Before there can be three minutes of audio bliss in an MP3 or CD form, there needs to be the magic that comes from the experience of putting words into music. Fans in the Alabama/Georgia/Tennessee area have a chance to witness that first hand next weekend with the 12th Annual John Jarrard Foundation Concert Songwriters in the Round Show, held in Gainesville, GA.

The event is a tribute to a hometown son who made good -- the late singer-songwriter John Jarrard, the writer of such hits as "Blue Clear Sky" (George Strait), "Is That A Tear" (Tracy Lawrence), and "There’s No Way" (Alabama).

As JJF Executive Director Jody Jackson notes, Jarrard grew up in Gainesville and battled Type 1 diabetes for a number of years.

"He always had a great attitude even though he lost his eyesight, one of his legs, and went through several kidney transplants," Jackson says. The concert was organized to honor Jarrard, who passed away in 2001.

The five songwriters included this year are some pretty heavy hitters - Kent Blazy ("If Tomorrow Never Comes"), Kim Williams ("Three Wooden Crosses"), Doug Johnson ("Love Like Crazy"), Rhett Akins ("Boys 'Round Here"), and Bob Morrison ("You Decorated My Life"). 

Following Jarrard’s death in 2001, several of his friends (including hit songwriter Bruce Burch) decided to start an event that would serve two purposes – to keep his name alive, and to offer a hand to those in need. Jackson says the event has grown considerably since then. "We had 30 sponsored tables the first year, and it’s exploded ever since. Now, we have over 100 tables packing the Front Lawn of Brenau University. We have since added a free show on Friday night on the town square, and this year we have David Lee Murphy coming in for that, he’s an amazing singer-songwriter who has written a ton of hits." 

Jackson says that the JJF tries to spread the proceeds around several local charities that had meaning to the songwriter’s life. "They decided that the beneficiaries of the event would be some of the charities that were real close to John Jarrard – like The Boys and Girls’ Clubs – he grew up going to the boys club playing sports," adds Jackson. "There’s also a charity called the Good News Clinics - they provide free health care and dental care for folks in the community who cannot afford or do not have insurance. There’s a lot of doctors who donate their time to help these folks. Also there’s the Good News at Noon, which is kind of a homeless shelter for gentlemen who have been struggling. They pull them in off the streets, and get them going in a good spiritual direction as well getting their health back and their life back in order." 

Jackson said that other charities that will benefit include The United Way, North Georgia Food Bank, Challenged Child, as well as the "Think About It" campaign which raises awareness of prescription drug abuse and also to organizations that further research for leukemia, lymphoma, and, of course, diabetes. "The Foundation has raised over a million dollars since 2001 and continues to help this loving community."

For Jackson, a music industry veteran, the event truly honors an old friend. "We loved him, miss him and what he stood for. We’re helping to keep his name alive and raising money for some great causes. We’ve had some incredible hit songwriters the past eleven years. It’s amazing how the event has grown year after year."

The host for the event, Brenau University, is equally excited to be part of the event. "Brenau University and The John Jarrard Foundation have collaborated over the past several years in bringing great musical entertainment to North Georgia and practical education to aspiring music industry professionals," said University President Dr. Ed Schrader. "Each fall, the JJF presents on Brenau's campus a special evening of philanthropic fund-raising and live musical entertainment from some of the top singers and song writers in Country and Popular music. There is no other event like this in the South and the University is proud of our mutual commitment to advancing the social and cultural quality of life in North Georgia." 

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