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2020 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge Opens for Submissions

Sophia seated at piano with Max & Ben PhotoByChristyMcKee edited.jpg

female student sits at piano with two men looking at sheet music with her

2019 Songwriting Challenge winner Sophia Schwaner at the piano with her music director Benjamin Rauhala (left) and mentor Max Vernon working on her song "At Sea." Photo by Christy McKee.

Washington, DC—Calling all high school songwriters! Beginning today, January 13, the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Theatre Wing are accepting submissions to the 2020 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge. This national contest is for high school students with a passion for writing songs that could be part of a musical theater production and the wide range of musical styles represented in contemporary musicals. The goal of the program is to engage the musical theater field in nurturing the next generation of songwriters.

The Songwriting Challenge provides six winners with a coaching team consisting of a mentor and music director (both musical theater professionals) to hone an original song into a Broadway-ready composition and then have that song recorded by Broadway musicians and vocalists in New York City. Final songs will be distributed on streaming music platforms and compiled into a songbook created by Concord Theatricals. The final recordings of the songs by the 2019 winners are on the recording sessions landing page.

The application is simple and can be completed online. The deadline is March 6, 2020 at midnight Eastern Time.

The Arts Endowment and the Wing welcome back Disney Theatrical Productions, Concord Theatricals, and the National Music Publishers’ Association as Songwriting Challenge partners. 

Key dates and details for the 2020 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge are:

•    After the submission deadline of March 6, 2020, the Arts Endowment and the Wing will convene panels in different regions of the country to review all submissions. Each panel consists of experienced songwriters and musicians who select one winner or a duo from its region in a blind competition. Those winners will be announced at the end of May 2020. 

•    Beginning in June, the winners work with their coaches remotely using video conferencing software followed by a weekend workshop later in the summer when the coaches travel to the winner’s hometown. To see workshops in action, go to the workshop landing page for the 2019 winners. At the end of the workshop, the song is transcribed for an ensemble and the winner has the opportunity to select the instruments and voices that make up their ensemble. 

•    The recording sessions take place in the fall when the artists come together in New York City to make the best recording possible. Go to the recording sessions landing page for audio, photos and other materials from the 2019 sessions. Lead vocalists last year included Derek Klena (Jagged Little Pill), Gizel Jimenez (Wicked), and Jessie Shelton (Hadestown) among others. 

To learn more and to apply, go to arts.gov/songwriting. To join the conversation on Twitter use #IWriteMusicals.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA 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

Contact

Victoria Hutter, huttev@arts.gov, 202-682-5692