole piano teacher, Janell Whitby, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He played in various bands from high school into adulthood, including Mad Dog and the Hose Kings, The Executives, and The Bat Surfers (now available on streaming services). He was the musical director and pianist for the Duke Med Student Faculty Show for four years and arranged all the orchestral parts for one show entitled, “The Sound of Mucus.” He was a volunteer keyboardist for Good Shepherd UMC as well as for the Awakening Band at Brentwood UMC. In 2003 Jeff produced an album, The Hour Has Come, of original Christian songs. He also published an arrangement of the hymn “How Firm a Foundation” for choir, organ, piano, and trumpet.

Throughout his life, Jeff generously shared his exquisite musical talent. He maintained a classical repertoire at his disposal and held a deep respect for classical and baroque composers, but also emphasized joyful embellishment and creativity in his improvisations. He was known for personalized parodies, rousing Christmas caroling at parties, and family jam sessions with his children and extended family. Jeff nurtured this gift graciously and beautifully in me and in our children, who grew in their love and appreciation of music and in the joyful sharing of it.

For his birthday in December 2018, I gave Jeff a long weekend of creative solitude at Rockvale Writers’ Colony. He stayed in the Granary and was in composing heaven as he worked on original keyboard pieces and ekphrastic pieces to accompany five poems in the November 2019 issue of the Rockvale Review. In the idyllic, inspiring setting of RWC, it’s no surprise that Jeff fell in love with the place. Jeff expressed on multiple occasions his desire that he and I get involved in supporting it and my good friend, Sandy Coomer, in the future. This fellowship is one way in which I would like to honor Jeff and encourage other musicians who could use the creative milieu of RWC to create original music for others to enjoy.


Please read the following information regarding the Dr. Jeff Byers Fellowship for Musicians

The Intention:

  • The Dr. Jeff Byers Fellowship for Musicians is intended for creative musicians who are writing music to bring joy to others.

The Prize:

  • The recipient of this fellowship will receive a 1-week musician’s residency at Rockvale Writers’ Colony in College Grove, TN. The recipient will stay in the Granary which is a private, separate building with its own kitchen. The residency must be completed before December 31, 2023.
  • A small stipend of $200 will be given to the fellowship recipient upon arrival at the colony to compensate for travel and food. Expenses beyond $200 are the responsibility of the musician.

The Music:

  • The Fellowship is open to composers who are working on a specific, well-defined project. The music must be original and can be instrumental or choral in nature.

The Application – Applicants are required to supply the following information:

  • A paragraph detailing your musical educational background, influences, and the people (teachers, composers, musicians, etc.) who have inspired and impacted your development as a musician.
  • A paragraph describing your relationship to music as a passion, career, or purpose.
  • Description of the project which addresses these questions: Why is this particular project important to you? What is your mission and purpose for this project? Describe the music. What is it trying to express, evoke, show, or do?
  • A paragraph explaining how the fellowship would benefit you as a musician.
  • Uploaded samples of previously composed music recordings and/or sheet music.
  • URL to streaming service version of previously published music, if available.
  • An application fee of $30. This is non-refundable.
  • Applications will be received from May 1 to October 31, 2022. The Fellowship recipient will be announced in November 2022.

More Details:

  • The Fellowship application will be judged by an impartial and experienced musician not affiliated with Rockvale Writers’ Colony.
  • There will be only 1 recipient of the Fellowship.
  • All rules and policies of Rockvale Writers’ Colony are in effect during the Fellowship. The recipient will be expected to sign the writer’s contract before arrival. The recipient should familiarize themselves with RWC (our setting, our mission, and the way residencies work) by carefully reading our website. We strongly advise reading everything under the “Residencies” tab, especially “Information” and “FAQ’s”.
  • Writers not selected for the fellowship will have the option of scheduling a residency at the usual RWC rates.

Rockvale Writers’ Colony thanks The Byers Family Giving Fund for this generous Fellowship gift.