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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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Tiny Desk Contest Gives Student Artists a Platform

courtesy Flickr


Since 2008, National Public Radio (NPR) has hosted the beloved concert series “Tiny Desk Contest,” which showcases undiscovered artists from all genres. The contest branches from the Tiny Desk Concert, where famous musicians perform a short, intimate set in the NPR offices. The conceit is simple: the winning artist gets to perform behind the desk of famous music personality Bob Boilen, who is also the creator of the Tiny Desk Contest and host of NPR Music’s All Songs Considered podcast. The most recent round of the competition just launched, with a new set of rules in the hope of finding more musicians to discover.

The concert series has previously featured artists like Tyler the Creator, Chance the Rapper, Maggie Rogers, Yo-Yo Ma, boygenius and many more who Boilen himself has invited to perform behind his desk. Yet, the heart of this contest is to launch artists who are looking for their big break while showcasing what talents they hold. For example, the winner from last year’s contest, Naia Izumi, was a street performer before winning the competition. After the win, he went on tour and later signed a contract with SONY Masterworks. Other previous winners, such as Fantastic Negrito from 2015, went on to win not just one but two Grammys. 

This year’s contest is a bit different from the previous ones. In the past, the contest has only been open to contestants who are 21 years of age or older. This year, however, they have lowered the age to 18, a surefire way of finding younger musicians to feature. The judges for the contest this year are NPR writers Bob Boilen and Rodney Carmichael, local DJs Abbie Gobeli and Raul Campos and musicians Lucy Dacus, Jason Isbell and Ledisi. 

The contest is not just about the winner. The Tiny Desk team actively features and highlights entries they love throughout the procession of the contest. Artists who have submitted entries in the past are invited to come back for performances behind the Tiny Desk, and many local artists who have entered have been asked to perform with the winner of the contest as they go on tour.

In an industry that is continuously evolving and developing, the chances of a student artist being discovered on a national level are slim. NPR is giving the platform that many student musicians need to get into the next stage of developing their careers. The only downside of this contest is that it is only open to bands or musicians who are from the United States.

If any of you musically inclined Utes are wanting to enter the contest, the submission deadline is April 14. If you want to learn more about the contest and the entry process, check out past winners or watch performances, visit the Tiny Desk website.

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About the Contributor
Palak Jayswal, Arts Editor
Palak Jayswal is the arts editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle. She has been a writer for the desk for three years. She'll graduate with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in creative writing in May 2020. During her time as arts editor, Palak has crafted several series pieces such as "Dine or Dash" and "Pop-Cultured." Palak is a big fan of the arts, but especially music and all things One Direction. She aspires to be a music journalist and to one day write for a publication like The New York Times, Rolling Stone, or Billboard. 

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