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"From the Heart: 3 finalists in songwriting contest say there are personal stories behind lyrics"

Three North Carolina songwriters were selected from 1,088 entrants to compete in the finals of today’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, which will start at 2:30 p.m. at the Austin Stage at MerleFest.

Dyle Russell of Winston-Salem is a finalist in the country category for his song “Operation: Get Back Home.” The gospel category finalists include Laura Kaufman of Boone, for her song “Now,” and Wesley Koontz of Lexington, for his song, “It’s Like Rain.” The winner in each category will perform on one of the main stages tonight, and will also get a guitar and a check for $300. And behind each songwriter is a story:...

Wesley Koontz

Wesley Koontz would typically be in high school on a Friday afternoon, but today, he’s stepping out on stage at MerleFest.

Koontz, 18, a senior at North Davidson High School, says he hopes that MerleFest will open doors for his music. But he also sees his appearance as a chance for his song “It’s Like Rain” to be a witness for his faith.

“Writing music for God is the whole purpose of doing it, and it’s so much fun,” Koontz said.

He wrote the song after a recent television program about a controversial claim about an ossuary that some said once held the bones of Jesus, his mother Mary, Mary Magdelene and others.

His youth pastor talking about the issue, and the song came out of that and what had been a tough time for him personally and a challenge to faith, Koontz said.

“I was kind of describing Jesus’ love for me and everybody else,” he said. “We need it and can’t live without it.”

The song’s chorus says:

It’s like rain falling on me,

A love that washes me clean,

A spirit that sets me free.

Jesus rain down your love.

Koontz will be accompanied on guitar today by his friend Taylor Jones, whose family sent the song in to the contest and are MerleFest regulars.

He has been writing songs since he started playing guitar when he was 15. That’s also about the time he started in Stronghold, a music group at his church, First Baptist Church in Welcome.

Stronghold plays for church and in local gathering spots. Sometimes they play familiar worship songs. Sometimes they play some of the eight songs that Koontz has written.

After high school, he plans to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where the music department is starting a new program on songwriting and publishing.

“There’s nothing I like better than writing music, especially for worship,” Koontz said.

- Winston-Salem Journal - By Monte Mitchell


Turn to You (EP, 2006)
Jump (Single, 2007)
A Beautiful Thing (Single, 2008)



Going on 4 years now, Stronghold has been together playing for local churches, schools, and cafe's while still sticking to the roots of why they do what they do. "We are a band that loves what we do and we love being able to praise God in this awesome way," says Wes Koontz. "Our hope, our prayer, and our main objective with our music is to reach out and share the awesome news God has for us."

The verse 2nd Samuel 22:3 says it all, "My God and my rock in whom I take refuge, the shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my deliverer."

God loves each and everyone of us, whether you believe it or not. He sent his only son to die for a world full of sinners, without him there would be nothing. Through our music we hope that we can share some of the love God has shared with us. God Bless.