TUESDAY, Nov. 3 — Dillon Gorden had no idea who was calling when a New York number came through on his phone while he was at work. The person on the other end was a woman named Samantha. She started the conversation by telling him that she had good news about a contest he had entered.
"I had completely forgotten all about it," said Gorden, a musician, songwriter and student at Lansing Community College. "It was hard to believe at first. I was beside myself."
In late September, Gorden, 24, learned he had won first place in the 18th Annual John Lennon Scholarship program sponsored through the BMI Foundation. Established by Yoko Ono — in memory of the former Beatle and recording artist — the program recognizes the nation's best and brightest songwriters between the ages of 17 and 24. Each year, three winners receive cash awards to help cover college costs.
"Something like this goes a long way to validate yourself as an artist," Gorden said. "After I got off the phone, I gave myself a pat on the back and smiled the rest of the day."
Gorden won an $8,000 scholarship for his entry, "Carry Me Home," an electro-acoustic song he had recorded in Chicago with his Lansing-based indie group Lights and Caves. He wrote the song, he said, as a thank you to friends who had helped him through a rough time in his life.
"It's a reminder that even though things can go sideways a bit, as long as you keep trying and pushing forward, eventually things will go through," Gorden said.
Born in Connecticut, Gorden moved between Kentucky and Michigan growing up. He played violin in elementary and middle school but traded it for the guitar when he was in ninth grade. After taking a few lessons from a neighbor, he started playing and writing music with friends.
"I think what I really like about music is that it levels the playing field," said Gorden. "As a form of expression, it's a great way to bring people together who might not otherwise ever be in the same room together."
Gorden, who graduated from East Lansing High School in 2009, took a few years off of school to work and pursue music. In 2013 he enrolled at LCC and is currently eight credits shy of earning his general associate degree. Gorden said the scholarship will help him pay for schooling while he pursues his bachelor's degree.
"The scholarship will certainly ease the burden of going to college," Gorden said. "LCC has been a great place to get started. I've liked the smaller class sizes and meeting so many different types of people. It helps round out your experience."