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2008 News Releases

2006 Longwood graduate wins national talent contest, performs on A Prairie Home Companion

April 10, 2008

Wortman performing. Laura Wortman and her fiance-partner, Kagey Parrish during a rehearsal of A Prairie Home Companion. (Photo taken by Dan Zimmerman.)

A 2006 Longwood University graduate recently won a national talent contest in which she performed during a broadcast of the weekly public radio program A Prairie Home Companion.

Laura Wortman of Scottsville is one half of the Honey Dewdrops, which captured first place in the annual “People in Their Twenties Talent Show,” in which six musical acts were selected from nearly 1,000 entries across the country. Those musicians (three soloists and three duos) performed during the March 15 show – broadcast live to a nationwide audience – from the stage of the program’s home at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. The duo’s other half is Wortman’s fiance, Kagey Parrish, who also plays acoustic guitar and sings.

“We played in front of 1,000 people in the audience, and 4.3 million people listen to the show on the radio across the country,” said Wortman, a special education teaching assistant at Scottsville Elementary. “We performed two songs, Miner’s Prayer, a Dwight Yoakam song, and Long Black Veil, which was popularized by Johnny Cash. After all the entertainers have performed, the people in the Fitzgerald Theater vote by ballot for their favorite entertainer, and the radio listeners can vote by the Internet within 30 minutes. As the first place winners, we received $1,000 and the silver water tower trophy, a gag gift also known as the ‘Woebegon Idol,’ which is also given to the second and third place winners.”

Wortman and Parrish (whose first name is pronounced Keggy) were flown to St. Paul by the show, arriving Friday, March 14. “They put us up in a hotel and paid for all our meals,” she said. “We rehearsed pretty much all day Friday, we met Garrison Keillor (the show’s founder and host), and we did a show that evening in front of an audience at the Fitzgerald Theater, but it wasn’t broadcast. Saturday we rehearsed again. Everything runs smoothly; they get you on (stage) and off pretty quickly.”

She and Parrish, a special education teacher at Charlottesville High School, learned of the People in their Twenties Talent Show in January. The show started around 1997 and originally was for musicians from towns of under 2,000. At one time it was for people between the ages of 12 and 20. Last year was the first time it was for people in their 20s.

“You can enter by sending your MySpace page link or a CD or tape of your music,” Wortman said. “Kagey and I sent in our MySpace link, which then had two songs but now has more. The show called us in late February and said they had narrowed it down to six finalists, and we were on the finalists, and they would be flying us to St. Paul.”

Wortman, who describes the duo’s sound as “Americana low-fi folk,” said she and her fiance-partner “would like to make music our career.” Their MySpace page says they write songs that “link images of a forgotten past with contemporary words.”

Wortman, a native of Batesville in Albemarle County, graduated cum laude with a B.F.A. in art (photography concentration) from Longwood. She and Parrish, who will be married Oct. 18, have played together for six years. They met through mutual friends at Hampden-Sydney College when she was attending Longwood and he was at H-SC, from which he graduated in 2004.

What has their appearance on A Prairie Home Companion meant for their career? “Hits are clocked on MySpace, and in three days we went from 2,000 hits to 20,000 hits,” she said. “Plus, we’ve been contacted by some local people to do shows, and we’re going to cut an EP record, which we’re working on now.”

Now in its 34th season, A Prairie Home Companion is heard on 580 public radio stations. The two-hour variety musical show “has made Minnesota’s way of life and the fictional small town of Lake Woebegon part of American popular culture,” its web site says.