Kenyan born songwriter Ondara has won top honers in the 22nd International Songwriting Competition, with judges including Coldplay, The Lumineers, Linkin Park, Tom Waits, Rosanne Cash, Needtobreathe, Danilo Perez, and more.

NASHVILLE, TN, May 10, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ — The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) has announced the winners of its 2022 competition, awarding top honors to a diverse group of talented songwriters from around the world. The annual competition, which is known for recognizing emerging and established songwriters, received more than 15,000 entries from 150 countries. Winners were selected by a judging panel made up of well-known celebrity artists and industry professionals.

Founded in 2002, ISC is recognized to be one of the most respected and prestigious songwriting competitions in the world. Winning ISC is a significant accomplishment for a songwriter as it provides recognition, exposure, and potential opportunities for their music to be heard by a wider audience. Additionally, it serves as validation to the songwriter for the hard work and talent that goes into creating music.

ISC winners have included many artists who have gone on to achieve great success, including Vance Joy, Bastille, Tones and I, Gotye, Illenium, Fantastic Negrito, Lindsey Stirling, The Teskey Brothers, Passenger, Bastille, The Band Perry, and many more. This year’s competition received entries in 24 categories, including Pop/Top 40, Rock, Folk/Singer-Songwriter, R&B/Soul, Rap/Hip-Hop, Country, Jazz, and more.

ISC is pleased to award the gifted singer/songwriter Ondara its highest honor, the 2022 Grand Prize. Originally from Kenya but now residing in the United States, the Grammy-nominated artist Ondara wins a $50K prize package that includes $25K in cash, as well as various other prizes. His winning entry, “An Alien In Minneapolis,” is from his third album, The Spanish Villager No. 3, and is a powerful and emotive piece that describes his true-life experience of moving to America and being an outsider in a foreign place. His work showcases his masterful songwriting skills and reflects a deep understanding of the human condition and the power of music to connect people from different backgrounds.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Ondara grew up listening to rock songs on his sister’s battery-operated radio. Inspired by Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, and most notably Bob Dylan, Ondara fell in love with music despite the fact that his family couldn’t afford to buy him a musical instrument. After winning the green card lottery, he moved to Minneapolis, MN to pursue a career in music. He taught himself to play guitar and started performing at open mic nights and small venues. His big break came when a local radio station played one of his songs, pulling the audio from his YouTube channel. In 2019, his debut album, Tales of America (Verve Label Group), was released, depicting an immigrant’s life in America. The album charted on Billboard and was nominated for Best Americana album at the 62nd Grammy Awards. His second album, Folk n Roll, Vol 1: Tales of Isolation was released in 2020, followed by The Spanish Villager No. 3 in 2022.

“Ondara’s music is a true reflection of the diversity and richness of the human experience,” said Candace Avery, ISC Founder and Director. “His ability to convey authentic, complex emotions through his lyrics and music is truly remarkable. We are extremely excited about this artist, and it is such an honor to award the ISC Grand Prize to him.”

In addition to the Grand Prize winner, many other songwriters excel in their respective genres and are a testament to the high caliber of submissions received. These winners hail from all over the world (53% of this year’s winners come from outside the USA) and represent diverse cultures while ranging from talented amateurs to seasoned songwriting veterans.

For a complete list of winners and to listen to the winning songs, please visit the ISC website at

The complete panel of 2022 judges includes:

Recording Artists: Coldplay; Gloria Estefan; Tom Waits; Joe Hahn (Linkin Park); Jeremiah Fraites (The Lumineers); Brantley Gilbert; Kristian Bush (Sugarland); James Adam Shelley (American Authors); NEEDTOBREATHE; Ian Felice (The Felice Brothers); Lonnie Liston Smith; Sara Evans; Rosanne Cash; Sidewalk Prophets; Steve Lillywhite; Nancy Wilson (Heart); Krewella; Glen Ballard; ACRAZE; Danilo Perez; Above & Beyond; Chayanne; Jack DeJohnette; Tim Rice-Oxley (Keane); Dave Koz; James McNally; Jordan St. Cyr; Gordon Goodwin; Chris August; Ashwin Batish; Carter Burwell; and Nicholas Gunn

Industry Judges: Briony Turner (Co-President, Atlantic Records UK); Bruce Iglauer (Founder/President, Alligator Records); Daniel Glass (President/Founder, Glassnote Records); Richard Stumpf (CEO/Founder, Hawkeye Music Group); Ed Vetri (President, Wind-Up Records); David McTiernan (Senior Director, Artist & Label Relations, Vevo); Will McDonald (VP A&R, Elektra); Greg Johnson (VP of A&R, Columbia Records); Kate Labrel (VP of A&R, Warner Records); Garrett Davis (Director, A&R, Capitol Christian Music Group); Golnar Khosrowshahi (President, Reservoir Media Management); Will Speer (Managing Director, Magic Star Records/Sony); Nate Albert (EVP of A&R, Capitol Records); Kim Buie (VP of A&R, New West Records); Dan Chalmers (Head Of Music, YouTube, EMEA); Christopher Muller (Global Head of Music Partnerships, YouTube); Jacob Edgar (Founder, Cumbancha); Cassidy Murphy (Publishing Coordinator, Glassnote Records); Matt D’Arduini (Sr. VP of A&R /GM, Last Nite Records/Arista Records); Joel Timen (VP of A&R and Publishing, Curb/Word Entertainment); Sarah Wanstall (ARC Music); Justin Prager (Sr. Dir. Music Programming & Curation, VEVO); Cory Robbins (Founder/President, Robbins Entertainment); Julie Kertes (Editor/General Manager, Hot Diggity Media); Jacqueline Post (Head of Publishing, Connection Music Publishing); Ben Kramer (Global Lead, Artist and Label Development, YouTube); Leib Ostrow (Founder/CEO, Music For Little People); Katherine Dines (Advisory Board and Magic Penny Award Chair, Children’s Music Network); Claire S. Green (President, Parents’ Choice Foundation); Benjamin Groff (President, Brill Building Music Publishing); Tamara Conniff (EVP, Roc Nation Music Publishing); Carl Caprioglio (Founder & CEO, Oglio Entertainment); and Elena Epstein (Director, National Parenting Product Awards)

ISC is sponsored by: AGD Entertainment; Arturia; Audeze; BSquared Management; Eventric; Gibson; Lewitt Audio; Lurseen Mastering; Play MPE, PreSonus, Protégé; SongU; Ultimate Ears Pro; and Wondershare Filmora

Entries are now open for ISC 2023. For more information and to enter, go to

For low-res photos of all winners, go to
For high-res photos, please contact Candace Avery at [email protected]

For over 20 years, The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) continues to be the worlds leading songwriting competition. ISC’s mission is to provide the opportunity for both aspiring and established songwriters to have their songs heard in a professional, international arena. ISC is designed to nurture the musical talent of songwriters on all levels and promote excellence in the art of songwriting. Amateur and professional songwriters and musicians from anywhere in the world are invited to participate. ISC has the most prestigious panel of judges of all the songwriting and music contests in the world, offering exposure and the opportunity to have your songs heard by the most influential decision-makers in the music industry.

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