High School Student Wins National Songwriting Challenge

Awarded Scholarship and Publishing Contract
an African American young man sits on a piano stool holding his acoustic guitar
Angel Rodriguez. Photo by NEA Staff
New York, New York (Monday, July 25, 2016) – Angel Rodriguez from Puget Sound Adventist Academy High School in Seattle, Washington was named National Champion of The Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge for High School Students on July 24th in New York City. Along with the winning title, Rodriguez was awarded a $5,000 scholarship and his song “Bleeding” will be published by Sony/ATV. The program is a pilot initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Playbill, Inc., with additional support provided by Disney Theatrical Group.  “Songs can get better. Even if it’s a great piece, I feel like there are still different ways to make it unique or make it better to a specific subject,” stated Mr. Angel Rodriguez. “I am going to keep moving forward, I’m going to keep writing songs and keep making it [them] better.” Rodriguez was one of three high school students who traveled to New York City to hone their songwriting talents and compete for the National Champion title.  The two runners-up are Jake Berglove from Perpich Arts High School, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota and Chelsea Mayo from R.L Turner High School in Dallas County, Texas. Each runner-up was awarded a $2,500 scholarship. From July 22 to July 24, the three national finalists participated in an intensive songwriting workshop with professional musicians, singers, songwriters, and producers to learn about the musical theater business and polish their songwriting skills. At the end of the workshop, each finalist had their song performed by professional musicians. Judges from the music and musical theater industries chose the national champion. Judges included:
  • Adam Gwon, Songwriter;
  • Norm Lewis, Tony Award Nominated Actor, ABC’s “Scandal;”
  • George Maloian, Director of Theatrical Development, Sony/ATV Music Publishing;
  • Anaïs Mitchell, Composer/Lyricist; and
  • Charlotte Sellmyer, SVP, External Affairs, National Music Publishers' Association.
Local partners in each city led the Songwriting Challenge; they include: Perpich Center for Arts Education in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; Big Thought in Dallas County, Texas; and the Office of Arts & Culture in Seattle and King County, Washington. Scholarships were provided by the National Music Publishers’ Association Supporting Our Next Generation of Songwriters (S.O.N.G.S.) Foundation. 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 NEA 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. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. About Playbill, Inc. Since its inception in 1884, PLAYBILL has become synonymous with the legitimate theatre and is an internationally known trademark and symbol of the arts. Playbill Magazine, which can be found in theatres and classical arts venues throughout the country, proudly serves every Broadway house as well as the country’s most prestigious fine arts institutions, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. In 2016 Playbill presses will roll out 3.5 million programs monthly for nearly 100 theatres in 24 cities. Playbill.com was established in 1994, and has since grown to become the leading source of theatre information on the web and has expanded to a suite of online offerings including Playbill Vault, Playbill EDU, Playbillder, and more. Visit www.playbill.com for more information.                                                                                          ###


NEA Public Affairs, Judith Kargbo, kargboj@arts.gov, (o) 202-682-5528