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Local musicians vie at Rising Stars

Guitarist Shybo Torres kicks off the second annual Rising Stars competition. The six-week musical match will be Saturdays at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville, with finalists competing for prizes at the end of April on the Britt Festivals stage.

"The competition is a great way for musicians to give back to the community," Torres says.

Britt Festivals will co-sponsor the Rising Stars competition this year. Local solo acts, duos and trios representing jazz, blues, folk and contemporary songwriters will vie for a chance to open one of Britt Festivals' main-stage shows this summer. Other prizes include certificates from Harry & David Country Village, a professional recording session at Blackstone Audio and $1,000. This year, Jefferson Public Radio will produce a 30-minute live show in June for the winner.

The prizes could help launch a local musician's career or simply expose new talent to a wider audience. Money from the votes will contribute to a worthy charity. It's a win-win situation.

Four acts will perform each weekend of the competition — except March 30 — at South Stage Cellars, 125 S. Third St., Jacksonville. Admission is free.

Audiences can vote for their favorite musicians. Votes cost $2, and all proceeds will be donated to La Clinica. The musician with the most votes in each match will advance to the final round. The final winner will be determined by the number of votes and a panel of judges.

Torres' motive for competing in Rising Stars is charity.

"I feel I have a gift to play music and that it should be shared with others," Torres says. "For me, the real way to help is to perform."

Torres grew up in the '60s in New York City, where he listened to all types of music. After high school, he moved to South Carolina, where folk and bluegrass influenced his songwriting.

He played in coffeehouses for a while, then followed a friend to Santa Cruz, Calif. Soon after, he headed to Washington, where he lived in a treehouse and wrote songs.

In 1978, Torres moved to the Rogue Valley, married and went on to raise three children. He now has a fourth grandchild on the way.

"I played in local rock bands Pendragon and Gypsy Moon," he says. "Now I have a band called Ring of Trees. We're a four-piece that plays danceable classic rock, rock originals, reggae, Latin and R&B."

Ring of Trees includes lead guitarist Rick Harris, bassist Jeff Avila and drummer Jim Sitter. See www.gypsymoonrecords.com for more information about Ring of Trees.

Shybo Torres - Photo by Bob Pennell