Who Will Win the 2018 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge?

To Find Out, Watch the Live Webcast, April 23 at 6:00 pm ET at arts.gov
graphic showing faces of six young people and text about the Songwriting Challenge

Washington, DC—Please join the National Endowment for the Arts and its partners for a live webcast of the 2018 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge national competition. Watch the six finalists—one duo and five individuals--put their music and lyrics to the test and vie for the title of national songwriting champion. The competition is on April 23, 2018 from 6:00 -8:30 pm ET and streamed at arts.gov. More event details as well as the names of the mentors and the judges will be available on April 18.

The national title comes with a $25,000 school scholarship courtesy of the National Music Publishers Association and their S.O.N.G.S. Foundation. The second place winner receives $10,000 contributed by BMI and the third place winner gets $5,000 courtesy of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. All finalists will have their song published by Samuel French, the world’s leading licensor and publisher of plays and musicals. Partnering with the NEA in the Songwriting Challenge is the American Theatre Wing along with collaborators Playbill, Inc. and Disney Theatrical Productions as well as the above-mentioned contributors.

The 2018 finalists listed here are featured with audio, video, and photo on the 2018 finalist web page.

  • Eliza Corrington from Syracuse, Utah and Braxton Carr from Harrisville, Utah
  • Tucker Donelan from New York, New York
  • Jillian Guetersloh from Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Fritz Hager from Flint, Texas
  • Aaron Richert from New Orleans, Louisiana
  • David Volpini from Macomb, Michigan

The Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge is a national competition for high school students who have a passion for writing songs that could be part of a musical theater production. The finalists were chosen by review panels of professional theater artists in a blind competition from almost 200 applications submitted by students in 36 states.

Event Details
The competition will be webcast from the Greene Space in New York City and streamed at arts.gov. The run of show includes a performance of each finalists’ song—which will have been workshopped over the previous two days in one-on-one sessions with a mentor. During those sessions, each song is transcribed from a single instrument and one voice (or in the case of the duo, two voices) to an ensemble of professional theater musicians and singers and shaped into a stage-ready composition. 

For the final competition, each song will be performed by the ensemble before a panel of judges, who are also professional theater artists and who select the national champion. Each of the finalists will introduce their song and respond to questions from the judges following the song’s performance. An intermission after the six songs will include performances by the mentors. 

Webcast Watch Parties
We encourage people to organize a watch party to share the experience of the final competition with others. Tips on organizing and promoting a watch party are available here along with a downloadable flyer for sharing online and posting on bulletin boards or in school newspapers. The Twitter conversation is at @NEAarts and #IWriteMusicals. Please note that all watch parties for the Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge are intended solely as educational events and must be free of charge with no purchase requirements of any kind.

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. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.

About the American Theatre Wing
The American Theatre Wing is currently celebrating 100 years of service to American theater across the nation. Its programs provide theater education opportunities for underserved students through the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative, develop the next generation of theater professionals through the SpringboardNYC and Theatre Intern Network, incubate innovative theater across the country through the National Theatre Company Grants, foster the next generation of musical theater writers through the Jonathan Larson® Grants, honor the best in New York theatrical design with the Henry Hewes Design Award, and illuminate the creative process through the Emmy-nominated Working in the Theatre documentary series. In addition to founding the Tony Awards®, the American Theatre Wing is the new home of the Village Voice’s Obie Awards®, Off Broadway’s Highest Honor.


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