When Mercer University student Bailey Grace Pattison submitted her first video for the 478 Sings United competition, her goal was just to advance past the first round.

It was Pattison’s first time releasing music on her own. She never anticipated winning first place, and as she started to gain more votes each round, she later recalled thinking, “This is weird.”

“I was totally prepared to take second place home with me,” she said.

On June 12, Pattison was named the winner of the contest, in which she faced Macon musician Blane Dunnam in the final round.

Pattison, a junior majoring in accounting and marketing, is a member of Mercer’s softball team. She said head coach Stephanie DeFeo encouraged her to enter the competition. 

Pattison said she has loved singing her entire life. A Florida native, she got her start singing in worship groups at her church back home. She joined the New City Church worship team after moving to Macon.

But since she’s focused on softball most of the time, stay-at-home orders this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic gave her a rare chance to devote time to her music.

“With everything going on, I just felt like it was a good opportunity for me to try to step out of my comfort zone and really pursue singing in some way,” she said.

Pattison considers herself a singer-songwriter but said her music spans the genres of alternative country and soft pop. Since the competition was held remotely due to COVID-19, creating videos added a new element to her music.

Friends and family helped her get creative. One friend edited all of Pattison’s submissions, and her parents are featured dancing in the background of her video for Round 2.

“All the different things I got to do with some of the most important people in my life was super cool,” she said.

The 478 Sings United competition started out with over 20 contestants. The collaboration, which included the United Way of Central Georgia, Mercer University, Visit Macon and 100.9 the Creek, raised a total of $84,131 for the Central Georgia COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, according to the event’s Facebook page. Each dollar contributed to the fund in the name of a contestant counted as one vote for that contestant.

Funds will help nonprofit organizations, local businesses and community members who have been affected by the pandemic, said Laura Stauter, communications director for the United Way of Central Georgia.

The money will allow organizations such as food banks to continue their operations, she said. The United Way also runs a hotline in which people can call 211 for assistance with issues like utility bills or putting food in the fridge.

“The need is vast,” Stauter said. “We had no idea what to expect as to what (the contest) could actually accomplish, and we’re blown away with the result.”

As the winner, Pattison will record a track at Capricorn Sound Studios at Mercer Music at Capricorn and perform at the 2020 Ford Concert Series before the first home Mercer football game in September. She also was awarded a $2,500 prize.

Pattison said the contest has given her a chance to pursue music beyond just a hobby. 

“I think this year is going to be an awesome year for me to see if music is a career move, or if it’s something I want to pursue more seriously, or if it’s just something I want to keep doing for fun,” she said.