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Winners Announced for National Endowment for the Arts' Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge

Seven Student Songwriters Selected as Regional Winners in National Contest

Washington, DC—The National Endowment for the Arts announced today the regional winners of the 2019 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge. A partnership with the the American Theatre Wing, the Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge seeks to cultivate the next generation of musical theater songwriters through mentorships with professional musical theater artists. Program collaborators are Disney Theatrical Productions and Samuel French, Inc., a Concord Theatricals company.

Six finalists—one duo and five individuals—were chosen by review panels of professional theater artists in a blind competition from almost 170 applications submitted by high school students in 40 states.  

The 2019 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge Regional Winners are below and summaries of their songs along with a photo are here. A video featuring all of the winners is here.

  • Tessa Barcelo from Andover, MA is a rising sophomore attending Andover High School
  • Emalee Flatness from Willard, MO recently graduated from Willard High School 
  • Makai Keur and Julian Watson from Franklin, TN recently graduated from Centennial High
  • Breezy Love from Winnetka, IL is a rising  senior attending Interlochen Arts Academy 
  • Sophia Schwaner from Staunton, VA is a rising sophomore attending Stuart Hall School
  • Akira Sky from Los Angeles, CA is a rising junior attending Los Angeles County High School for the Arts 

The next phase is that each regional winner will be paired with a musical theater mentor and music director to form a coaching team that will work directly with the student to hone all parts of their song. The team will meet with their winner both virtually and when the mentor and music director travel to the winner’s hometown for a three-day onsite workshop.

The Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge began as a pilot program in 2016 in three cities (Dallas, TX; Minneapolis, MN, Seattle, WA) before going national in 2017/2018. Playbill was a key partner in developing the pilot program and assisting with the inaugural national competition.

Go to arts.gov/songwriting for more information and to watch performances from 2016 and 2018.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more about the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the American Theatre Wing

The American Theatre Wing champions bravery, with a focus on developing the next generation of brave artists. We envision an American Theatre that is as vital, multi-faceted, and diverse as the American people. The Wing’s programs span the nation to invest in the growth and evolution of American theatre.

We provide theatre education opportunities for underserved students through the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, develop the next generation of theatre professionals through the SpringboardNYC, Theatre Intern Network, and SwingSeats programs, incubate innovative theatre across the country through the National Theatre Company Grants, support emerging musical theatre songwriters through the Jonathan Larson® Grants in addition to the Songwriting Challenge, and illuminate the creative process through the Emmy-nominated “Working in the Theatre” documentary series. In addition to founding the Tony Awards®, which are co-presented with The Broadway League, the American Theatre Wing co-presents the Obie Awards®, Off Broadway’s Highest Honor, with The Village Voice. AmericanTheatreWing.org